President John Dramani Mahama took his campaign to his alma mater, the University of Ghana, where he told Ghanaian students that he stood for the truth.
In a speech laced with political, economic and educational issues, the President also sought to attack “the lies” directed at him from his opponents, and went further to provide more evidence of what his government has achieved and why he deserved a second term as President.
Speaking to an enthusiastic gathering of students at the Central Cafeteria to climax his tour of the Greater Accra Region last Thursday night, the President asserted that the policies rolled out in the educational sector were a testament to the government’s commitment to offer the best for Ghanaian students.
He spoke on job creation, educational infrastructure and allowances for students among other areas.
Although education took a greater part of the President’s speech, he turned an unsparing voice at his political opponents, specifically Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the running mate to the New Patriotic Party’s presidential candidate, for trying to poison the minds of Ghanaians with untruths about Ghana’s economy.
Starting off with the progress made in infrastructure, the President moved to education where he touched on job creation.
Describing job creation as the most pressing issue in the world today, President Mahama said the government’s role was to create a stable economic environment so that the private sector could grow to absorb the young graduates coming out of school.
He insisted that the government could not absorb the number of graduates who were coming out of the educational institutions.
“Let me tell you, the whole of the public sector payroll is 600,000. Now the tertiary institutions are producing about 50,000 graduates a year. Take that and look at the size of the public sector. Definitely, the public sector cannot absorb 50,000 a year so it means that they will be absorbed mostly by the private sector.
“That is why the government’s first responsibility in job creation was to create the right environment for the private sector to grow. The government’s second responsibility is to make sure that graduates come out with the right skills for the world of work,” he told the students packed inside the cafeteria.
President Mahama also spoke on the changing demands of the job market and the need for the educational institutions and students to tailor courses towards that direction.
“Increasingly, our country has continued to change and so our country is demanding a new set of skills. So we need to guide our young people to look at the job market when choosing what course to do because there are some areas where there is saturation. We overproduce and so if you do a certain course where there is saturation, your chance of getting a job is slimmer than if you study an area where the job market is demanding more and more skills,” the President said.
President Mahama justified the replacement of the teacher trainee allowance with the student loan and said there was no turning back on that.
He explained that in the interest of equity, once the colleges of education had been upgraded to tertiary status, it was proper that students of the colleges were put on the student loan like their counterparts in other tertiary institutions.
The President said the withdrawal of the allowances had resulted in 63 per cent increase in the number of young people who wanted to train as teachers. “And so it is a step we must take going forward. There is no way we will retrogress on that.”
He further stated that the issue about the teacher trainee allowances was different from that of trainee nurses.
“It is often confused with the nursing allowance. The nursing trainees were going to be put on the student loan scheme but we realised that the Students’ Loan Act does not allow for their institutions to benefit. And so while waiting for the amendment of the act, we said let’s put them on an updated allowance and so that updated allowance is currently being disbursed to them. As soon as we amend the Students Loan Act, they will also be moved onto the students’ loan ,” the President explained.
President Mahama could not come to terms with Dr Bawumia who had consistently described the economy as one in crisis when the evidence proved otherwise.
“If somebody says the country is going back, then I can’t understand. I can’t think far. I can’t think madness. But I know that it is propaganda because I have been a student of history, I have been a student of communications, I have been a student of social psychology. And so when you want to win power, you have to create a series of crisis like the country is collapsing, and it is not only happening in Ghana, it is happening in other parts of the world,” President Mahama said to cheers from the students.
“They have created the impression that the economy is in crisis. Moody’s comes and upgrades us and says there is more confidence in Ghana’s economy. We’ve grown from negative to stable and then somebody who calls himself an economist can stand and say there was no Moody’s upgrade. I cant think far, I cant think far, you know. So we are moving forward,” he said.
He said nothing should be done to distract the country’s forward march.
He thanked the students for the warm welcome and commended the university for the giant strides it was making.