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Opinions of Thursday, 8 October 2015

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

KNUST: Remarkable but hardly impressive

Opinion Opinion

Reports that the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in collaboration with the University of Bonn, Germany, has discovered a “treatment” for onchocerciasis ought to come as pleasant news (See “Ghana Finds Treatment for Onchocerciasis and Elephantiases” Ghana News Agency / 7/5/15). I am personally the victim of onchocerciasis, the technical name for river blindness. I contracted this eye disease from living for nearly a decade, mostly schooling, in the Okwawu Mountains, so-called.

My alma mater, St. Peter’s Secondary School, is located in the Afram Basin, an epicenter of the disease. In 1978, I had to leave school for nearly a month in order to seek treatment at the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), and the Asante-Kokofu Leprosarium.

When I came across the parenthetically referenced news caption, I was a bit skeptical, because I have always known that the main cure for river blindness is a pinkish tablet called Banocide, on which I was prescriptively hooked for quite a while.

In fact, it was the occasionally acute shortage of Banocide at the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital and JEE, as the Komfo Anokye Hospital is popularly known, that forced me to travel to the Kokofu Leprosarium from time to time. My first visit to Kokofu filled me with some anxiety and apprehension. I was afraid that in attempting to procure the only known medication for my eye problem that I might end up contracting leprosy. I would shortly learn, to my great relief, that the possibility of me contracting leprosy was not that simple.

Anyway, what we learn from the afore-referenced news story is that the new treatment for river blindness may be an invasive or surgical procedure of some sort. As with much of Ghanaian journalism, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reporter did not provide the curious and/or interested reader with any detailed information.

Maybe this was because the reporter learned of this heartening news from coverage of KNUST’s most recent congregation, or graduation, ceremony during which Vice-Chancellor William Otoo-Ellis made the announcement. The procedure is called Doxyclyline Therapy, and it is also said to be equally effective in the treatment of Elephantiasis, technically known as Lymphoedema. I am modestly elated because I am quite certain that much of the research and therapy development was spearheaded by the German scientists.

For traditionally, while quite a number of our scientists have excelled in their disciplines, there is not much that is trailblazing that has seminally emanated from the so-called foremost Ghanaian academy of science and technology. I was also quite surprised to hear Vice-Chancellor Otoo-Ellis commend the government and “other corporate institutions” for having heavily invested in state-of-art laboratories and research at KNUST.

I could perfectly appreciate the “corporate institutions” part of the funding equation, but the government part was a bit lost on me. This is because my studious observation of the fast-unfolding history of the country clearly informs me that our governments, irrespective of ideological suasion or political affiliation, have been more focused on recklessly wasting our scarce monetary and other capital resources on electioneering campaigns.

In other words, the topmost priority and/or agenda of Ghanaian leaders luridly appears to be winning the next general election and entrenching themselves in the seat of perennial “misgovernance.” I was, however, impressed with efforts being made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate the remarkable enhancement of Ghana’s higher educational system.

The education of Ghanaian women at the tertiary academic level, so-called, is also not quite as impressive as it ought to be. Thirty-percentage graduation rate is rather pathetic in a country in which the population of women is at least 2-percent higher than that of men, and more than half of citizens engaged in farm and domestic work are women. It was, however, modestly impressive that, finally, Ghanaian universities are beginning to graduate students with doctorates in significant numbers.

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