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21.02.2015 Feature Article

When NAB Went Numb on Sefwi Nursing Students

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Perhaps, iconic American writer James Baldwin may have spoken for the nursing students of St John of God Training College in Sefwi Asafo, when he penned his famous aphorism on education: “The paradox of education is precisely this-that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” The “Go Tell It on The Mountain” writer, who never knew the name of his father because his mother wouldn't tell him, had many struggles with his education in race-polarized America, often quitting school to work odd jobs to survive. For all his troubles, however, Baldwin never faced the uncertainty of graduating from an unaccredited college. This is the fate of students of St John of God nursing college in the Western region, who may have been conned to re-enact the paradox of education.

Unlike Baldwin, they will not go tell it on a mountain; they boycotted their end-of-semester examinations, protesting and demanding a refund of their school fees unless the college authorities declared the institution's accreditation with the National Accreditation Board (NAB). The students, numbering about 174, had paid some GH3,100 each to the training college on the assurance that the institution was accredited and recognized by the National Accreditation Board and the Catholic Church, which assertion had since been denied by both NAB, the Catholic Church and the Ghana Health Service. The Sefwi District Health Service reports that the Ministry of Health was considering closing down the college to protect the interests and future of the students.

The students had passed Baldwin's first leg of the Paradox test, by being conscious of the circumstances of their education and the bleak prospects that faced them if they graduate with certificates from an accredited institution. Like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani education activist, the nursing students had shown the defiance and intolerance that must be demonstrated when order breaks down and corruption eats away societal values and common sense. Malala sounded these sentiments at an octave: “I speak not for myself but for those without a voice…those who have fought for their rights…their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” The nursing students had their Malala moment last week, and they lived it quite well.

You do not guard the stables after the horses had bolted. What is the point? Somebody should have prevented the students from falling prey to the alluring advertisements St John of God put in the newspapers about educational opportunities for prospective nurses. The nursing training college, it is reported, designed their own admission forms without approval from any authority and sold them to the students at GH100. The students had been made to believe that they were dealing with a credible organization. How were they supposed to know when it is possible to buy any amount of newspaper space to sell techniques for successful snail farming when the seller has no idea what snails look like. The students may also have thought that our national newspapers would not have advertised phoney educational institutions if they cared a bit their consumers. If they were not too phoney to be advertised, they must be good enough.

The only authority that is mandated to protect students from the activities of dodgy educational institutions is the National Accreditation Board. Frankly, NAB has been working hard to warn students about the dangers in signing on with an unaccredited tertiary institution. From the last quarter of last year, NAB issued several notices in the newspapers about institutions that had not satisfied the prescribed conditions to receive accreditation from the government body, often naming and shaming some universities and colleges. NAB was particularly concerned with the activities of academic institutions that issued honorary degrees to Ghanaians, and warned that those institutions did not have any authority to award those degrees.

The accreditation body seemed to have extended its mandate when it did the most commendable job of researching the backgrounds of foreign universities that had dished out honorary degrees to some Ghanaians, including a Joy FM journalist and a NADMO employee. NAB showed us that those honorary doctorate degrees were at best daggers if their sources couldn't be trusted. At a point, it appeared NAB was on a nabbing spree, nabbing every unaccredited institution in their way to sanitise our not so great tertiary institutions and restore some confidence in the system.

At that rate, we were convinced that anybody who falls prey to any unaccredited professional or academic institution may not have heeded to NAB's warnings or visited their websites to check the status of a tertiary college before advancing money. So why did NAB go numb on the poor students of St John of God? In an interview in the January 13, 2015 edition of the Daily Graphic, the Executive Secretary of the National Accreditation Board, Kwame Dattey, didn't pretend that he needed any form of accreditation from a language regulator to speak his mind. The NAB Boss blamed our accreditation blues on political authorities, who sometimes pressurized NAB to give accreditation badges to institutions that did not qualify. He warned that “This negative behavior, if allowed to persist, will cripple the education sector at the tertiary level.”

The fearless NAB Boss continued: “This is not the first time we are seeing this. This kind of attitude should never be tolerated because it gives other schools the courage to follow suit.” Even then, we want to know: If NAB knew about the 'unaccredited' existence of the Sefwi nursing college, why didn't they close it down, the same way they supported the police to clamp down the Mankessim-based Jesus of Nazareth Journalism school a few years ago? Well, every school has a Board, and we hope they have all read what Mark Twain had to say about school boards. Thank God NAB is not a school board, and let's hope they do not become one any time soon.

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin
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Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin
Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin, © 2015

The author has 235 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwesiTawiahBenjamin

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