Students Reject Light Bill

Government’s decision to pass on electricity bills to students in public universities and other tertiary institutions across the country has been met with serious resistance by the various student bodies.

According to the students, they are not ready to bear the cost of utility bills, warning government to scrap the policy or face their wrath.

General Secretary of National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), Iddi Muhayu-Deen, has warned that the tertiary education sector will grind to a halt if government does not intervene immediately.

At a meeting yesterday with the vice chancellors of public universities, they said per their correspondence with government all along, it (government) indicated to them that they (students) would begin paying the bills from 2013.

‘But we also have documents in which government has also stated that the vice chancellors should not levy students with utility bills and that government will continue paying. But now the vice chancellors have told us something different; and they told us after our meeting with them that if government does not pay, they are going to close down all the public tertiary institutions in the country with immediate effect. ECG, as we speak, is busily disconnecting electricity supply to the various public institutions because government is not paying,’ Iddi said.

The Mahama-led administration has announced plans to push 70% of the electricity and water bills in public tertiary institutions onto students, as part of efforts to regulate government expenditure and ensure fiscal discipline.

On March 25 this year the government convened a stakeholders’ consultation meeting as part of plans towards the implementation of the 1998 Cost-Sharing Educational Policy, which involves the sharing of the cost of the use of facilities on campus between students and the government.

Consequently, students will be required to shoulder the cost of both electricity and water bills on campus as part of the policy, but the students have served strong notice of their disapproval and have vowed to stage massive demonstrations across the country should the government stick to its plans.

In a statement, the student leadership – made up of representatives from all tertiary institutions across the country, including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Education, Winneba, University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast – said ‘All that we have seen from government is a clearly calculated effort to knock down the heads of students, vice chancellors and ECG together.

‘We have seen clear and inconsistent communication from government to different stakeholders communicating different messages. We cannot sit down as students and watch the imminent disconnection of universities off the national grid which will lead to the shutdown of our universities.’

They have asked government to settle all arrears as soon as possible to ensure that they (students) are not surcharged.

The students have demanded that cabinet and more specifically the Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, should write to the ECG and copy the universities instructing them, with immediate effect, to discontinue the ongoing disconnection exercise.

‘No student anywhere in this country should be made to pay utilities and we have the support of students across the country, should any such thing occur. We are giving government seven clear days to respond to our demand, starting Tuesday, November 3, 2015, or else a double portion of what happened in South Africa will happen in Ghana,’ they threatened.

‘We will make every sacrifice necessary to fight for our rights. Any attempt other than responding to our demand by government will not only be a reckless action by government but an action that will be met with greater force and opposition,’ the students warned.

By Cephas Larbi


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