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10.08.2005 General News

Student Decry Deteriorating Conditions At Varsities

Chronicle

A student of the University of Ghana, Samuel Ablakwa Okudzeto, has decried the deteriorating conditions at the various universities of the country.

According to him, the nation's public universities have become so overpopulated that, students have to "perch' beside their friends during and after lectures. Describing the situation as being in 'a state of coma,' Okudzeto diagnosed it as one factor derailing national development. (When and where at this point).

He stated that, statistically, enrolment at the University of Ghana rose from 4,917 in 1996 to 10,788 in 2000 and in 2003, the figures had more than doubled to 23,692, representing a whopping 119% increase. Meanwhile, out of the minimum number of 2,000 lecturers needed to manage such a student population, only 700 are available, giving the lecturer-to-student ratio as 1:18 for the humanities and1:8 for medicines.

He observed that the very infrastructure that was put in place many years ago are the only ones still in place, with very little and insignificant improvement, and bemoaned the situation of increasing number of occupants in a room, from one to five, due to the phenomenon of perching.

A former SRC President of the University of Ghana Mr. Ken Gomado, who called for the immediate shut down of the country's universities on account of these conditions in the universities, * noted that there were even more people who qualified to be in the universities but who were unable to, only because facilities in the university had not been expanded. Dilating on the conditions in his book authored, titled, 'A State of Coma," he observed that the innovation of hostels on campus appeared to have offered little solution to the real problem except to give more profits to their owners.

In his book, he argued that universities authorities should be blamed for these circumstances. .Instead of expanding the infrastructure, he said, they chose to introduce the 'perching' system and now, students have chosen to continue, not by bringing in beds but sharing beds. "Single outer beds have been taken and replaced with double beds per rooms, university balconies have also been converted into inner rooms," he lamented.

He intimated that in the wake of these, health and sanitation have been compromised in the universities, coupled with the springing up of various diseases.

To a large extent, he said not every one could even be lucky to perch. In view of this, private businessmen and women have set out to exploit the situation, to make profits. He said these businessmen and women had built hostels for stranded students to rent with the permission of the university authorities, and determine their own charges. "Whether these hostels are uncompleted, or lack basic utilities," Okudzeto said, "the price fixed by the landlords are wickedly expensive."

Consequently, he stated in the book that the infrastructure of the school had given rise to students queuing to wait for their turn to use bathrooms. On the academic side, Okudzeto touched on the sparse accommodating capacities of the lecture halls, which compels some students to squat during lectures. He noted that students have to be in the lecture halls, two hours ahead of time, to secure a seat. In the lecture halls, writing boards are in bad shape, lights are not functioning, the public address system is malfunctioning and the windows have no louver blades.

The situation in the laboratories, he noted, was no better considering inadequate tools and shortage of chemicals for practicals, citing the University for Development Studies and the University of Education, Mampong campus, as an example of such a situation. Okudzeto, in his book, threw light on the situation in the reading rooms whereby, once a student secures a seat, he or she does not want to get up even if he is tired and absorbs no more. The situation at the libraries, he said, are no exception as they have been abandoned to decay and decline. "Now it is considered a miracle to find at least a quarter of the required textbooks for semester course work," he pointed out.

In a chat with the author after the launch, Okudzeto* he was inspired by conditions of the universities to write the book to serve as a clarion call for help.

He argued that government alone could not solve the problems at the universities and called on companies to come to their aid by building more lecture halls and rooms for them.

"Instead of sponsoring students to organize fun fairs and beauty pageants, they can put those monies in developmental projects," he advised. He suggested also that, the policy that allows university authorities to take ownership of investment made by businessmen after fifteen years should be amended.

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