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11.11.2019 Feature Article

Have Professional Standards Become An Unknown ‘quantity’ In Ghana?

Have Professional Standards Become An Unknown ‘quantity’ In Ghana?

I was extremely shocked by the report that lectures at the University of Cape Coast were suspended on 30 October 2019, as a result of floods.

Trust us -- an irrelevant “dispute” has broken out over whether floods were caused by the “location” of the University, or whether the drains on the campus were “choked” and thus prevented the flood waters from running into the outlets intended for them.

I say that this dispute is “irrelevant” because, in either case, an engineering failure of calamitous proportions did take place.

If the “location” was the cause of the floods, was it not incompetence on the part of the architects who sited the University at the “location”, that was ultimately responsible for that?

And if it was choked drains that were the cause, was that, again, not an indication of incompetence by the maintenance body charged with ensuring that the properties of the University remain safe and serviceable at all times?

But apart from these two bodies, are there not scores of knowledgeable people at the establishment who should have foreseen that the campus was in danger of being flooded? Aren’t University people always telling others how to run things? Be the academics economists, engineers, architects, historians, sociologists or (especially) political scientists, is there an occasion that they will not find a word to say about other people’s affairs?

Yet they live on a University campus, drive around it, or walk its streets and pathways but could not see signs that if there were to be a heavy downpour of rain, parts of the campus would be flooded?

Okay – assuming some of them were prescient enough to tell the authorities about fears they entertained that their campus could be flooded, but that the authorities did nothing about their reports, should they have sat down and done nothing? Aren’t Universities the places where people are taught skills that enable them to take action to CHANGE society? Have they heard of briefing the news media -- anonymously if they don't want to be seen as whistle-blowers -- for instance? Or writing to the authorities in charge of tertiary education?

So I find the academic staff of the University of Cape Coast uniformly culpable. But, of course, the primary responsibility lies with the estate office, which, one presumes, is staffed with qualified personnel. Change that to certificated personnel, for in Ghana, it appears that certificates alone now determine qualification -- for we tend, in this country, to assume that certificates endow people with qualification -- to the complete exclusion of such attributes as aptitude, initiative and native intelligence!

And what about the student body? They are always ready to put on red arm-bands and go on “alutas” in respect of such misdeeds by the administration as refusing to allow festivities to go on at certain times, or giving members of the opposite sex access to the premises of the other. But they could not spot choked drains and their possible threat to the actual lives of students?Or the potential threat floods would pose to the academic time-table?

What is distressing is that the abject failure of standards that should operate at Cape Coast U is a reflection of an absence of standards all over Ghana. Drive around our capital city, Accra, and you won’t believe that Ghana has ever produced a single road engineer worth his salt.

They go to Universities in Europe and America and learn a lot about how to construct pavements on which people can walk safely and even enjoy walking. But when they construct roads here, they forget that our teeming population also need to walk in relative safety, like their counterparts in Europe and America. Open, smelly gutters are everywhere and are filled with plastic and other non-biodegradable substances, which only wait for the rains to come before they are washed down open gutters to accumulate in an ugly manner at conspicuous spots. And we DO almost nothing about it.

Enough is enough! We must now hold our engineers, architects and other professionals to high standards, or let them know that we shall bypass them and employ people from overseas -- people who value their professional standards more than the papers they hold in their hands, as a result of passing exams. Knowledge without practice is dead.

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2019

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist. Column Page: CameronDuodu

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