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26.08.2005 Regional News

University Teachers urged to help enhance national integration


Cape Coast, Aug 26, GNA - Professor Henrietta Msnsa-Bonsu, a Lecturer of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana, on Friday observed that national integration is a development imperative that must be pursued by the conscious adoption of policies and programmes grounded in proper research.

According to her, the slogan "one nation, one people, one destiny", was "still a dream" that Ghana was striving to achieve, and that it was in the face of this reality that it was important to strive for better integration.

Prof. Mensah-Bonsu, who was also a member of the National Reconciliation Commission, stated this when she opened the 2005 Biennial Congress of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UGAG) at the University of Cape Coast (UCC).

The two-day congress, is under the theme: "national integration and nation building - the role of the University Teacher" and is to deliberate on how best members of the Association could bring their expertise to bear on national integration and development. Prof. Mensah-Bonsu, in this regard, stressed need for the nation to use its intellectual resources to help address the situation and noted that the theme of the congress, was indication that the challenge of welding Ghana into a more perfect union, was being prioritised as a development imperative.

She pointed out that University Teachers, who have a unique opportunity in shaping the minds of the next generation of leaders, must show the way in attitudes that are "respectful of difference". Prof. Mensa-Bonsu, therefore exhorted lecturers to endeavour to live above reproach and refrain from negative and corrupt tendencies such as improper relationships with students and condoning examination malpractices.

"The University Teacher cannot afford to sit on his ivory tower and pretend not to be bothered by potentially destructive signals when, as part of our professional duty, we are to offer services to the community", she noted.

Prof. Mensah-Bonsu, who traced the history of the formation of then Gold Coast, observed that ethnic and religious differences, exaggerated by incessant partisan bickering over many "petty nothingness", were threatening national integration.

She pointed out that the policies and actions required to achieve national cohesion may not only affect the external environment, but also changes in individual attitudes, such as mutual respect in interpersonal interactions.

According to the Professor, every citizen and ethnic group has an equal right to the resources, goods and services of the nation and this must be assured to all, in order to maintain an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence.

Prof. Mensa-Bonsu, told the UTAG that it also has a duty to teach the "correct history" to the children and that history books need to be re-written to give a proper balance and perspective to all major historical events in the nation.

"History that glorifies what ought not to be glorified only ensures that it will be repeated with even more devastating effect. We need to teach the young people more about Ghana and so. 'Ghanaianise' them and make Ghana their reference point instead of their ethnic or religious affiliation", she declared.

Prof. Mensa-Bonsu said it was also imperative to cultivate attitudes of respect and tolerance of differences, in order to build a nation within which, for instance, leaders would look out for all citizens and not only those with whom they share ethnic origins or religious affiliations, but by the content of their own character.

Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Education and Sports, who spoke on "dealing with our differences for a united nation", one of the sub-themes for the congress, also noted that factors like ethnic and religious differences hinder effective national and tasked member of the UTAG to guide ethnic groups on campuses to channel their resources to the development of their areas.

He said, this way, ethnocentric tendencies, which impact negatively on the nation's socio-cultural and political development, would be minimised.

On religious conflicts, he regretted that some religious leaders have demonstrated that their differences cannot be overshadowed through love, and pointed out that religion must among others; serve as a social element uniting not only a congregation but all the people of a community, region or country.

Touching on political differences, the Minister said there was the need to understand that it is not possible for everybody to belong to a single ideology or political party.

He particularly, expressed concern that some media houses, were aggravating the situation; soaking "their pens and brains in the limiting oil of sycophancy to the extent that they all they see on the other side of the political divide with their tainted lenses in darkness, disdain and failures."

According to him, such tendencies have created a lot of confusion in other African countries such as Rwanda and Burundi, and pointed out that it was imperative for the media to forge national integration and cohesion.

"We need the media to push the nation towards common good", adding that the Germans and Americans did it after the second world war and the nation's media should do the same after the inauguration of the Fourth Republic.

He said theoretical approaches like collaboration, compromise and fair competition could be strong strategies in dealing with differences for uniting the country, and expressed the hope that UTAG will "work around the clock for their ivory towers" to unite the country.

Ms. Elizabeth Ohene, Minister In-Charge of Tertiary Education, for her part, also underscored the important role of University Teachers in national integration and development, adding that the UTAG was a "powerful source" of intellectuals that could make meaningful contributions to national development.

She referred to concerns about the falling standards of education in the country, and was of the view that the average 10-year-old day, was better informed that a child in the past years, and that educational facilities and infrastructure are also now better today than in past years.

Ms Ohene said there was also the need to weigh the importance of expanding access to University education rather than limiting it to an "elite little" groups as happened in the past years.

"We have to expand access, but that does not mean we want standards to fall", she stressed and said she recognised the need to improve conditions in the sector and said the Ministry was making progress towards this such as in improving numeration and infrastructural facilities like classrooms, libraries and laboratories.

In his welcoming address, the Vice Chancellor of the UCC, Reverend Professor Emmanuel Adow Obeng, also expressed concern about the upsurge of religious, political and ethnic differences in the country and urged the UTAG to think about how they could both, as members and individuals, impact on the nation's quest for national cohesion.

A new four-member national executive for the UTAG, under the Presidency of Mr Emmanuel Abole of the UCC, was later sworn into office for a two-year term.