Repetitive Try And Errors In The Name Of Increasing Literacy In Ghana: A State Of The Tertiary Education Address
Education is the key to success, not only for an individual but more so for nations, but if education is provided anyway and anyhow, then the results shall be obvious destruction for the individual and the nation.
The coming into power of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has seen a number of educational interventions, especially in the second and tertiary institutions. While the Free Senior High School (FSHS) policy continues to be enjoyed by the citizenry, so are some tertiary institutions being completed whiles some existing ones are being renamed and others being split into several campuses. Whatever the case is, there is something happening to our education system.
In 2017, the government of Ghana introduced the Free SHS policy with the hope of increasing the literacy rate and diversifying access to education to the vast majority of underprivileged societies and families. This policy was welcomed with mixtures of feelings, joy, confusion, doubts, and denials. The first batch of students under this educational initiative was admitted in September 2017 which saw a total of over 400 000 students entering the various senior high schools in Ghana.
While the period of education for the second cycle institutions remains three years, it stands to reason that the first batch of the Free SHS students will be completing in 2020. As the case has always been, various Universities and other tertiary institutions have or will be opening their doors of admissions, but the question we should be asking ourselves is are these Universities really ready for these huge number of students especially at the current state of our tertiary education?
From the perspective of this write up, universities and various tertiary institutions are not ready for admissions for the 2020/2021 academic year and thus the Minister of Education should call for a suspension of the sales of admissions forms especially for public Universities and other tertiary institutions. This write up will give just five reasons why entrance to public tertiary institutes should be blocked for at least this academic year for the appropriate measures to be put in place. Although this may be a weird suggestion, it may be the best approach to remedying the inefficiencies in our education in Ghana.
To begin with, accommodation challenges witnessed in most of the public universities in Ghana is indicative enough of the unpreparedness of admissions for the 2020/2021 academic year. In the 2019/2020 admissions in the various public universities in Ghana, it was monitored and reported of the accommodation challenge being faced by most universities. Daily Graphic reported on the August 30, 2019 that 9,000 students were stranded as a result of accommodation challenge in the University of Ghana, Legon. Similar in that same academic year in the University of Cape Coast, there were serious accommodation challenge which led the reading rooms of some Traditional Halls to be converted into dormitories. According to a news report cited on ucc.edu.gh , the accommodation challenge faced by the school currently is because the University of Cape Coast has traditional halls that can accommodate only 8,000 students out of the total 25,000 students it has. At the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the situation is no different.
In spite of this challenge, application forms have been opened for the huge number of students from the Free SHS to apply into the public Universities without any Hall or hostel being built or inaugurated in any of our public universities nor various Colleges. Dear Minister, I humbly appeal that you move to suspend the sales of application forms for at least the public universities for the 2020/2021 academic year, so these universities and university colleges get ample time to prepare for the next decade of our educational life as a nation.
Again, admitting students for the 2020/2021 academic year will breed havoc to science and technology education in the country. The framers of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution thought it wisely to input article 38 (3) a. which says “The State shall, subject to the availability of resources provide equal and balanced access to secondary and other appropriate pre-university, equal access to university or equivalent education, with emphasis on science and technology”. The stress is on science and technology.
This article was inserted into the constitution to demonstrate the essence of science and technology education to the development of the nation. However, the best is yet to be made from this aspect of our education. Take a tour to the science laboratories of most of the tertiary institutions in Ghana and it would be realized that there is a great lack of most of the equipment’s needed for science practice. How then will a Minister of State go to a hospital in Ghana when he or she is sick, looking at the quality and standards of science education in the country, and the caliber of people they produce for our various health centers?
The general issue is that there is no roadmap for science and technology education in the country. It turns out that our various polytechnics that were converted to technical universities didn’t bring any material benefit to the country as no technical university till date has been able to produce a common radio battery for sale in our market. So, instead of spending some good time to resolve the deficiencies and inefficiencies in our science, technology and technical education in the country, we keep admitting students and keep feeding them with the same theoretical chaffs for three or four years, whiles no better results are obtained from the graduates. As we are about to begin a new decade of our national life from 2020 to 2030, lets perform a clean-up exercise in our science, technology and technical education. Hold on with admissions for the 2020/2021 academic year, or produce graduates of nothingness for the next decade.
More so, what make education what it is, is not the availability of giant buildings with beautiful paintings and art work, NO! What makes education what it is, is the availability of the academic materials such as books, better internet access for research, writing labs, and others which are needed to make teaching and learning possible. With the culture of introducing new courses almost every now then, it is therefore necessary for there to be the acquisition of more academic materials that could facilitate the learning process in our tertiary institutions. The unfortunate situation is that that is not the case.
Take a tour to the libraries of most of the tertiary institutions in Ghana and you will be amazed at how virtually empty some book shelves of some academic programs or courses are. With the unavailability of academic materials and the Poor to almost a no-show internet access in most university campuses being the problem, are Universities and other tertiary institutions still planning of admitting students for the 2020/2021 academic year? Why not use this year to prepare the grounds for a better tertiary educational experience in the next decade? I leave this decision entirely in the hands of scholars who are the touchstone of knowledge and also the managers of these tertiary institutions.
In January of this year, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, took a tour to some public institutions including the University of Ghana, the University of Cape Coast, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the likes, to inspect their preparedness for the 2020/2021 admissions of the first batch of graduates of the free SHS. On the face of things, this could be assessed as a great idea.
However, one thing that must be noted is that it is not every high school graduate who would want to enter the University based on their own ambitions and purposes.
The question to the minister then is what plans have been or are being put in place for students who wish to enter the various training colleges-teaching, nursing, pharmaceutical, technical, and others? If the Minister would be able to provide us, the stakeholders of education, with plans for these aspects of education, then some of us will have a glimmer of hope that our education is being developed on the whole and not in parts. When such assurances are given, we won’t be bothered about the quality of graduates who are produced from these colleges of education, and other training colleges. Drawing a distinction between trained teachers and graduate teachers by the Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh speaks to the facts that there is a gab in the nature of our education, and this needs redress as we set off into a new decade. Until these issues are addressed, admissions for the 2020/2021 academic year should be suspended until all the necessary things are put in place for the next decade of our educational life as a nation.
Lastly, what measures are being put in place to bridge students to lecturer ratio in our various Universities and other tertiary institutions in the country? In one of my meetings with a Principal administrator in my Department at the University, a lecturer once walked in to make some complaint about the number of students the lecturer has been assigned for a particular course for the semester. The complaint was not only about the difficulty of teaching the very large class, but the worry was also about how well can one lecturer ensure that students really do understand what the students are taught. This is not the only case I have witnessed. Most lecturers in the public Universities keep complaining about the size of the class they are assigned. Despite the unbalanced students to lecturer ratio in our various universities, application forms are still being opened for more students to troop in whiles more lectures are not being hired to cater for these numbers.
According to a citifmonline.com news report in 2017, the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) found that the 2,676-academic staff in all the eight-public universities where inadequate to teach and supervise the academic work of more than 128,326 students. Three years down the line, after this observation, what has government done by far to bridge the gap?
Today, the number of public universities have been increased which means more students enrollment in the public universities, but can we say same for the academic staffs? To appreciate the seriousness of the matter, and as stated earlier, over 400 000 students were admitted during the first batch entry into the various Senior High School under the Free Senior High School policy in Ghana during the 2017 school year. In 2020, these students are due to complete. If access to Public universities are not denied in the 2020/2021 academic year, then this means enrollment will shoot up in the various tertiary institutions. The question is are there enough lecturers to take care of these students?
This and many other challenges can be anticipated of the 2020/2021 academic year and it is my humble appeal that we as a nation should not be in a haste to increase the burden on ourselves in the name of promoting literacy rate. I am not against mass literacy, but what I am against is the repetitive try and errors we constantly engage in with our education system in this country.
It is, therefore, my hope that from this year, various stakeholders of education sit and begin to analyze the issues in our tertiary education system in other to find a long-lasting solution to it. Malcolm X believes that Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. I will rephrase and say, Education is the passport to the future of every nation, for the prosperous future of Ghana, is dependent on the strategic and healthy educational policies we make today. Let’s not deny our nation of such an opportunity now.
Author: Michael Ofori
This write up is in honor of the 17th UCC Students Parliamentary Council, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Caleb Otabil, Hon. Felicity Sena Dogbatse, Hon. Michael Tene and Hon. Bright Buernor Kpalam.
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