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Press – Launch Statement, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Andy Osei Okrah – 10th Anniversary Celebrations Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF)

Hon. Minister, Hon. Deputy Ministers, Chief Director and Directors of the Ministry of Education, Colleague Board Members, Management of the Students Loan Trust Fund, Friends from the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good morning. I am particularly pleased at today’s gathering because I find myself contributing to a sector I promised to positively transform even when I didn’t know how. It is a great pleasure to be here today, and to join the leadership of the Ministry, Colleagues on the Board, Management/staff, and all you hard working men and women of the media fraternity.

Permit me to quote Orison Swett Marden who said “Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire“. So today I vividly reminisce my University days, when as part of my SRC campaign message I pledged to deliver an efficient students loan. In my days, the Students Loan was a big deal and many students needed that support to survive on campus. For me, therefore, it is a matter of destiny come true when the Hon. Minister swore me and my colleagues in as Board Members of the Students Loan Trust Fund. Considering my long history with students and youth issues, I deem it an extraordinary honour to serve in this capacity which happens to be my comfort zone because I wear youth related hats including being President of the Young Professionals and Youth Coalition (YPYC).

The good people of Ghana should expect a lot from our stewardship. Luckily the Students Loan Board of Trustee is blessed with solid expertise from diverse backgrounds including: law, investment, banking, finance, Management, and HR. We are also very fortunate to have the support of the Ministry, managed by a very strong team under the leadership of Hon. Minister Professor Jane Naane Opoku- Agyemang.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press; as already mentioned by the Hon. Minister, we are happy to be commencing our anniversary activities with this Press encounter. We all recognise the instrumental role the media plays in disseminating information of national relevance including issues of student’s loan. We are, by today’s gathering, inviting you to keep the conversation on financing higher education in Ghana in the frontlines. The needs for the 10th anniversary activities will almost others;

  1. Create awareness on our existence. The perception that tertiary education is an elitist activity is dangerous and we need to ensure that even at the remotest part of Ghana parents are aware that a ward with the intellectual ability must not drop out of school merely because the family is financially weak.
  2. Collectively develop solutions to the education jigsaw by sustaining achievement for Gross enrolment at the Basic level through to the tertiary levels: The current tertiary enrolment rate is 13.58% as against a national minimum of 25% required. The current Basic Gross enrolment rate is over 80% and, therefore, collectively we must look at ways to sustain this enviable performance at the basic level through institutions of higher learning. The anniversary will help us engage critical stakeholders on some of the courses of this disconnect such as: adequacy of loan amounts, sustainability of funding sources, etc.   Permit me, Hon. Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen to quote a statement by Professor Mahama the past Executive Director of NCTE at a forum, he said “This figure (12%) is certainly too low for our status as a middle income country, if we are to move beyond our lower middle-income status we have to double the enrolment figures to be able to produce the skilled-manpower needs of the country,”. Again, the Ghana shared growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) aims at transforming the economy through industrialization, especially manufacturing, based on modernized agriculture and sustainable exploitation of the Country’s natural resources. However, this goal can only be achieved through the availability of relevant skilled human capital. Let me add that, at least if we will not manufacture sophisticated equipments lets have agro-processing plants to reduce post harvest losses. And to do this it will require skilled manpower. The anniversary activities will start the process of engaging critical stakeholders on a practical solution to this education jigsaw.
  3. Improve Students Loan through the deployment of appropriate technology and innovation: We want to use the anniversary to showcase an Agency under the Ministry of Education that is delivering responsive and solution-oriented students Loan to eligible Ghanaians. The perception that the Public Sector is a bureaucratic red tape organization must be replaced with an existing image that delivers to the benefit of citizens. Over the decade we have reformed processes to build efficiency, transparency and accountability in the disbursement and repayment of students’ loan nationwide. (The details will be spelt out by the CEO).

The Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) turns 10 this year, having been established in 2005. Over the period, the Fund has grown and currently has 126 tertiary institutions on its portfolio. The institutions are made up of 18 specialized tertiary institutions, 44 Colleges of Education (private and public) 10 Polytechnics and 54 Universities (public and private). Per our current data, we have supported about 80,000 students since inception with a Students Loan. Out of this, we have 5,775 (15%) who have fully repaid their loan, whilst 38,165 (53%) are in the repayment phase. Furthermore, we continue to see a direct growth rate between tertiary enrolment numbers and students’ loan application numbers. Application numbers have therefore, risen progressively from 13,833 in the 2012/13 academic year to 17,095 in 2013/14, and 25,931 in the 2014/2015 academic.

In our quest to deliver the students loan with the sense of urgency it demands, we have also made many relevant reforms to our internal business processes (the full details on the specific are captured in the CEO’s presentations). We understand that issues of finance can disrupt an individual’s dreams of attaining higher education and we strive to ensure that all eligible Ghanaians who need this support will receive it within a reasonable time.

The celebration will be under the theme “Transforming Tertiary Education Financing in Ghana” and the Official Launch for the 10th Anniversary will take place at the Accra International Conference Centre on Friday 11th September 2015. The event will start at 8.30am prompt and I take the opportunity to invite you all officially to the Event. The PRO will ensure you all get your invitation letters before you leave here. I also wish to remind you all, especially the people who are new to our Hon. Minister’s events, that she is never late for a program and so I entreat you all to arrive on time.

We are happy to be marking the celebration with a lot of stakeholder events where the subject of transforming tertiary education financing will be discussed. We believe that this approach will greatly enrich the solutions we will be deploying to meet the needs of the present and future Ghanaian tertiary Student. We are aware of the financial dimension the active participation of private providers of tertiary education has brought to the fore. We are also aware that although in public universities Government still bears a lot of the cost, including tuition, the financial contributions of the Ghanaian student keeps increasing progressively and we must collectively find answers to the question of sustainability of the Fund and adequacy of the Students Loan amount. In this regard should the students’ loan be increased to help students pay for the use of utilities (electricity and water)?

I understand that Students are adamant to any additional cost but the truth is that the issues necessitating the decision will not go away unless a solution is found. I entreat the leadership of the tertiary student community to take a critical look at the issues and be part of designing a permanent solution rather than a delay implementation as a short term measure.

The Hon. Minister has already informed you of upward revision of the loan amount starting in the 2015/2016 academic year. We know that the ‘Oliver Twist’ syndrome exists and therefore students will ask for more. But as intellectuals let’s have that discussion in a holistic manner. We must also be making recommendations on where the additional funding for such a critical sector should come from.

Collectively, we must support the tax-payers of Ghana, whose taxes are disbursed to eligible Ghanaian’s as subsidized students loan to recover these monies when they become due. I must admit that earlier beneficiaries of this facility are taking advantage of our numerous repayment options to repay their loans. We have some more work to do with beneficiaries who leave the shores of Ghana after school and beneficiaries within some Security Agencies. Moving forward, we will be working with successful past beneficiaries of the Students Loan to go beyond simply repaying their loans fully to making some financial contributions that can be disbursed as additional money to targeted groups of their choice, as their personal contribution to building the human resource base of the selected group.

To sustain the Fund, we must deploy innovative approaches to augment our traditional sources of funding. We will take seriously, contributions stakeholder will be making to the issues as part of our 10th Anniversary activities. Fortunately, the anniversary activities coincide with development of the next Strategic Plan of the Students Loan Trust Fund, and therefore stakeholder inputs will greatly enrich this very useful document.

Ladies and Gentlemen; I recognise that, with improvements in living standards of the average Ghanaian and the changing dynamics of the tertiary sector, the Students Loan Trust Fund cannot deliver a 21st century Student’s loan using a 70ties and 80ties approach. It is for this reason that the new students loan is delivered on a smart e-zwich card. The card can be used several pay points; and as a technology driven generation, I will encourage users to pay from the card rather than the old way of cashing the money to pay for goods and services. We will work with the providers to put pay points at the various institutions such as in the bookshops, finance offices, business centres, and even restaurants/cafeteria to reduce the need for cash as a payment option for our beneficiaries. We will continue to improve access to the students’ loan by eligible Ghanaians without compromising our controls.

Hon. Ministers, Directors, Colleague Board Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, as part of efforts to get inputs from stakeholders with diverse background let me throw more light on activities ear-marked for the celebration.

  1. The Fund will move to selected regions (VR, BAR & AR) where discussion on the theme will be held with selected groups including Regional and District Coordinators, Community representative, Chiefs/Traditional Rulers, farmers, tertiary school heads and students.
  2. 10th Anniversary project: As part of the events the Fund will provide selected deprived tertiary institution facilities to support internet access and hence on-line loan application. This is in line with efforts at reducing barriers to accessing the Students Loan. The Fund currently implements an on-line and paper application system in parallel because of the uneven internet infrastructure distribution across the country. A well thought out proposal will be developed and marketed at a Fundraising Ceremony to climax the anniversary activities.
  3. In addition, past Board Members, CEO and long serving personnel of the Fund, and other key partners will be recognised and honoured for their contributions to the Fund thus far.

Hon. Minister, Director at the Ministry, Representatives of the Board, Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen let me conclude first and foremost by calling on Everyone present today to support our objectives for the celebration by being an active participant. We wish to assure all stakeholders that we will continue to practice prudent financial governance that protect public funds, we will employ innovative ways of managing the students loan to remain relevant to our clients and we will continue to deliver an undifferentiated students loan that take care of individual requirements. We wish to assure all stakeholders again that we must be doing something right to have received that many awards and recommendations from our primary clients including National Union of Ghana Students Meritorious Award, The Woman of Excellence Award from Local NUGS, University of Education Winneba (Kumasi Campus), Koforidua Polytechnic (Local NUGS Award), Vice Chancellor’s Excellent Award (KNUST) and the University Students Association of Ghana (USAG) awards. Again we must be doing something right to have delivered such strong results at the NASER which has been mentioned by the Hon. Minister. We are encouraged by these mentions and can only improve on our existing performance.

Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for your patronage and attention.

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