Utility bills: Okudzeto appeals to students to calm down

BY: Graphic.com.gh
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

A deputy minister of Education, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has urged student leaders in the country to be calm as the government takes steps to resolve an impasse between the students and their institutions over the payment of utility bills.

With the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) disconnecting defaulting educational institutions from the national gird, the administrators of some tertiary institutions have asked their students to pay utility bills to defray their debt.

But the students are up in arms against the decision, vowing not to pay.

The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), in a petition Tuesday, expressed concern about attempts by the Vice Chancellors, Ghana (VCG) and the government to compel students to pay utility bills.

The NUGS said making students to pay utility bills was additional financial cost for students, especially for the ordinary Ghanaian student.

The student body, therefore, encouraged VCG to seek ways of making the government to honour a promise to pay utility bills instead of passing them on to the students.

Commenting on the development on Accra-based Radio Gold Wednesday, Mr Ablakwa said the student leaders were right in their assessment that no decision had been taken to compel students to pay utility bills.

According to him, Cabinet’s decision is that education and health institutions are to be exempted from the ongoing ECG disconnection exercise.

He said any disconnection of educational or health institutions by the ECG would contravene Cabinet’s directive, maintaining that Cabinet remains the highest decision making body of the executive wing of government.

Mr Ablakwa said the Chief of Staff would convene a meeting with the student leaders, their schools, the Power Ministry and the ECG to resolve the impasse.

“We are appealing to the student leaders to stay calm. We’ve spoken to them… they should not picket or demonstrate or carry out any of the threats they are putting out,” he said.

The decision for students to pay utility bills came out on March 25, 2015 at a meeting which drew stakeholders in tertiary education to one auditorium at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).

Leaders of the students and teachers, including those in vocational institutions, administrators, education NGOs, the Energy Commission and Accountant-General’s Department, formed part of the historic decision that took the cost-sharing debate to a new level.

The directive for students of public tertiary institutions to pay utility bills will take effect from the 2016/17 academic year.