The importance of human capital to the growth and development of organizations and societies cannot be overemphasized. It is the core ingredient that stimulates the systems and units of every organization to achieve its goals and objectives.
It is also the fundamental asset of every society. In fact, the quality of a society’s workforce is determined by its human capital base. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines human capital as the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances.
Its development requires deliberate effort and substantial financial resources.
According to the OECD, there are different ways to measure human capital. These include education level, skills and qualifications among other indicators.
Despite its importance, the human capital base of the Builsa South District continues to remain low. This is evident in the low literacy rate as captured in the 2010 population and housing census. In that report, about 15,974 persons comprising 7,621 males and 8,353 females out of a total population of 36,514 are non-literates. This represents about 44% of the entire population.
In order to improve the situation, the Member of Parliament has instituted a student sponsorship scheme from his share of the District Assemblies Common Fund which is disbursed yearly to support brilliant and needy students across the district.
The fund is often disbursed to students studying varied academic programs in various universities and other tertiary institutions across the country. Between the period of 2017 – 2020, over four hundred thousand Ghana Cedis (GH¢400,000.00) has been disbursed to support the payment of fees for 400 brilliant and needy students who could have been denied access to higher education or drop out from school.
The purpose of this article is to find out how the share of the Builsa South Constituency Member of Parliament’s Common Fund is contributing to improving the low literacy rate and helping build a knowledge and skilled workforce that will eventually contribute to the growth and development of the district. The assessment was done from the beneficiaries’ point of view.
The beneficiaries study various academic programs including early childhood education, basic education, nursing, agriculture, planning, accounting among others just to mention but few at the various higher institutions across the country. My interaction with them revealed that they were very happy to be part of the sponsorship scheme and that the gesture from the Member of Parliament has given them hope for the future.
Sponsorship schemes often give equal opportunity to all genders to realize their potential. It provides an opportunity for many people to obtain education. Without financial assistance from other sources, students may have difficulty paying for higher education which they need to enter the workforce in order to contribute to the growth and development of their respective societies.
My conversation with some selected beneficiaries of the Member of Parliament’s educational sponsorship scheme whose identities I would refer to in this article as ‘beneficiary’1, ‘beneficiary 2’, and ‘beneficiary 3’for the purpose of confidentiality revealed the following:
“most females in our community are not given priority with regards to education because it is believed that she will eventually be married and end up in a man’s home. If you insist to pursue higher education, then you have to travel down south to work or work on the farm here as a farm labourer among other menial jobs to facilitate the payment of your fees.
The sponsorship scheme by the Member of Parliament has really given the female student hope of pursuing higher education in order to earn higher income in the future. It has also given the female beneficiary the zeal to pursue higher academic qualifications because she is rest assured of financial avenue. I personally no longer have divided attention thinking of where the next fees will come from so I am able to focus on my studies”- (beneficiary 1).
Early marriage is one of the negative cultural practices having an effect on the girl child’s education in the district. In a report by the World Bank (2017) on the economic impact and costs of child marriage, and how the practice relates to girl’s educational attainment, it revealed that the practice led to lower earnings since a lack of education prevents the girl child from getting good job in her adulthood.
In addition, child marriage reduces the education prospects for the children of the teenage mother by curtailing her education. According to the next beneficiary as indicated below:
“The Member of Parliament’s financial support has helped reduce the practice of early marriages in our communities where children are given out for marriage before age 18 oftentimes due to poverty in the home. The sponsorship scheme is serving as a motivation to ladies across the district and encouraging them to pursue higher education because there is a financial avenue to see them through school” – (beneficiary 2)
Students often work several jobs over the course of their tertiary school years in order to pay for their fees, books and lodging. While this could certainly be an option, it often has a negative impact on the student and his academic performance.
In Ghana, most tertiary graduates are saddled with student loans upon leaving school due to rising tuition fees. In a country where tertiary qualification is beneficial during job search, educational sponsorship schemes lessen the financial strain on many students.
My conversation with another beneficiary which I would refer to as “beneficiary 3” revealed that “the scheme has cushioned and lessened the financial burden on her and her illiterate parents whose occupation is peasant farming.
She added that the scheme has helped pay about 60% of her fees during her academic program at the University. She wants the sponsorship scheme to be maintained to enable other students to benefit”. - (beneficiary 3)
The beneficiaries generally alluded to the fact that the sponsorship scheme has significantly benefited them by lessening the impact of rising tuition cost, helping them have more time to focus on their studies, decrease their loan burden and also lessen the financial burden on their parents.
Since its introduction in 2017, the scheme has faced some setbacks in the course of its operation.
These challenges range from delays in approval to disbursement of funds to beneficiaries. The delays often put undue frustration on the beneficiaries. Timely responsiveness to the needs and requirements of the clients only depicts how satisfied and fulfilled the clients become hence every necessary effort should be made to remove the bottlenecks in the approval and disbursement stages of the sponsorship scheme.
Information about the sponsorship scheme should be made available to all potential applicants through various media platforms and honourable Assembly Members of the various electoral areas within the district. This will ensure that every brilliant and needy student has equal access to information about the sponsorship scheme.
In conclusion, the sponsorship scheme has contributed significantly to promoting the human capital base of the district. This deliberate effort to improve the literacy rate of the district should be sustained and if possible the allocated amount should be increased to ensure that more students benefit from the package.