The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has mounted a strong defence of Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang’s four-year tenure as Minister of Education, days after she was named running mate for the party’s 2020 Presidential Election bid.
The party says the “blatant falsehoods” about her stewardship of the Ministry are motivated by misogyny and chauvinism.
Prof Opoku Agyeman who was the Minister for Education of Ghana between February 2013 and January 2017 under the NDC Administration faced criticism of her record barely hours after she was named running mate ( on Monday, July 6, 2020) with critics circulating a list of what they described as her failings on social media.
One of her critics, the Communications Director of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Yaw Buabeng Asamoah said the Professor was not new to Ghana politics, and that it was her performance during her period as a political appointee that would be considered.
Among many other criticisms, he mentioned that it was during her tenure as Education Minister that trainee teachers’ allowances were scrapped, even against appeals to reconsider the decision, adding: “Indeed, it was one of the things she was proud to have done.”
He said apart from the fact that transportation allowances for teachers were not being paid, the NDC running mate also introduced the practice of teachers working for two years without being paid and being restricted to being paid only three months’ back pay, no matter how long they had worked.
Addressing the sixth edition of the NDC’s weekly briefings on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, the National Communications Officer of the Party, Mr Sammy Gyamfi the party had taken note of the desperate fabrications being peddled by the NPP about the sterling record of Prof Opoku Agyemang at the Ministry.
He said she has “unblemished integrity and can be trusted to restore the honour and dignity the office of Vice President has lost in the last 3 and half years when elected”.
“Barely after the big announcement was made, the NPP’s Director of Communications Mr Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, who has become synonymous with panicky auto-pilot parody whenever the NDC addresses the nation on critical national issues, hurriedly put together a poorly assembled press conference in a vain attempt to denigrate the personality of the impeccable Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang,” Mr Gyamfi said.
“Ordinarily, we would have ignored such blatant falsehood which offers no value or importance for the development of this country. But for the sake of the unsuspecting public, some of whom may not be aware of the facts, and given the fact that these untruths have become the chorus of NPP party communicators and apparatchiks, we would like to set the records straight as follows:
1. Teacher Trainee Allowance
“Firstly, the claim that Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang cancelled Teacher Trainee Allowance is false. The decision to replace Teacher Trainee allowance with student loan was a cabinet decision and not a ministerial decision”.
He said the policy to replace the allowance was not properly understood by the public and was exploited by the NPP for political capital with the promise that they will fully restore it if elected.
“The sad reality today is that, instead of the full restoration of the allowances as was promised by President Akufo-Addo and the NPP, teacher trainees are being served with a partial restoration of the allowances, which is being paid in a rather very erratic manner and for only 8 months, instead of 12 months, as was the case before the conversion. In fact, our checks this morning show, that the Akufo Addo government hasn’t paid any allowances to teacher trainees since February 2020.
“To add insult to injury, the Akufo-Addo-government has increased the school fees of teacher trainees and introduced feeding fees which used to be free under the Mahama government”.
He reiterated that former President John Mahama will maintain the payment of allowances to teacher trainees and abolish the licensure exams and mandatory national service policy for teacher trainee graduates, as well as restore the automatic employment of teacher trainee graduates if he is elected on December 7, 2020.
2. Teachers salary
He stressed that it was false that a policy to pay three months salary for newly recruited was introduced by Prof Opoku Agyemang.
Mr Gyamfi explained that the policy was introduced by the Finance Ministry as part of Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) reforms at the time, to check the phenomenon of payroll fraud and ensure that newly recruited teachers, nurses and doctors were paid their their first three months salary without any hindrance and subsequent salaries paid upon validation.
“The temporary challenges the policy suffered at the beginning of its implementation were resolved through the interventions of the Finance Ministry under the NDC-Mahama government,” he said.
3. Book and Research allowances
He said the Book and Research allowances for lecturers of tertiary institutions was never cancelled under the NDC-Mahama administration when Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang was Minister of Education.
“As such, the NPP could not have restored something that was never taken away in the first place”.
4. Montie three petition
He also swatted aside suggestions that Prof Opoku Agyeman would have a hard time persuading women to support her bid because she signed the ‘Montie three’ petition.
According to Mr Gyamfi, she supported the punishment of the “MONTIE TRIO” but she also identified with the repentance and remorse shown by the young men and sought lesser punishment for them.
“Her plea for lesser punishment for the “MONTIE TRIO” was therefore not a vice, but an act of compassion and a virtue”.
5. Failure to provide chalk
He disclosed that, during her tenure as Education Minister, Prof Opoku Agyemang disbursed 5 million pieces of chalk, comprising 4,994,328 boxes of white chalk and 180,000 boxes of colored chalk were provided to schools across the country, including the district of the particular school where the said incident with the then Second Lady occurred.
“Again, the claim by the NPP that Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang failed to provide chalk to schools when she was Education Minister is false. This blatant untruth highlights how low the NPP will go in trying to denigrate our flagbearer’s choice of running mate”.
6. Not being an economist
He said the suggestion that Prof Opoku Agyeman was not fit to lead the government’s Economic Management Team (EMT) was laughable because the office of Vice President is not about economists but, the ability to lead and solve the hydra-headed problems confronting the nation.
He said the country had had several Vice Presidents from different political parties who were not economists but produced excellent results.
He said: “It is worthy of note, that this country has had Vice Presidents in the past who were not economists, yet chaired government’s Economic Management team (EMT) and produced excellent results. A classical example of this fact is H.E. John Dramani Mahama, who despite not being an economist served as VEEP and chaired the Economic Management Team under the NDC-Mills administration from 2009-2012. It must be noted, that it was within this period that Ghana achieved its best-ever economic performance record; highest economic growth rate of 14.4% and longest period of single-digit inflation, just to mention a few.
“Also, the late Aliu Mahama, a civil contractor who became the VEEP of President Kufuor did not have any economics background. Yet, he chaired the Economic Management team (EMT) under the NPP-Kufuor administration, which produced the macroeconomic achievements the NPP has continuously boasted of”.
Read Sammy Gyamfi’s entire address below;