The Writer
The Writer

Scholarship debate • The good, the bad and the ugly

There does not appear to be enough outrage at some sordid details contained in The Fourth Estate reports on the scholarship awards by the scholarship secretariat.


 It is plausible to think that from both sides of the political divide, many opinion leaders have been compromised and a culture of political patronage in the award of scholarships for international study has also been very pervasive in past governments. 

While the NDC has condemned the multiple awards of foreign scholarships, it has stopped short of calling for a review of the entire policy on foreign scholarships, only calling for the interdiction of the registrar of the scholarship secretariat and forensic audits of all scholarships awarded since 2017.

Truth is there should be a pragmatic overhaul of the entire scholarship scheme devoid of political considerations.

The Fourth Estate has done a yeoman’s job. Not necessarily because it exposed some politically connected people basking in double scholarships worth thousands of dollars or pounds in foreign universities, but more important, for stimulating critical discussions on whether we have to spend so much on foreign scholarships when our education system is showing growth, diversity and resilience, and there are still many brilliant needy students struggling to enter local universities at relatively cheaper fees.

Diversity argument

There is still some quality in providing diverse cultural experiences for students, particularly at the tertiary level. Governments and universities all over the world spend money to provide opportunities for their students to enjoy study abroad opportunities and to experience other cultures to help enrich not only their cultural awareness and diversity but also make them more academically versatile.
Indeed, it is in the pursuit of cultural and academic diversity that many foreign governments and universities provide scholarships for other nationalities and races to study in their countries to help enrich the academic and cultural experience for all students. 

Yet, such a quest should not lead to abuses in the award of scholarships, particularly for a country with very limited resources such as Ghana.

Policy limitations

The culture of awarding scholarships to brilliant students was instituted in the past to educate students who had limited opportunities in the country; local universities were not offering some critical programmes, particularly at the post-graduate level and also in the areas of the sciences and technology and even if they did, spaces were very limited. Providing scholarships for a few students to study abroad was a justifiable approach to addressing such deficits.

But over the years, the country’s higher education sector has witnessed significant growth with many public and private universities offering diverse courses some in the most specialised areas of science and technology. Ironically, the challenge many of these institutions face is the absence of a clear-cut policy to develop and adequately resource them to enable them to meet world-class standards. Many universities in the country, particularly private universities face serious resource constraints and are struggling to survive in an intensely competitive environment. 

Over the years, the National Accreditation Board, now the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, has been pushing for more private universities to obtain their charters and become truly independent. Yet, the stark reality is there is no effective policy in place to ensure that these universities grow to become top institutions capable of competing on the global stage. Suffice to say that even many faith-based private universities in the country that have demonstrated the capacity to thrive and compete if offered vital support have been neglected and are struggling to hold sway. 

Ultimately, by supporting public and private universities to grow through the provision of more scholarships for brilliant needy students, the government will be helping to build these institutions and make them more attractive to other students, particularly in the West African sub-region to deepen the country’s reputation as an academic hotspot. i Growing these institutions also means expanding facilities and providing more jobs for the people.

Misplaced priorities

What prevents the state from providing scholarships to the many WASSCE graduates with excellent results idling in their homes because they cannot afford the local fees charged by public and private universities in the country? Is it not sad that these students have to stay home or virtually ‘beg’, sometimes on social media for what could be considered a ‘pittance’ (if compared to the ‘juicy’ foreign scholarship packages) to attend local universities. What is even more concerning is the fact that some of these students are STEM-oriented with the potential to make a huge impact on the development of our country. Yet, politically connected persons get double scholarships worth thousands of dollars and pounds for foreign universities and don’t even care a hoot about returning to help build their nation after their studies. Why do we do this to ourselves? We should, devoid of political lenses, pragmatically address the issue. Our policy on scholarships is outmoded and does not reflect the realities of the time. If we want to build our nation, then we have to build our people and institutions. Education is critical in this regard!

There should be a policy to actualise the constitutional requirement of making education progressively free and until we review the current policy on foreign scholarships, we cannot attain some of these ideals. The Scholarship Secretariat faces some allegations of bribery in the award of scholarships and the revelation that it has been the subject of investigations by the Office of Special Prosecution (OSP) since July 2023 signals that there may be some seriousness to the allegations.

We have to set our priorities right and President Akufo-Addo may have to establish a team to review the country’s policy on government scholarships to reflect international best practices and our current realities.

The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Language and Communication Sciences, KNUST. 
Email: [email protected]

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