Reverend Professor Emmanuel Adow Obeng, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), on Saturday underscored the importance and benefits of distance education and called on universities to harness their strengths to achieve the best in distance education for the nation.
He said most of the public universities were running a number of programmes by distance and stressed the need for them to share their varying strengths especially in resources that might be too expensive for any particular university to provide on its own.
Prof. Obeng, who made the call at the matriculation of 6,200 students on the distance education programme at the UCC, said it was also imperative to carefully scrutinize the programmes and courses being offered by the various universities to avoid undue duplication of programmes.
The students, made up of 3,942 males and 2,258 females are offering diploma and degree programmes in Basic Education, Commerce, Management Studies and M. Ed Information Technology. This brings the total number of students on distance education in UCC to 21,000.
Prof Obeng said most of the universities were omitting science and technology programmes in their distance programmes due to the high cost involved and called on the government to provide some kind of support to institutions that were prepared to set up science technology programmes by distance.
"Generally there is also the need for the establishment of an umbrella body that would have the sole duty of monitoring and strengthening distance systems in the country"
Prof Obeng said there was also the need for regular consultation amongst the directors and deans of the various centres and faculties for the programmes to enable them share best practices that would further enhance the quality of distance education programmes.
Prof Obeng said support from local communities and other stakeholders was also crucial to the success of the distance programme and called for support from the local communities in the form of space for the construction of study centres, libraries and hostel facilities.
He commended chiefs of Koforidua-Effiduase, Dominase, Dormaa and Agona Nyarkrom who had released 50 acres of land to the university to establish permanent study centres in the regions.
He also appealed for bursaries from the district assemblies for students especially those in rural areas to defray fees incurred and said this would encourage more people especially teachers to acquire further education.
Touching on the new educational reforms, Prof. Obeng said its success would depend largely on adequate funding, infrastructure support and above all the quality of teachers.
He said to improve the quality of the teacher there was the need for continuous education to upgrade their knowledge, competencies and skills.
"It would be necessary to institute compulsory in-service educational training for teachers at both pre-tertiary and tertiary levels, this underscores the importance of the distance education to the current educational reforms."
On discipline, he said it was the bedrock of any progressive and forward looking institution and that UCC had survived as a result of non-compromise on discipline.
He expressed concern about the conduct of some of the students and said there were some instances where some distance students had involved themselves in examination malpractices, use of abusive words, mob attacks and disrespect for the staff who visited the study centres.