Teacher trainee allowance: Prof. Naana Opoku-Agyemang’s claim misleading

The 2020 vice-presidential candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, has said her party did not cancel the teacher trainee allowance.

The professor, who was the education minister in the previous administration, made the claim when she addressed members of the Tertiary Education Institutions Network (TEIN), the student wing of the NDC, at the Kumasi Wesley College, on Sunday, April 24, 2022.

“I need to emphasize that we never scrapped the allowance, we never took anybody’s money from them. All those who were receiving their allowances received them till they ended,” Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said.

She added the students who granted media interviews and said they couldn’t pay their fees because there was no allowance were misinforming the public.

“I was saddened by that, that young people could do that because nobody took their money from them. We gave the loan that was about twice what they were getting as allowance because we felt they needed loans,” Prof. Opoku-Agyemang bemoaned.

Her statement has been widely published by many media houses and has also courted social media debates.

Fact-Check Ghana verified the claim and presents the details below.

To verify the claim of whether the teacher trainee allowance was scrapped, Fact-Check Ghana followed a timeline of the government’s key decisions and public reactions to the allowance beginning from 2014.

In 2014, the then NDC government announced it was taking measures to ensure effective management of the education delivery. This included a review of the payment of teacher trainee allowance. Seth Terkper, the then finance minister, confirmed the review in the 2014 budget, which was presented in parliament on November 19, 2013.

Seth Tekper announced the government’s decision to review payment of teacher trainee allowance in parliament in 2014 ||Source: myjoyonline.com

“In 2014, the Ministry will take pragmatic steps towards improving quality and enhancing efficiency of the management of education service delivery. Specific measures to be undertaken include cleaning of payroll and rationalization of recruitment; teacher deployment from urban areas to deprived areas; review of payment of teacher trainee allowances; enforcement of policy on zero tolerance for teacher absenteeism and; rationalization of all school fees,” Seth Terkper said.

About three months later, on February 25, 2014, President John Mahama, while delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA), explained that the review of the payment of the teacher trainee allowance was a transfer of trainees onto the Student Loan Trust. According to the former president, the payment of the allowance was restricting the government from the training of the teachers.

“Mr. Speaker, the availability of teachers has been a major challenge. Because of constraints of paying teacher trainee allowances, Government previously imposed quotas on admissions into colleges of education. Annual admission to these colleges was therefore restricted.

“With the recent decision to transfer teacher trainees onto the Students Loan Trust, it has made it possible to increase the number of trainees in the colleges of education from the previous 9000 to 15000. This would improve the supply of teachers and open up the opportunity to many young people who want to take up teaching as a profession,” President Mahama said.

Seth Terkper, in the 2015 budget statement, reiterated that the replacement of the allowance with student loans had, indeed, resulted in the increase of intake of students at the teacher training colleges.

However, the decision did not sit well with some stakeholders at the teacher trainee colleges. The Teacher Trainee Association (TTAG) embarked on a series of protests against the decision.

“Some of us agitated against the cancellation of the allowance,” Prince Yaw Malba, the SRC President of Bagabaga College of Education told Fact-Check Ghana

The member of parliament of North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who was the deputy minister of education at the time, defended the government’s decision against the TTAG’s protests

“Last year, only 9000 students were admitted; this year more than 15,400 students have been admitted so the irony is that they would not even have been admitted to be agitating,” he stated.

Okudzeto Ablakwa, who was then deputy education minister, defended the government’s decision against stakeholder protests

He, however, promised to continue engagements with the principals of the various colleges to explain the government’s intensions to the students.

“We are still appealing to them to look at the best interest of teacher training in Ghana,” Okudzeto Ablakwa said.

NPP promised restoring, Mahama stood his ground, NDC later made U-turn

Ahead of the 2016 elections, the then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) promised to restore the payment of the teacher trainee allowances. The promise was contained in the party’s manifesto.

“Restore in full, teacher trainee allowances,” the manifesto itemized the promise among others on page 32 under the education section.

The NPP’s decision to restore the allowance received applause and support from the campuses of the training colleges.

But President Mahama stood his ground. He intimated his position on the matter when spoke at a forum at the University of Cape Coast in September 2016.

“For purposes of partisan politics, you have your political opponent come and say ‘when we come back, we will restore trainee allowances to colleges of education’. For me, it is better to lose the election on principle than to win it on falsehood,” the former president said.

Four years later, ahead of the 2020 elections, the National Youth Organiser of the NDC, George Opare Addo, was reported to have apologized for the cancellation of the teacher trainee allowance. He admitted on radio in August 2020 that the decision by former President John Dramani Mahama was unpopular.

“Everybody has the right to change his mind, so there’s nothing wrong if former President Mahama believes the decision was unpopular. If he comes he will restore it because it was an unpopular decision and we apologise,” the National Youth Organiser of the NDC expressed remorse.

True to his words, the NDC promised to restore the teacher trainee allowance in its 2020 manifesto.

From the above, it is inaccurate for the Prof. Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang to say that the NDC never scrapped the teacher trainee allowance

Did those on allowance continue to receive them?

The claim by the former vice-presidential candidate of the NDC that the teacher trainee allowance was never canceled is false, however, she is right when she said “All those who were receiving their allowances received them till they ended.”

This was confirmed by some teachers who were trainees at the time the government scrapped the allowance.

“I started the college in [the] 2012/2013 academic year. We were the last batch to receive the allowance. Those who came after our year group [2013/2014], did not receive allowance,” Aliwu Alhassan, a former student of Assin Fosu College of Education, explained to Fact-Check Ghana.

He added that, “we [2012/2013 batch] continued to take the trainee allowance till 2016 when we left the school. Those who came after us never took the allowance till they also left.”

Prince Malba Yaw of the Bagabaga College of Education also affirmed the same point.

“When we were admitted in 2012/2013, we were given allowance. From then onwards, our subsequent juniors admitted after us were not given an allowance. We received our allowance till we wrote our last paper in June 2016,” he explained.

Thus, Prof Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang’s claim that those who were receiving allowance during the erstwhile NDC government continued to receive them till they finished school is accurate. But that doesn’t mean that the teacher trainee allowance was not scrapped. The students who were admitted to the Colleges of Education from the 2013/2014 academic year and afterward did not receive teacher trainee allowance until it was restored by the NPP government.

Related articles