Traditionally there are five Universities in the country. These are University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Development Studies and University College of Education, which has now attained full University status. For sometime now, these public institutions of higher learning have been battling with acute shortage of lecturers. It is a common sight that among the many teething problems faced by these national institutions of higher learning; lack of lecturers stands out to be very critical. Lack of adequate lecturers has been a bane for quite sometime now. Some argue that poor condition of service may be responsible for the situation. Others also hold the view that academia is unattractive and very conservative.
But the crack of the matter is that lecturers are leaving the borders of this nation in search for the so-called greener pasture. The few who remained do find other jobs to supplement whatever they receive at the end of the month. If one is to conduct a quick survey on our University campuses, one will discover that the places have been deserted and what one can find are the aged that for one or two reasons stay behind. Even some of these aged lecturers are on contract because most of them have retired and have been called back to duty. The social and economic implications of this state of affairs are anybody's guess.
Looking at the current state, certain questions needs to be asked? Does Ghana as a nation has strategic plan to redeem this appalling situation? Do University authorities foresee the long-term effect of the problem? Do we recognise the enormous roles universities play in the socio-economic development process and what is the way forward?
What is quite clear is that over time, there has not been any strategic policy to reverse this trend What has been done in the past by government and University authorities has always been to send some students abroad to pursue further studies so that upon completion, they return and teach at the universities. But the big question is, has this practice been successful? Do students sent abroad really come back? Have we done the calculations well to actually determine the number of students who follow and successfully complete their programmes and return to this country? Obviously, the answer will be no.
This article takes inspiration from the pronouncements made by Professor Jophus Anamuah- Mensah on 8th May 2004 at the induction and investiture ceremony into office as the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Education. According to him the university with a total population of 16,000 including 5000 distance learners has a total of 240 staff, representing 44%, adding that this is woefully inadequate. Also, Rev.Professor S.K. Adjepong, the Vice Chancellor of the Methodist University during the University's first congregation thanks giving service on 25th April 2004, challenged the State Universities to increase the annual output of Post Graduates to serve as human resources base to feed the educational institutions. He said “the increasing demand for quality tertiary education coupled with growing number of private Universities in the country calls for drastic measures to ensure that highly qualified lecturers are available to meet the challenges” Professor Adjepong said most of the private tertiary institutions depended on part-time lecturers from the state Universities, this is not good enough as the lecturers are stressed to their outmost limit, reducing their productivity.
The situation becomes worsened and compounded with the accelerated rate at which Universities are being established by religious bodies and other institution across the length and breath of Ghana. It is estimated there are 10-11 private universities offering various programmes in the country. It is very clear that we have a huge chunk of problem given the acute shortage of lecturers in public and private Universities. What is also disturbing is that these Universities being established have no definite policy to attract lecturers into their folds. The situation is a source of worry. The only motive for the establishment of these private Universities is to complement government effort in the delivery of quality University education to the majority of the people. This noble motive seems threatened by this problem.
Reading between lines, the only logical and obvious conclusion one can make is that there is a real problem because if the state Universities that face the same acute staff problem are rather depended upon by these private Universities for lecturers, then underestimating the enormity of the situation would not serve this nation any good.
Even though the situation is deplorable, it is not so hopeless. There is no alternative than government and the University authorities considering, as a matter of national priority and interest to establish a national postgraduate college to train the manpower needs of the Universities. The only mandate of this proposed college is the training of graduates/academic staff for the Universities and the Polytechnics. It is evidently and abundantly clear that no single University in Ghana has the resources to train graduates for this purpose but by coming and pulling resources together this is possible.
If governments spends huge amount of the nation's limited resources to send some people abroad to be trained so they come back into this country and teach, and majority do not have the motivation to return and those who do come even feel reluctant to go and teach, then there is every reason that a second thought be considered so that the money is now diverted to establish this Post Graduate College. The mandate of the college is to train the manpower requirements of the Universities especially the faculty staff.
The college should be structured in such a way that admission into it is optional but once one accepts to attend, then some form of contractual agreements thus emerges between the students and government. A system of bounding should be put in place so that upon completion beneficiaries will be required to serve the Universities for a period of 5-10 years. Adequate structures should then be put in place so that beneficiaries who refuse to abide by the tenets of the agreement could be sanctioned by the state.
The college should be organised in such a way that adequate support in the form of students' grants almost equivalent to what is spent on students going abroad and other incentive packages should be embedded in the programme. With this a lot of people will be encouraged to enrol and participate in the programme and we could as well monitor students on the programme because they will study in the country. Apart from the financial gain in the form of savings the nation would be making, we would be ever ready to supply our Universities with qualified academic staff so that teaching and learning in our Universities take place in manner that is sustaining and ensure quality teaching. Where we have more than necessary, we could start to export skilled lecturers in a more structured form to earn foreign exchange for this nation. Let us recognise that intellectual property is now classified as assets.
We could also establish contacts with lecturers and professors the world over either to come and teach at the college or by the use of ICT, video conferencing can be used to create the platform where students at the college will have access to first class professors during the training periods. It is important to mention that ICT should play a crucial role in the implementation of the programme. One should not see this as impossible because with advancement in ICT this can be done at least cost but with greater benefits. It will also provide an opportunity for Ghana to always have a reservoir of well-qualified and trained academicians who will be ever ready and wholeheartedly willing to accept lectureship in our Universities.
There is enormous pressure on our Universities because over the years the demand for University education has more than doubled. A visit to most lecture theatres in the Universities leaves much to be desired. One lecturer taking about 600 students for a particular course is incredible but very real. Can you then talk of efficiency and quality and have we thought of the kind of products coming out from the Universities?
The time has come for us a s a nation to have a tunnel focus and identify areas of prime importance for this nation because at the end of the day a well trained product from the University will be able to manage a small portion of the economy in a scalable fashion and in turn create other openings for others. Let us look at this perspective and model it to suit our environment and situation. If Universities are to function as expected and train the manpower needs of this nation and if the establishment of so many private Universities are to make a meaningful impact in the delivery of University education in this country then we cannot do anything so essential and urgent than concentrating all available resources to establish a postgraduate college. A national synchronised effort is therefore needed to solve the problem of lack of lecturers in our Universities and the Polytechnics.
Any inaction today will spur the doom for tomorrow and any passing day of no concrete action on this proposed programme will make longer the time for correcting the present situation We must all see this as a national problem and this needs to be discussed at every platform to create the necessary awareness because we need it. Let us not forget that the aged who are now on contract will definitely retire permanently sooner or later, and when they leave who will take over?
We also want to appeal to Ghanaians who, by the kind generosity of Ghanaian tax payer, went abroad for further studies on government scholarship and even those individuals who went on their own to pursue further studies to be circumspect and patriotic a bit to return and help mother Ghana in our reconstruction effort. We owe it as a duty to this country to do whatever possible to play our roles to make this country become a beacon of hope. Let us not be always swayed or carried away by monetary considerations only but a little bit sacrifice for this nation will have a positive effect and make all the difference.
Let us all remember that nations, which are now heaven for some Ghanaians, did pass through the same difficult times but its citizens did not desert it. Let us all remember that there is nothing rewarding in this world than serving your own people. Let us come home and help our Universities and by so doing we help mother Ghana. If we sincerely believe that the Universities are the centres that developments emanate and they can propel this nation to leapfrog into industrialised and information base society, then the problem of academic staffing should now begin to attract more serious attention than before. This should be debated in every platform so as to create the necessary awareness.
Even though the government is doing a lot to improve the infrastructure of the Universities to be able to function effectively, such an effort will go down the drain if the condition of service of lecturers is not holistically looked into and dealt with. Why that academia is is not attractive to the younger generation? Certainly if the overall condition of service is given a human face, it will also make people attracted and accept teaching at the Universities. Attention should not be focused on one aspect of the economy because by the time some form of success is achieved in that particular sector we might have caused irreparable damage to other(s).
To me if this nation is to make a step towards self sufficiency and creation of wealth, then our nation's universities both state and public Universities should be adequately resourced so that research can be conducted into developmental variables. This thus calls for the establishment of the Postgraduate College because the persistence of lack of lecturers is not good for this country and all hands should be deck to solve this unfortunate situation once and for all. If the staff strength of University of Education is 44 percent today, then it should be a source of concern for us all and we must act to save the situation. Policy makers should see this situation as an issue of national importance that requires immediate action. The earlier we solve this problem the better for us. Thomas Kwaku Obeng e-MBA Student Division of Industrial Marketing Luleå University of technology Sweden