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Free Uniforms promote better education

 

 

A Professor at the University of Ghana, Professor Kwame Karikari has urged the NPP government to examine the report on ‘Free School Uniform Policy’ produced by SEND Ghana , free of political biases, to be able to improve the implementation of the programme for national benefit. He was speaking at the launch of a report by SEND -Ghana on launched in Accra on 26 April, 2017, The Free School Uniform Programme (FSUP) is a government pro-poor programme being implemented in the public basic schools in deprived areas across the country

The report, “Maximizing social protection in education — The Free School Uniform Programme in perspective” identified public basic schools as one of the major factors affecting the effective roll out of the policy, and urged the Ghana Education Service (GES) to collaborate with local assemblies to involve small-scale seamstresses and tailors at the local level to sew the uniforms. It also  advocated the introduction of measures by the Ghana Education Service (GES) to ensure that the criteria for selecting beneficiary schools and needy pupils were adhered to by implementing agencies.

Presenting the report, a Senior Programme Officer of SEND-Ghana, Madam Harriet Nuamah Agyemang said, “If the uniforms are not produced locally using local fabrics, it means the job-creation mission that the government intends to use as a measure to reduce poverty and empower local businesses will be a mirage.”

The Guideline for the implementation of the initiative required that fabrics for the production of the uniforms ought to be produced locally while tailors and seamstresses in the local communities were also to be given the opportunity to sew the uniforms. The report has also emphasized the need for the government to give real meaning to the local content law by taking bold steps to encourage the garment production companies to purchase fabrics from local textile manufactures rather than relying on foreign entities.

According to the report, a total of GH¢61,800,000 was allocated for the initiative from 2009 to 2016, adding that while GH¢39,360,00 was clearly allocated for the programme in the budget statements of 2009 to 2011, there was no information on how the total figure was arrived at. The report also revealed inconsistencies in the total number of beneficiary pupils as official figures showed that 2,630,333 pupils received 1,768,690 uniforms.

The need to clothe pupils to increase school enrollment is key, but the intervention’s contribution to enhance the confidence of pupils and make them look decent and presentable must not be neglected. For this reason, GES headquarters, the regional and district directorates of education should step up supervision in sorting and distribution of uniforms to avoid mix-up in the labelling of uniform packages to prevent wastage necessitated by incorrect sizes of uniforms that cannot be used by pupils or make them a laughing stock.

Noting the timeliness of the report, Hon. Steven Siaka, chairman, Parliamentary Committee on Education and Member of Parliament for Jaman North, said the report was “timely as it would assist the Committee in proposing solutions to challenges disrupting the implementation of programmes designed to improve the educational sector”.

The Free School Uniform Policy was introduced in September, 2009 by the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government as a social intervention programme in education, with the aim to reduce the cost of education and support needy pupils in selected public basic schools across the country.

Although, none of the districts in the Greater Accra region qualify as deprived, per the World Banks’ standard for selecting deprived districts, the region is included in the free uniforms intervention to allow its needy children to also benefit from the intervention.

Out of the total number of (2,375,843) of uniforms distributed across the country by the GES, the four regions, in which the survey was conducted, received a total of 23.6% between 2009 to 2015/16 academic years. The Northern region received the highest of 268,318 uniforms representing approximately 11.2%, Upper East had 174,500(7.3%) whiles Upper West and Greater Accra received 64,178(2.7%) and 57,250 (2.4%) of the nation-wide uniforms distributed respectively.

Development agenda

Ghana’s disability law undergoes transition

by Mohammed Suleman

Ghana’s Persons with Disability Act 715, (2006) is undergoing an overhaul by stakeholders to ensure that it is compatible with the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disability(UNCRPD) which the country ratified in August 2012.

The disability fraternity argue that the current Persons with Disability law is fraught with challenges and therefore not robust enough to stand the test of time. The Disability fraternity thinks there is an urgent need for Act 715 to be modified to introduce provisions that clearly and comprehensively touch on the human rights of Persons with Disability (PWDs) in the country as prescribed by the UNCRPD.

The goal of the UNCPRD is to significantly redress the profound social disadvantage of persons with disabilities and promote their participation in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres with equal opportunities, in both developing and developed countries.

The advocates, comprising the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations(GFD), the Media Caucus on Disability (MCD-Ghana) as well as Mind- Freedom Ghana maintain that the move for the amendment seeks to domesticate the UNCRPD, reform the current PWD Act and propose appropriate Regulations through consultative processes.

According a draft gap analysis report on the UNCRPD commissioned by the Disability fraternity, the call for amendment has become necessary because it determines the extent to which the PWDs Act conforms to international standards governing the rights of the disabled as codified in the UNCRPD.

 

Key Provisions – UNCRPD

The draft gap Analysis Report, clarifies that unlike Ghana’s Disability (Act 715, 2006), the UNCRPD took the social model of disability into consideration and provides for an overarching protectionist regime, including equal recognition before the law under Article 12, access to justice under article 13, liberty and security of person under Article 14, equality and non-discrimination under Article 5, accessibility under Article 9 and right to life under Article 10.

Other provisions straddles the rights of Women and Children with disabilities (Articles 6 and 7), awareness-raising (Article 8), situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies (Article 11), freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 15), freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse (Article 16), protecting the integrity of the person (Article 17), liberty of movement and nationality (Article 18), living independently and being included in the community (Article 19). Other provisions include personal mobility (Article 20), freedom of expression and opinion’ and access to information (Article 21), respect to privacy (Article 22), respect for home and the family (Article 23), right to education (Article 24), right to health (Article 25).

In terms of conformity to disability rights guaranteed under the UNCRPD, the PWD Act is analysed within the general ambit of Ghana’s international obligations imposed under the UNCRPD and for which European countries such as Ireland and Bulgaria as well as the United States of America are currently making some progress to consolidate in their domestic legal regimes either through national legislations or interpretation of the courts (national or regional) and other judicial tribunals.  In general, the PWD Act is strikingly comprehensive in its coverage of areas of welfare enhancement of disabled persons to the neglect of some of the most important provisions enshrined in the UNCRPD.

 

Thus although it is refreshing to observe that the PWD Act lays particular emphasis on access to public services and other fundamental rights of the disabled. This is enshrined under Article 29 of the 1992 Constitution. It is also specified in the provisions of the UNCRPD, including “equality and non-discrimination” under Article 5.  “Accessibility” to public places and services under Article 9, “freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse” under Article 16, freedom to live independently and included in the community under Article 19, “personal mobility” under Article 20, “Respect for home and the family” under Article 23, right to “education” under Article 24, right to “health” under Article 25, right to “work and employment” under Article 27, and right to “adequate standard of living and social protection” under Article 28.

 

It is important to note that the PWD Act is not entirely exhaustive of the provisions of the UNCRPD. However, the PWD Act itself has failed to promote the right of persons with disability to participate in political and public life. In contrast, the UNCRPD, under its Article 29 headed “Political and Public Life”, provides: “States parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others.

The PWD Act, in its current form, requires some amendment or review to fill in the gaps and put it in total conformity to the UNCRPD.  In addition, they since the Act is lacking the necessary depth for protecting disability rights, it is essential the country pauses a while, do the necessary audit of the Act and introduce the right legislative framework to give effect to the UNCRPD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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