First introduced by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1960, the tradition of the State paying trainee teachers a monthly allowance has proved popular with some Governments and less so with others. The allowance was originally meant as an inducement to get more people into the teaching profession.
It was canceled in 1971 by the Busia administration, re-introduced by President Rawlings and canceled once again by President Mahama in 2013.
After it was scrapped in 2013 over four thousand trainees accessed the Government subsidized student loan. The Colleges of Education, however, continued to receive the feeding grant. Former President John Mahama explained that the removal of the allowance was as a result of the high cost of paying teacher trainee allowances which were a burden on the public purse. This was received with mixed reactions as teacher trainees and other stakeholders appealed to the government to restore the allowance. Various demonstrations were organized by teacher trainees as they pressured the government to prioritize spending on training teachers or lose their votes in the impending 2016 elections.
The National Patriotic Party during the 2016 campaign, promised to restore the teacher trainee allowances if voted into power. A promise they fulfilled in 2017 after assuming the reins of power.
The Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) a government agency under the Ministry of Education was mandated to disburse allowances to Teacher Trainees in forty-one Public Colleges of Education constituting 46,447 trainees. Each trainee receives Gh₵204 per month for the eight months a year in which they are on campus.
The restoration of the allowances was met with joy by teacher trainees. The allowance is used by students to purchase handouts as well as to settle other pressing needs. It has particularly assisted needy students who otherwise would have struggled to take care of basic expenses during the semester.
Final year students on the out of school program teaching in basic schools all over the country, also use the allowance to support themselves.
Teachers are critical to the human resource development of the country. The sheer number of hours that students spend in school with their teachers alone, makes teachers the most important influence in their formation as productive citizens of the country.
It is unlikely that the debate about whether to continue paying the allowances or not has been settled for good, however, the importance of teachers, and the quality of training they receive is so vital that whatever decisions are taken by policymakers in future do not leave them worse off.