The recent 2005 World University Rankings on the web published by the Laboratorio de Internet (http://www.webometrics.info) which Ghanaian universities performed poorly has generated a quantum of debate amongst education loving Ghanaians both at home and abroad. The ranking is a dominating issue in places, crowding the pages of the press and the daily conversation of Ghanaians.
The ranking placed University of Ghana number 46th (out of 100) in Africa and 5,794th in the world, while Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) ranked number 62nd and 6,405th in Africa and the world respectively. The University of Cape Coast, University of Development Studies and University of Education, Winneba did not make the ranking – sort of missing in action.
At a glance this ranking appears to have wounded our national pride as a nation that prides itself as the great beacon of hope in Africa. If Dr. Kwame Nkrumah were to be alive today he would be hanging his head in shame. The year's world ranking of the best universities had no African university for the second year running in the top flight. It would be premature though for us to accept wholesale this system of ranking. However it might be seen as the first indicator of the fact that our universities are not in a good shape now. Many years of neglect of our university system, from post Nkrumah governments to the Kuffour administration have accumulated to our apparent poor performance. This is not to say though that I accept the findings. But the fact remains that our universities have not seen much infrastructural development over the years. In some cases, and even getting lecturers and researchers for some programmes has not been easy. When this happens you end up having lecturers who should be quietly enjoying their retirements being relied on to sustain the university system. Government after government over the years appears to share the belief that Ghanaian universities can progress on the wheels of inevitability. This tragic misconception, to me is one of the reasons why our universities are not performing well. Because most of our politicians educate their children in the United Kingdom and United States, they are appear reluctant to support the release of funds towards the development of the universities. It would be recalled that in 1999 when all the four public universities knocked on the door of the NDC government for a mere pittance of ¢13 billion as subvention for that academic year. The NDC government would only make available ¢3 billion. It was through this desperation that 2.5% VAT-GETFUND was birthed. GETFUND was born when some of our students were beaten like thieves on whilst demonstrating to the Castle, Osu to present their case to then president. The students felt that the government of the day was apathetic to the plight of students, the moborowa struggle. When the NPP came to power in 2001, it appeared to be a blessing for the GETFUND. The government decided that tertiary education would best be funded mainly by the GETFUND and not from the consolidated account. Unfortunately however, the government instead of paying into the GETFUND account has defaulted in paying the 20% VAT collection into the GETFUND account. Instead the NPP government says that it would spread the GETFUND arrears which totals over hundreds of billions of cedis over five years without interest. The Akans say that if you cannot give money to your mother-in-law, do not rob her of the little she has. In our universities today, most of the equipment are more than half a century old. They can at best decorate our science museum. Even common stop clocks are not readily available in most of the laboratories. Lecture theatres are crammed up like Concentration Camp and as a result of misplaced national priorities government is quick to buy land cruisers and pajeros costing billions. The same government refuses to invest in the science and technology that could produce these same cars that we buy so expensively. Our universities are greatly constrained by finances. The universities are not allowed to charge economic rates for their services whilst the government neglects to fulfill its part by meeting the budget of the universities. There is nearly always a budget deficit, which means that the universities cannot realize their potentials. Enough said for the government. Let us turn to the universities. We cannot blame the government and leave the universities to go free. With the large intake of students of late without corresponding increase in the facilities there is the tendency that the quality of our educational delivery at our universities can easily be diluted. How can one lecturer handle a class of about 300 students? Can he/she get time to monitor the progress of students and diagnose the problems of students? The universities are unconsciously chorusing Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest.
The universities inability to diversify its methods of assessment of students instead of sticking to just examinations to me is one of the main reasons why examination malpractices have increased exponentially and our graduates have “high blood pressure” – talking about theory - but anemic in the practical application of the theory they learn. Although examinations are not the only instrument for assessing and evaluating knowledge, it has emerged as the major established yardstick and the most practical way of assessment in Ghana. So examination has become the only available tool available. Learning has becoming like reciting canticles from the Methodist Hymn Book. Coursework, which lends a practical bent to courses, are in most cases despised. This is where we lag behind the rest of the world, specially the developed world where students are able to explore and innovate through coursework thus adding to the body of knowledge.
Our lecturers do not been write textbooks nor publish their research work. This is one of the criteria, which is used to rank the universities. Most of the books students use in our universities are written by foreign authors. We are quick to give excuses saying that because of poverty is endemic here, when one writes books, they would not be patronized. May be the GETFUND should consider sponsoring and subsidizing books written by university lecturers / professors so as to motivate them to author more books.
Stay tuned for part two next week which identifies the flaws of the ranking methodology. Appiah Kusi Adomako is an educationist, international freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through: Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi-Ghana: Tel: 027-740-2467 [email protected] www.interconnection.org/lotfound Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.