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23.08.2005 General News

Polytechnics are relevant - Ms Ohene


Accra, Aug. 23, GNA - Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, said Polytechnics in Ghana and Africa were very relevant for the progress of the Continent and, therefore, there was the need to redefine and re-examine their status.

"Let us start by taking a clear look at the courses we offer and work with industries to ensure that our graduates meet the needs of industry. Our course content should not be based on the university syllabus", she said.

She said Polytechnics were important institutions by themselves and produced or ought to produce the practical oriented workforce that would help African countries to catch up with the economies of the developed world.

Ms Ohene was opening a seminar for the Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa in Accra under the theme: The Role Of Technical and Vocational Education In Africa's Economic Development; Are The Polytechnics Still Relevant with a sub-theme; "The role of Polytechnics and Vocational Education in Africa's Economic Development; Are the Polytechnics still relevant?

The four-day seminar aims at sharing ideas around the themes with the aim to improving Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) on the Continent and to work out a strategy that could re-invigorate TVET so that Polytechnics could play their rightful role. Ms Ohene said teachers in the polytechnics should have a clear idea about what went on in industry on a regular basis and students that came to the Polytechnics should come because they wanted to attend polytechnics and wanted to get specific skills that were provided by Polytechnics.

"I ask, therefore, that you do not spend a lot of time debating your relevance. You are relevant, build the confidence in the institutions, the students and the teachers. Industry is only impressed by results. Let us produce graduates who will shine in industry and remuneration of our products would follow."

She noted that Polytechnics required infrastructure to be able to deliver and the Government must work with the institutions to provide them.

Ms Ohene expressed the hope that participants would implement decisions taken at the seminar as a group, adding that, obviously if some countries came to the conclusion that Polytechnics were irrelevant to the current needs of Africa, the others would find it impossible to convince their students otherwise.

She said the Government's White Paper on the report of the Education Review Committee emphasised the commitment of the Government of Ghana to technical and vocational education and training and stated clearly that it intended to make the products of senior secondary school especially technical and vocational institutions, the primary source of recruitment into Polytechnics to build on the practical skills acquired at the secondary level.

She was also hopeful that other African countries would also attach great importance to the development of technical and vocational education in order to help fulfil the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Dr K. Nsiah-Gyabaah, Principal of Sunyani Polytechnic and Chairman of the Conference of Polytechnic Principals, said Africa could not be left behind because the key to the future socio-economic development of the Continent relied on human resources development, especially the scientists, technologists, technicians and craftsmen, who would bring about technological innovation. He said failure to do this might put Africa in a situation where it would be unable to provide the emerging industries with the required human capital.

He said it was good to have Polytechnics developing into technical universities alongside the traditional universities, adding, however, that since the Government reaffirmed that Polytechnics were entitled by law to award degrees in Bachelor of Technology and higher modes, that right was subjected to the powers of the Accreditation Board. He appealed to the participants to bring their tremendous experiences to bear on the deliberations to find solutions to the challenges facing technical education, especially Polytechnic education so that the Continent would derive the maximum benefit from the huge investment in the TVET education sub-sector. He expressed the hope that the success of the meeting would also facilitate the process of Ghana nominating a candidate for the General Secretary to manage the affairs of the CAPA Secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya.