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STAR-Ghana begins nationwide manifesto influencing campaign

The STAR-Ghana Foundation, a national centre for active citizenship and philanthropy, has commenced a nationwide initiative to solicit the pressing concerns of citizens for redress by political parties in their manifestos for the 2024 general elections.

The consultative exercise provides a platform for citizens to share their challenges regarding access to quality public services in health, education, and social protection to influence the direction of political party manifestos.

The first session of town hall meetings held in Cape Coast brought together citizens from the Central, Western and Western North Regions including students, CSOs, fishers, traditional leaders, and workers to present their priorities.

Some of the major issues identified under health were inadequate and unfair distribution of specialists, lack of medical equipment in some facilities, exodus of nurses, poor reproductive health education for the youth, struggling National Health Insurance Scheme, and discrimination against Persons wit
h Disabilities.

Mr Caesar Kaba Kogozi, a health consultant and facilitator of the session, expressed concern about the inadequate investment in doctors while nursing trainees continued to enjoy incentives.

He observed that Ghana had a doctor-citizen ratio of one to 4,000 instead of one to 1,000 while it overperformed in nursing with a nurse-citizen ratio one to 600.

He called on government to redirect the nursing trainee allowances into training more doctors and specialists.

He also advocated for a 24-hour provision of all services across all health facilities because every health service was an emergency service.

Some of the participants called for the completion of all ongoing health projects and a regional hospital in every region.

They also want government to redirect the COVID-19 levy to improve and expand the NHIS to cover more health conditions.

‘There are inadequate health facilities, and many trained nurses are still at home. We want the government or whoever wins power to focus their attentio
n on that,’ Ms Ruby Adams, a student, said.

It was observed that the country’s education system was also fraught with countless challenges including adequate teaching and learning material, poor infrastructure, and insufficient schools for the deaf and blind.

Mr Kofi Asare, the Executive Director of Africa Education Watch, called on political parties to make deliberate efforts at closing the yawning gap in education between the rural and urban communities, particularly at the basic level.

‘And in being intentional in seeking to create a levelled playing field for basic education in rural areas, we must commit more resources to rural areas to bring them to the level of the average urban school then, we can begin to equally distribute resources,’ he said.

Some of the participants called for a cut off point for entering Senior High School (SHS) to compel students to learn, lamenting that the free for all SHS policy had made students lazy.

They further called for more schools for the deaf and dumb across the
country to increase access while appealing to government for a more practical technical education to give students adequate hands-on experience.

Dr. Ernestina Korleki Tetteh, Projects Manager of STAR-Ghana, called for an increase in the budgetary allocation for social protection programmes such as school feeding, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and the NHIS.

She was of the view that the budgets for the various social protection programmes were not enough and were hardly disbursed in full.

Madam Eunice R. Agbenyadzi, the Head of Programmes, STAR-Ghana Foundation, observed that political party manifestos were a key development tool which provided an idea of the party’s policy direction and commitments.

She said they would collate the information and present them to the manifesto drafting committees of the various political parties, particularly the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to inform them about the needs of citizens.

She observed that issues of inves
tments into healthcare education and rural-urban disparities in access to quality health care were paramount in the discussion.

‘We think that this is an opportunity for the political parties to have very tangible strategies to address the growing inequalities that we see between the south and the north and between rural and urban areas so that citizens, regardless of wherever they live, can access quality services so they can thrive to fulfil their potentials,’ she said.

Mr Selete Nyomi, the Executive Director of Coastal Television, partners of the project, called for the decentralisation of all ministries to decongest Accra and spur growth and development in various regions.

‘There is no reason why we cannot have the Ministry of Tourism with the Minister for Tourism here.

‘After all, these days, with modern technology, the Minister can have cabinet meeting over Zoom,’ he indicated.

Source: Ghana News Agency