The Nexus Between COVID-19 and Ghanaian Scholarship Students Abroad: Government Response

The Corona virus has left most international students in limbo most of which have left to their home countries while others remain due to restrictions and lockdown guidelines.

Ghana Government has tackled the pandemic with series of financial strategies to provide relieves for the good people of Ghana.

However, it is argued as to whether the Government has the capacity to meet the monthly wage bill of public sector workers let alone stipends and tuition fees of students abroad.

It raises doubts and creates panic among the populace. That notwithstanding, the government has exhibited a great sense of leadership and excellent economic management backed by the famous words of President Akufo-Addo, that, “We Know how to bring the economy back to life, what we do not know, is how to bring people back to life”. Till date, there has not been a default in the payment of salaries and one cannot foresee any indication to the contrary.

What happens to the students?

The worry now is on Ghanaian students in the diaspora. Families back home (in Ghana) are much concerned about how the students abroad are coping – now that most of the jobs available to them (students) have been temporarily closed. They are asking whether or not the tuition fees, stipends, and other bills of these students have been paid.

Students’ welfare was at the heart of the people of Ghana and there is no doubt that, Ghanaians would attack the government from all over the world if the report happens to be negative.

These concerns are legitimate because Ghana has the track record of students being stranded in foreign countries as a result of Government’s inability to pay their tuitions fees and stipends on time.

However, since 2017, such agitations have died out even though the number of students studying abroad has increased.

In the advent of this covid-19, the problem of non-payment of students’ stipends is expected to rise again. However, the government has ensured that Ghanaian students studying abroad remain on the priority list by ensuring that all their welfare needs are met.

The scholarship secretariat has shown utmost proactiveness. As at March, 2020, the Registrar, Mr Kingsley Agyemang, who has been tagged as the best registrar ever in the history of the secretariat as well as one of the top performing CEOs in Ghana, declared that, students’ stipends for the second quarter of the year had been paid.

This was paid even before the deadly virus hit Ghana. Again, as at April, 2020, when the pandemic had entangled government finances, the tuition fees for the 2019/2020 academic year had also been paid. It is evident that, students in the diaspora are well catered for and
their families back home will have their peace of mind.

Across the world, there is a clear indication that this novel disease has eroded the economic successes gained over the years. It is estimated that major economies are likely to lose up to a minimum of 2.4% of the value of their Gross Domestic Product. This estimate is basically due to the temporary closure of most companies and the risk of global workforce losing their jobs and livelihoods.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), “over 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy (nearly half of the global workforce) stand in immediate danger of having their livelihood destroyed”.

This has necessitated all countries to device major interventions to save their individual economies and the world at large. With over 2.8 million active cases (out of over 5.6 million infected cases) as at 26 May, 2020, all governments across the world have had to introduce unplanned decisions and trials to
sort of cushion the lives of their citizens.

Ghana recorded its first COVID-19 case on 12th March, 2020 and at the time of writing this article, the country had recorded 6,964 cases out of which 32 people (representing 4.6%) had lost their lives and 2,097 (representing 30.1%) had recovered with about 4,841 (65.3%) active cases. Just like the world largest economies, this has exposed the deficiencies in the health sector of the Republic of Ghana in terms of facilities and logistics.

Many businesses have had to suspend their activities, individuals are made to stay home as a requirement for observing social distancing and the likes so as to control the spread of the virus.

The ripple effect of these measures on both businesses and individuals are
immense. Stimulus Packages Government of Ghana has rolled out a series of stimulus packages to combat the obvious health and economic risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of these packages included absorbing electricity and water bills of all people and rolling out Soft Loan Schemes for SMEs.

Additionally, they have procured locally manufactured personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, instituted insurance packages for health personnel and allied professional with additional allowance of 50% on the basic salaries for frontline health workers among others. Moreover, a notable amount of investment has also been earmarked for infrastructural development in the health sector.

Conclusion and recommendations

It is evident that students in the diaspora and for that matter those under government scholarships have not been neglected as could have been the case in the past.

The government has shown leadership and commitment to students even in the mist of this Covid-19 pandemic due to the long-term benefit that the country would realise from these investments.

However, there are other groups of students who are self-funding their cost of living and tuition fees.

These students may have encountered some financial difficulties especially as most jobs available to them have been closed.

These students may need support from the government and other corporate bodies to meet their accommodation and essential commodity needs. It is heartwarming to know that, the New Patriotic Party branch in UK (NPP-UK) has initiated a Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund to offer financial relief packages to subsidise expenses such as accommodation cost, offer health support and shopping vouchers to Ghanaians who are financially affected by the pandemic. Some of the students in United Kingdom have taken advantage to benefit from this fund.

I will admonish other political parties, religious bodies, Ghanaian Associations and corporate bodies across the world to initiate some relief funds to respite students from their financial struggles.

Students are also expected to follow all the guidelines set by WHO and their respective countries of study to ensure that they stay safe and alive for their families and mother Ghana.

Written by: Bernard Baah Amoako