Friday, September 11, 2009

Journalists to benefit from GETFund

Ghanaian journalists can now access the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) for overseas training, a government minister said on Thursday. "Even though government does not wish to interfere with the work of the media, we have made it a policy to allow individual journalists to access the GETFund for overseas training if they so wish," Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information, told journalists in Accra.He made the announcement at a press conference dubbed "Matters Arising" during which he spelt out the achievements of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government in the areas of education, youth in agriculture and the fight against narcotic drugs trafficking. As per the theme of the press conference it was to keep the public updated on what government has been doing over the past eight months on matters of concern to the public.Mr. Ablakwa said government would, from a distance, continue to assist both the state and private media to develop their capacities in order to ensure that the "fourth estate of the realm" remained dynamic and independent in the country.He said government preferred a strong and independent media to a praise singing one, adding "we do not want the kind of media that will sing our praises only for the public to tell us something different about ourselves at the elections".Touching on the substance of his address, the minister observed that the perception that powerful people in government may be collaborating with drug barons was now a thing of the past due to effective measures put in place by the government to stem the drug menace. Over the past few weeks some arrests have been made both at the air and sea ports, with various quantities of narcotics drugs seized, and the minister said structures had been strengthened to ensure that those seized exhibited did not either vanish or metamorphose into "kokonte" overnight.On education, the minister recaptured some of the measures mentioned in either the recent Supplementary Budget or in other addresses by sector minister in the Meet the Press series. Some of the achievements, he reiterated, included 50 per cent increase in the capitation grant per pupil, GH¢13 million for the School Feeding Programme, and over GH¢11 million for free exercise books and school uniforms.Mr. Ablakwa said government had also decided to pay full tuition fees for all teachers who would be pursuing further studies through distance learning, adding that the decision was to ensure that teachers stayed in the classroom to teach while learning. "Government has also confirmed its commitment to science and technology education with the introduction of 41,000 scholarships accessible by mathematics and science students across the country," he said.The previous government dissolved the Ministry of Science and Technology and made science and technology an addendum of other ministries, a move that the minister criticized as negligence that led to the near collapse of the sector. Concerning youth in agriculture, the minister said GH¢10.7 million had been invested into the sub-sector to ensure the cultivation of some 14,000 hectares of land and jobs for more than 20,000 people in seven selected regions - Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Central, Ashanti, Volta and Brong-Ahafo.Mr. Ablakwa said to ensure food security and poverty reduction, government was investing heavily in irrigation in strategic parts of the country. The irrigation projects include 5,000 hectares of land in the Accra Plains Project and rehabilitation of 70 dams in the northern regions to irrigate 360 hectares of land, adding the part of the irrigated land would be used for rice cultivation in the north. "In the fishing industry, government has also approved the construction of two fishing habours and 12 landing sites at the total cost of US$200 million," he said He added that six cold stores would be built in selected fishing communities with seven million euros Spanish government loan. Mr. Ablakwa said six speed boats had also been ordered, out of which two had been paid for and due to be delivered in December 2009 to assist the navy to protect the country's marine domain, protect fishermen and stem the activities of pair trawlers.

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