08.03.2004 Feature Article

Financing Ghanaian Universities

Financing Ghanaian Universities
08.03.2004 LISTEN

Universities in Ghana face a number of problems, including a severe shortage of funds, low quality teaching, inefficient administration, lack of research activities, high-level of centralization, loss of experienced professors to more developed countries, and lack of other resources. Arguably, these problems have made it increasingly difficult for our universities to contribute optimally to the sustainable socio-economic development of the country. In fact, apart from providing some human resources to fill administrative and managerial positions in government departments, and teaching jobs in colleges and schools, our universities have virtually no other impacts on our societies. An effective solution to this problem is for our universities to redefine their mission and ally it to our development goals, which include the establishment of a manufacturing base for the production of goods for both local consumption and for export; job creation, primary health care (including sanitation), entrepreneurial skills, and poverty reduction. With regard to financing, universities are classified as high dependence (90% or more of income from government sources), medium dependence (70% -90% of income from government sources), or low dependence (less than 70% of income from government sources). Universities in Ghana are assigned to the high dependence category, because they depend on the government for 90% or more of their total funding. However, as other areas are competing more fiercely for our meager government revenues, then our universities are getting less and less from the government than they need to carry on their operations. Given the inadequate government funding of our universities, our universities have resorted to a cost sharing approach toward the solution of their funding problems. This solution approach involves sharing the cost of university education with students and their families or guardians. Accordingly, our universities have imposed tuition fees on their students; charge for room and board, and for the facilities students used. This policy has broken with the long tradition of free university education for Ghanaians as propagated by president Kwame Nkrumah. Nevertheless, this approach has made only a small dent in our universities' financial problems. Our universities still rely heavily on government funding, and have insufficient funds for maintaining their library resources, for purchasing learning facilities such as computers, and for engaging in research activities. They are financially incapable of stocking their libraries shelves with up-date academic journals or books on the disciplines that they are supposed to teach their students. So it is not uncommon to see that most of the libraries in these universities bare or without books and materials that students could read for more information on concepts that they are learning in their courses. Even some courses have only one textbook accessible only to the instructor; the instructor dictates from the textbook to the students and that constitutes the only source of print information for the course. In this case, how could the students be well-informed? How could they do effective research? To solve this under-resource problem, our universities have to tap other avenues for resources. Some of these sources are identified and discussed below. 1. Not long ago, ten universities in East Africa went into partnership with some European universities in order to get access to international scientific journals on the Internet and also to have the facilities to publish their own scientific research findings on an international scale. This partnership helped those underresourced universities to have up-to-date resources in their libraries and this improved the quality of teaching and learning immensely. Our universities could do a similar thing by going into a partnership with some Western universities so that those Western Universities would share their journals electronically with them. Once our universities gained access to those journals, they could then print them and make them available in their libraries. 2. Private resources. This could take the form of private donations or endowment funds. Under their finance departments, each university should employ a Resources Raising officer (RRO). One of the duties of the RRO consist of organizing fund-raising activities and soliciting resources in cash or kind from Ghanaians at home and abroad, foreigners, businesses in Ghana and abroad. Non-cash resources could consist of books, stationeries, laboratory supplies, computers and their accessories, fax and photocopier machines, and scan equipment. The RRO should also be responsible for maintaining the names and addresses of the graduates of the university. This list of alumni should be used to solicit funding or resources from former graduates of the university. As well, the RRO should organize periodic fund raising event targeted for specific purpose such as to raise money to buy computers, laboratory equipment, or construct a lecture room. In short, the primary responsibility of the RRO is to find ways to solicit resources for the university from private sources. However, to protect donated resources or endowment funds from fraudulent misappropriation, every university should establish an effective accounting system for receipting donations in order to avoid misappropriation by individuals. Most Ghanaians abroad would not be motivated to donate resources if donated resources are diverted to private use or sold and the proceeds pocketed by individuals. As well, individuals who make substantial donation to a university should have something in the university named after them. Other donors should be recognized in some ways. It is up to each university to decide how donors would be recognized. The purpose of such recognition is to motivate donors and potential donors to support the university. 3. In his address of the 37th congregation of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), president Kufour urged the university to enter into consultancy in order to bid for projects to generate additional income to supplement government funding. As well, the president suggested that the university establish private business development centre as a resource centre for their students who are contemplating to go into entrepreneurship. This piece of advice should be given to the other universities in the country as well. However, for the KNUST to go into consultancy it must place a considerable emphasis on applied knowledge as opposed to mere theoretical knowledge in its courses. It must also psychologically shake off the shackles of new colonialism that regards the university as a producer of skilled administrative personnel for government bureaucracy. On the contrary, the university must portray itself as a leader of development in Ghana by restructuring the contents of its courses and by using problem-posing, problem-solving and culturally relevance as its pedagogies. In addition, assessment of knowledge and skills that students have gained in courses should also use other strategies besides standardized examinations. As Yartey (2004-02-29, Ghanaweb) rightly put it: “Students should not be examined on the basis of textbook principles only but also on the basis of having developed a new idea, design, policy, plan, model, etc. through guided research”. Over-reliance on standardized examination as an exclusive mode of assessment often leads to “chew, pour and forget” culture. This culture does not auger well for our university graduates who are eventually called upon to make decisions or solve problems of some sort. Individual and group project assignments, for instance, are excellent for developing students' skills for investigative or research work. Besides, assignments for students must primarily focus on issues or concepts that apply to our communities in Ghana. Our society has always been described as communal because decisions are collectively made. Two heads are better than one, is a saying that permeates the fabric of Ghanaian culture. In fact, consultation, consensus, negotiation, and collectivity are crucial values in our traditional culture. At the centre of Ghanaian culture is the belief that effective learning takes place in a social context. Yet learning in the university classrooms is highly individualized, contrary to our cultural norms. Even in this age of collaborative and team-style approach to work, some of our universities' practices are out of date. Furthermore, if our universities were to establish Business Development Centres, as president Kufour has advised, they should not only be used for training students in entrepreneurship, but also they should serve as research centres for innovative, cutting–edge business models and practices. In that case, businesses within and outside the country may consult them for advice or guidance in solving their problems or restructuring their operations. This would generate a lot of income for the universities. 4. Ghanaian universities could also generate enormous revenues through the establishment of a distance education unit. This unit would offer courses, certificates, diplomas, or degree programs in a distant format to those (a) who for a variety of reasons could not enroll in full-time university studies; (b) those who want to take some courses out of curiosity or general interest; (c) those who have no access to university education in their places of residence. Companies could use the distance education program to upgrade their workers' skills and knowledge. In terms of cost-revenue analysis, our universities could make a huge income out of distance education offerings as a result of expanded enrolment and lower operational costs. Nevertheless, in order to achieve that our universities have to use other criteria in their admission process other than the possession of SSS certificate passes in the appropriate subjects. Basing university admission solely on SSS certificate passes has outlived its social and cultural usefulness. As a matter of fact, many brilliant, creative, and talented people have been denied university education and, for that reason, they have gone wasted for nothing, simply because of our universities' narrow, inequitable admission criteria.

In conclusion, it should be noted that Ghanaian universities since their inception have alienated themselves from our communities, instead of being an integral part of them. Their products are educated in such a way that they are removed from their communities and culture, so to speak, and transformed into caricatures of Euro-Americans. How could these universities identify problems in our communities and provide the most appropriate solutions? How could they assist in developing our resources of raw materials into more suitable products for local consumption and for export? Indeed, for our universities to tap into alternative sources of resources they must transform themselves into partners of Ghana's development.

The author is a mathematics educator and education administrator in Canada's newest territory- Nunavut. His interests include teacher education, teacher professional improvement, assessment, and design of instructional materials, educational management, instructional strategies/pedagogy and culturally relevant education. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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