According to him, the Colleges of Education will be affiliated to the University of Cape Coast in the Central Region and other public universities.

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President Akufo-Addo also revealed that  the minimum qualification for one to become a teacher will now be a degree-- which means all teachers holding diploma certificates will need to pursue degree programmes as soon as possible.

Government is wasting no time on the conversion. President Akufo-Addo said the exercise will start from the 2018/19 academic year, which begins in September 2018.

Speaking at the 170th-anniversary celebration of the Presbyterian College of Education in Akropong, in the Eastern Region, he also indicated that a 4-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree will be introduced in the University Colleges.

“These Colleges will, initially, be affiliated with the University of Cape Coast, and, subsequently, to other public universities. This means that, eventually, a first degree will be the minimum requirement for teaching at any level of our education system”, he said.

He continued: "With the introduction of the 4-year Bachelor of Education degree, you would now obtain your first degree at the end of your schooling.

"This ensures that you enter the teaching service as university graduates, with an increase in your earning capacity."

What the conversion of the Colleges of Education to University Colleges means is that the teacher training allowance will be scrapped while the Student Load Trust Fund (SLTF) will be made available to anyone who is financially handicapped.

The move is necessary for the Akufo-Addo administration considering the tight fiscal space in the 2018 budget amidst competing demands in health, road construction, agriculture, science and technology and pro-poor policies like the National Health Insurance Scheme, MASLOC and Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP).

If the conversion is successfully done, it will free up cash for the aforementioned policies and programmes.

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University students are not given government subventions except the absorption of their tuition fees, which is quite negligible compared to the other components of the fees like the academic user fee, light bills, infrastructure development among others.

What will be the political implication?

There is a general mood for a degree among tertiary students because diploma holders essentially would have to spend additional two or three years in the University to obtain one.

It is the reason the conversion of the polytechnics into technical universities received massive support from polytechnic students. After studying for three years at the Polytechnic, one would have to do additional three years at the university to obtain a degree.

But with technical university status, polytechnic graduates with Higher National Diploma only do 18 months top-up to obtain their degrees.

The challenge for government is how to convince the nation and teacher trainees that this move has nothing to do with scrapping their allowances, which will be scrapped anyway after the conversion.

The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) will characteristically launch onto it to make a case of deceit, lies and propaganda against the government.

The NDC only three years ago scrapped the teacher and nursing training allowances with the excuse that the payment of the allowance was denying some students the opportunity to be enrolled.

The NPP while in opposition disputed the NDC’s claim saying, with prudent management of the economy, allowances could be paid.

So the way the NDC will react is quite predictable.

But how the students in the Colleges of Education will react is government’s main concern. September will be an interesting month.

Economic move

While we wait to gauge the mood of teacher training college students in September, it is safe to conclude that this move has little to do with education policy than an economic decision.

An analysis of the budget shows a huge chunk of it goes into consumption: free education, teacher and nursing training allowances, salaries and emoluments of public and civil servants and the various youth employment modules.

This has put stress on the budget as calls for new roads and repair of bad roads grow loud and loud. In other to free up the budget for other developmental needs, a move such as the conversion of Colleges of Education to University Colleges is what the Akuof-Addo administration needs badly.

But it is only just one of the many initiatives to free up the budget and probably a little drop in the ocean.

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Government alternative

The government will argue that the Student Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) is available for tertiary students. I suspect it is the reason the fund has been increased by 50 per cent.

The increase means tertiary students across the country will now have the opportunity to access more credit facilities to fund their education, which has been the main argument for the (restoration of the) teacher training allowance.

A statement signed by the Head of Public Relations at the Ministry of Education, Vincent Assafuah, confirming the increase indicated that, an amount of GHC38,441,088 has been disbursed as full payment to the National Commission for Tertiary Education

Nana Agyei Yeboah the Chief Executive Director of the Fund said government was committed to ensuring that hindrances to quality education are alienated.

“Hitherto, the minimum amount given to beneficiaries was GHS 1,000 and it was capped at GHS 2,000 which was directly linked to needs assessment Government has subsequently increased the minimum amount to GHS 1,500 and maximum 3,000,” he lamented.