Auditor General’s report on GETFund scholarships: My experience in 2017

Barely 24 hours after news went viral on various social media platforms as well as the traditional media in Ghana regarding the Auditor General’s performance audit report on the administration of scholarships by GETFund which contained lists of beneficiaries including key personalities such as the current Minister for Education (Member of Parliament for Manhyia Constituency) Hon. Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Hon. Sarah Adwoa Sarfo Member of Parliament for Dome-Kwabenya et. al, I wish to share my own little experience with the public.

I listened to the response from the Ministry of Education through its PR unit. I also heard the supposed response from Hon. Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh through citifm Eyewitness News on 24th February 2020. The Education Minister admitted that he benefited from GETFund scholarship for his short course for about 3 weeks duration at Harvard University which summed up to $24,000 in 2014 as contained in the Auditor General’s list No. 38.

The programme he studied was “Senior Executive in National and International Security. As far as I know, Hon. Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh is a medical doctor by profession. Someone should correct me if I am wrong. The course he went to study with due respect has very little or no correlation with his profession as a medical doctor.

Even though that may not be wrong, but ordinarily, one would have thought that he would rather enrol himself in a professional course relating to his profession or better still as a legislator. I, as far as I know, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh is a member of the Health Committee of Parliament yet he got funded to study 3 weeks senior executive course in national and international security as contained the AG report.

By the way, even though he did not receive the GETFund scholarship as a Minister but the truth is that, as at the time Hon. Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh applied for this GETFund scholarship support, he was already a Member of Parliament for Manhyia since 2009 (6 years).

So, effectively, he was still a NEEDY person after serving in parliament for 6 years. They may be nothing wrong with that.

Guess what! Under the same Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh as Minister for Education, who has oversight responsibilities as a sector minister on both Scholarship Secretariat and GETFund, refused to grant me partial financial support constituting (25%) to enable me to pursue my PhD studies in 2017.

In July 2017, I had just graduated from my Master of Science Degree (Research) programme in Environmental Science and Engineering. I got a partial PhD Scholarship offer and admission type “GOLD Merit-Based Tuition-Waiver Scholarship” to pursue my PhD research at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran. I was offered admission to pursue PhD in Environmental Health Engineering for 4-5 years depending on the decision of my department. The scholarship also covered my accommodation, first transport from the airport in Tehran, Persian language classes, computer labs, internet access. The total fee per year was $5000 but because of the 75% partial scholarship ($3,750), the university waived the fees down to $1250 for the first year subject to renewal every year till I finish the programme in 4 years once my academic performance met the requirements of the university.

Basically, if my request for GETFund had been granted, the government of Ghana only needed to give me a little token as a stipend for my upkeep in addition to the yearly school fees balance of $1,250 anyway not the full fees of $5000 per year. Mind you, it is not my fault to come from less endowed family in terms of resources.

For those who care to know about the TUMS, it is about 160 years old based on my checks.

Tehran University of Medical Sciences is NOT an underdog University. It’s ranked 3rd in Iran in 2018-2019. Mind you, Iran has 54 State-Operated Universities, 42 State Medical Schools and 289 Major Private Universities. This means that Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) is not just a mere University in terms of ranking.

In terms of Academic Ranking of World Universities, in 2019, it is ranked in the range of 401-500 top universities in the world.

I personally wrote an application letter dated 19th August 2017 addressed to the administrator of Scholarship Secretariat which was letter referred to GETFund.

One of the current leaders in Parliament of Ghana officially wrote a cover recommendation letter with copies of my application and relevant documents addressed to the administrator of GETFund dated 14th September 2017.

I personally followed up a couple of times at the GETFundOffice in 2017. I was later asked to go to the Education Minister’s Office at Ministries which I did. When I went, I was asked to sit down in the registry at the ministry of education building for several hours unattended to.

Subsequently, I was asked to go and join a queue to meet the Education Minister in his office. I joined a queue in the waiting corridor next to the minister’s office. People were walking in and out while some of us were patiently waiting for our turn. Finally, a gentleman whose name I cannot immediately remember came from the Education Minister’s secretariat told us that, the minister was busy so it was not possible to meet him, the rest is history. I made several attempts afterwards till November 2017, when it became clear that, my request was not going to be approved.

The Iranian Embassy had already granted me 30 days visa entry permission while I was struggling to get my own govt 25% support to take up my admission offer.

Eventually, I lost the opportunity. Two good friends of mine who are Members of Parliament felt devastated when I shared my story with them and the two of them were willing to personally contribute to getting the first-year school fees balance of ($1,250) for me but what was not certain was about my daily upkeep and research needs as well as the partial fees for the remaining three-four years to complete the programme. I thank those friends even though I missed that opportunity sadly. I have since been wondering what my crime as a Ghanaian? So, when this news, broke, I felt it is the right time to share my personal experience.

Could it be that my intended programme of study at Tehran University of Medical Sciences was not ‘relevant’ to the development of Ghana? Well, I have my doubt. The question is, how many environmental health engineers do we have in Ghana especially in our tertiary institutions?

For those who may not understand what Environmental Health Engineering study is all about.

“Environmental engineers are biological and agricultural engineers who specialize in the environment and its effect on health. They study environmental problems that relate to public health, such as industrial pollution of air and water resources”.

Presently in Ghana, we are confronted with serious environmental issues ranging from the pollution of our freshwater resources through illegal mining popularly called ‘galamsey’. We are equally confronted with illegal logging activities in many areas in Ghana including illegal rosewood logging in northern Ghana. Ghana is virtually engulfed with filth including the national capital Accra which pose serious health risks to Ghanaians.

Our marine resources especially the seashores are engulfed with plastic waste. Outdoor air quality in Accra currently exceeds WHO guidelines for outdoor air quality. These are the nature of environmental problems currently confronting Ghana today, yet someone in authority felt that it was not necessary or prudent for Government of Ghana to give 25% financial support to the son of a poor peasant farmer to pursue higher research and learning, to enable me to acquire relevant skills to come back and serve our dear country Ghana. Maybe some of us are second class citizens or perhaps come from regions classified as non-resource regions in Ghana.

My article is meant to share my personal experience about the kinds of frustrations many ordinary citizens in Ghana who genuinely and desperately need help to further their education go through in the hands of GETFund Secretariat and Scholarship Secretariat as well as other authorities. It is even possible that some people may have a worse experience than me. Perhaps, the current findings by the Auditor General should trigger a national conversation and discussion on the need for certain reforms regarding how educational support and scholarships should be administered or be given to deserving and qualified students or applicants whether in Ghana or abroad under the government of Ghana Scholarships.

It was great vision and foresight by the former NDC government under HE President J.J. Rawlings to have established GETFund in 2000 which has contributed immensely to education and infrastructure development in Ghana since its inception at the secondary school and tertiary levels.

Attached is my offer letters I got in 2017.

I am grateful to Allah for wiping my tears after my bizarre experience and all those who in diverse ways have been supportive to me all this while. Thank you.

Ghana must belong to all Ghanaians and not selected few.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

Baba Musah | baba_musah94@yahoo.com

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