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12.06.2007 Feature Article

Ghanaian Graduate Education Must Be Made Relevant

At the 41st Congregation (or Commencement Exercises) of Ghana's University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Vice-Chancellor Kwasi Kwafo Adarkwah lamented what the latter termed as “the low patronage of post-graduate programs in the country” at large (New Ghanaian 6/10/07). Professor Adarkwah also reportedly added that such low enrollment into graduate programs militated against the effective promotion of research for socioeconomic and industrial development.
Actually, what the Vice-Chancellor ought to have lamented is the fact that such low patronage of graduate education in our tertiary institutions may well be largely the result of a woeful lack of magnetic pull of these programs. In other words, unless Ghanaian universities made the promotion of socially-relevant research the core of their programs, it is highly unlikely that holders of good first degrees would be attracted to these programs.
But, here too, must be emphasized the fact that other than the Liberal Arts, most productive and reputable graduate programs around the would, particularly in prestigious institutions of technology, emphasize the practical application of acquired advanced knowledge; and it is in this critical sphere of academic culture – or endeavor – that African universities ought to place their priorities. For instance, do the various science and technology schools and departments have organic relationships with the leaders of business and industry, such that graduates-in-training would be able to get the requisite opportunities for industrial internships in their fields?
Needless to say, in Ghana, the established tradition has been for students, both graduates and undergraduates, to be exclusively and hermetically immersed in the theoretical aspects of their disciplines until after they graduate and, if they are fortunate, land a relevant job in the hitherto unknown and alien world of business and industry. The drawback to this theory-heavy academic orientation is that the graduates end up having to, literally, take a second, duplicative, course in the business world, or workplace, which effectively negates the practical relevance of the time, energy and capital resources invested in their tertiary education.
And where these graduates travel abroad in search of the proverbial greener pastures, they soon enough come to the grim realization of their woeful inability to favorably compete against their counterparts from other countries, particularly countries like India and China, where applied science and technology constitute the core of tertiary academic curricula.
The other aspect of graduate science and technology education which Professor Adarkwah omitted, at least according to the news reports, regards the fact that graduate education entails quite a heavy financial burden; and unless universities have adequate financial resources in the form of scholarship grants, the programs, while their significance may be duly recognized, may still not be able to attract the bulk of potential Ghanaian graduate students who largely come from indigent backgrounds. And here, also, it goes without saying the imperative need for the government to make investment in graduate education its fourth-most-significant priority, after national security, health and agriculture. For, in the final analysis, as this writer has emphasized, time and again, elsewhere, our tertiary educational institutions are the equivalent of our nuclear-power capability or arsenal. And it is almost squarely in this regard that I continue to hold the so-called Provisional National Democratic Congress (P/NDC) unreservedly and unpardonably responsible for the ramshackle state of Ghana's tertiary educational system at the turn of the twenty-first century, even as I also confidently predict the likelihood of President J. A. Kufuor becoming, in the offing, canonized as Ghana's greatest premier in the postcolonial era.
Then also, there is this culture of academic and pedagogical arrogance, whereby university professors have come to feel virtually obligated to be ham-fisted in the grading of their students' papers. How, for instance, came it about that of the 3,121 students who recently (2007) graduated from the erstwhile Kumasi College of Technology (KCT), only 239 were awarded First-Class degrees? Was this meant to show these, largely diligent, students how tough their professors and lecturers were?
I highlight the preceding dispiriting state of affairs because graduation is also about the quality of the graduate's transcript, not simply about his/her diploma or certificate. And almost invariably, Ghanaian graduates who venture overseas in search of the proverbial greener pastures, soon come to the grim realization that grade-wise, their college professors and lecturers have woefully shortchanged them, as they wistfully witness their far less professionally prepared and barely articulate competitors from Asia and Latin-America, for example, readily edging them out of fetching occupational access.
Indeed, the story is told of one late University of Ghana professor of Geography, who was so stingy and irredeemably mean with his grading system and policy that one sterling undergraduate student, who later distinguished himself far better than his former professor, was forced to compose his thesis in French, which his professor could neither read nor write, as a protective measure. The upshot of it all is that a French-speaking external examiner from Paris – perhaps from the famous Sorbonne – had to be invited by the University of Ghana to grade the thesis of this stickler-for-justice-and-fair-play student. And you guessed right, Professor George Benneh emerged with a First-Class Upper Bachelor's degree from Legon.
In the final analysis, what might be aptly seen to be militating against the attractiveness of Ghanaian graduate education, as well as degrees, is the perennial and pathological culture of professorial vindictiveness. Indeed, Professor E. A. Boateng may have departed for the other side of earthly existence and reality, but it was not before leaving in his dour wake, a new breed of equally vindictive professors and lecturers who would rather gloat in the fact of brazen intellectual sadism than the salutary production of psychologically empowered graduates poised to shepherding Ghana into twenty-first century socioeconomic and cultural development.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of twelve books of poetry and essays, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

This author has authored 4556 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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