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Feature Article of Sunday, 13 May 2012

Columnist: Ansah, Koduah Owusu

The need to fine tune or change our educational system

So many years ago, a freshly graduated Ghanaian would wait patiently for his appointment letter from the Public service commission or other state- managed corporation. This ‘graduate’ would bid farewell to his or her parents and would be given a government built or rented bungalow and a VW beetle as a reward to all the sacrifices he/she had made through the long and tortuous educational journey in our dear country. Our economy has shrunk since independence yet this perception is held on by almost all Ghanaians, both educated and the uneducated. The World Bank two years ago forced our government to freeze hiring in the public service with the view to encouraging or forcing the private sector to expand, which to me is a very noble cause, yet the effects of this policy have been minimal. What I see in Ghana is that our ‘graduates’ churned out from our universities do not think outside the box. Our ‘uneducated’ brethren are those who always innovate and establish their own businesses. Daavi Amma for example, with no ‘graduate’ education and out of nowhere would start selling banku or ‘yorke gari’ and within some months Ms. Amma would get a slice of the existing restaurateur market share. Our university graduates would think of this as an abomination. Having attended both Universities in Ghana and United States, I think I am better placed to suggest that our educational system needs to change or fine-tuned to meet our developmental objectives as a country. Countries like China, India, Brazil, Malaysia, South Korea etc at some point in their national history changed their educational system and we are all privy to what is happening in these countries right now. In United States right now, about 30% of residents in Silicon Valley in Northern California are all immigrants of Asia or first generation Asians, and we also have a whole lot of Africans studying in Malaysia right now. Our emphasis should be on Mathematics and Science with the view to developing analytical minds in our kids and students. In my freshman General Chemistry I class, my professor, challenged all students who would advance to be chemists, physicists and engineers to work towards getting energy from radionuclides through ordered nuclear fission to generate electricity. In all my classes almost all professors challenged us to make the United States a better place to live. On the contrary, none of this happened when I studied at the then University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. This is not to demean our country; rather we have to pick up the pieces and speed up and be counted amongst the world’s intellectual community. Our educational system had been planned and monitored by psychologists, sociologists and all the ‘Arts’ people and it is high time the committee got reconstituted with scientists. Science is results oriented and I bet on my last dollar that our society will change for the better. Drawing Ghana’s educational policy requires significant contributions from Ministries of Industry, Trade, Environment, Science and Technology and Agriculture. Our Universities should not be left out as well as the informal sector. In Colorado where I live in the United States, all communicable, water-borne diseases etc. are thought in middle and high schools, including vectors and their economic importance to the state. You will hardly see people littering around and students are required to write research papers on almost all subjects. Unfortunately in Ghana and especially in Accra our nation’s capital, we still deal with diseases like cholera, dysentery, tetanus, whooping cough and even malaria which are all preventable. Middle schoolers at where I live visited the banks for three consecutive days, prepared fake checks and worked as cashiers, business owners and managers, mortgage and investment portfolio clerks to give them insight as to what happens in the financial environment. I believe there are excellent suggestions elsewhere that can be used to mould our students to enable them compete in this global economy. Since I attended KNUST, I can talk about it as a barometer to measure the uselessness of our current educational system. We have had (is it) College of Agric or School of Something Something,,,,, for pretty over 50 years now and Agriculture has never grown beyond 8% in Ghana. At Colorado State University, where I attended college, about 30% of all PhD students of the Agric Faculty are into farming, from germplasm, horticulture, animal science, crop science and Agric education (secondary). Because they are educated, they use the latest technology for farm practice and production. Every student in Ghana wants to study Agric Economics as a gateway to work in the banks, oh pity. College of Art or is it industrial Art has been in existence for more than half a century now, but all artists scattered in our country are either JSS or High School graduates. Every KNUST Art graduate wants to be a cop or an army captain in Ghana. The least said about Architecture and Planning, the better. There is no land or estate planning in Ghana. A visit to the College of Architecture compound sums up what is in store for Ghana. The Computer Science Department was established in 1977 yet a visit to KNUST website for information is the worst experience ever. We have professors that are being paid and they continue to go on strike for better emoluments and research grants. It is sickening that our politicians have not been bold to call off the bluff of some of these gold diggers. Some of them take solace in calling themselves Dr. Dr. Dr. Professor ……. to confuse us every day. We need to change our educational system now. My last beef is with the College of Engineering and College of Sciences. Kofi Wayo once said that it is only in Ghana that we have drains (gutters) that are not covered and people fall into them almost every day. To our engineers, human lives are at the bottom of the pecking order. How on earth would a road design exclude pedestrians? Take for instance the constructed road from Larteh to Aburi or from CEPS to James Town in Accra. How can our so called engineers with titles design pathway for vehicles and water (drainage) and forget humans. Don’t we also deserve a sidewalk as human beings, and would it take another 50 years for KNUST engineers to plan this. We need to change our educational system to make it human centered. The liquid stain (solution) that Pathogenic Microbiologists use to stain gram positive and gram negative bacteria is called Koumassie blue. This was so many years ago obtained from Adinkra makers in Ashanti and Volta regions and has been developed for use by the scientific world. We also have a town in Kumasi called Breman where the indigenous people had for so many years put local herbs together to make perfumes and body creams. Unfortunately, our Biochemists and Chemical Engineers in Ghana would want to wait patiently for appointment letters from the Public Services Commission, or from a company that I am going to set up this year before they can be put to work.

Koduah Owusu Ansah; kowusuansah11@gmail.com

PS. Koduah holds a MS degree in Landscape Horticulture from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, US

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