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Opinions of Thursday, 26 February 2015

Columnist: Sarpong, Gideon Amoako

On University of Ghana's "Sankofa" Initiative

Things are currently in a state of flux on the University of Ghana (UG) campus. And so all alumni should note that the faculties they knew and frequented have been decimated. They are dead and the aftermath of this orchestrated demise has led to a supposedly glorious resurrection of a new order: the collegiate governance system. Signposts, with hitherto unfamiliar names, are popping up. Faculties are now referred to as schools. A Dean now reports to a Provost even as more titles, and for that matter new job descriptions, have been added to the system of governance that consists of four (4) different colleges vested with an appreciable measure of autonomy. And that perhaps, is a reminder to interested parties that Prof. Aryeetey and his academic and administrative team are abreast of prevailing challenges and opportunities in the ever-expanding field of tertiary education.
The College of Education (COE) is a creative outworking of this new system. In reality, it is an amalgamation of existing and new departments. Its entry into Ghana's education market is ostensibly to inspire research-driven learning and "expose students to best practices in teaching and learning" through the utilization of proven learning technologies. Did I just use the word "entry"? Well, let us gloss over this and in the meantime, test our knowledge of Ghana's tertiary education system with a one-question quiz.
Which university in Ghana was the first to offer a one-year postgraduate certificate in education?
(A) University of Cape-Coast (UCC)
(B) University of Education (UEW)
(C) University of Ghana
(D) None of these

Sorry, you missed the goalpost if you immediately zeroed in on historic Cape-Coast and came up with the university that proudly bears its name. Actually, this was not unexpected, as we live in a country where UCC is virtually synonymous with programmes of study in education. Of course, it is tempting to now focus on the University of Education after having had a hint that UCC is out of the question (or need I say answer?) To use the whatsapper's parlance, UEW is the new, freshest kid on the block insofar as programmes of study in education is concerned. I am reliably informed that the answer to the question above is (C)...the University of Ghana. Yes, the first one-year postgraduate certificate in education was premiered in 1950 by no institution other than Premier UG.

Don't be tempted to doubt this assertion, for it is true, and it is at the same time backed by solid, incontrovertible evidence. As a matter of fact, the University of Ghana discontinued offering education programmes as a result of Dr. Nkrumah's vision of making UCC an education-centred university. Certainly, the rehearsal of this fact has nothing to do with fealty or glory-seeking. It is only meant to 'absolve' UG from any accusation of being a Johannes Factotum and assure all doubting Thomases that education is, technically speaking, no new terrain for premier Legon. I got to know this long-forgotten fact from an address by the Provost of the COE at its maiden stakeholder's workshop. This workshop sought to engage stakeholders of diverse backgrounds in a 'campaign' against sanctioned redundancy and mediocrity in the field of education for educators. It was a gathering not just of outstanding academics but experienced professionals who freely proffered practically relevant and invaluable insights through a constructive critique and evaluation of proposed undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study in education, educational leadership and sports. I came out of this workshop fully persuaded about University of Ghana's capacity to champion a paradigm shift in teacher, leadership and sport education.
Surely, these are times of enormous national challenges in education. Harrowing statistical revelations of systematic failures in education are being flung at stakeholders on a regular basis. Consequently, calls for educational reforms by nonpartisan civil society groups have reached a deafening crescendo. Pupils in basic schools have been found out as having nothing to show off when it comes to reading and comprehension. In fact, an overwhelming majority cannot read nor understand English nor any local language. 'Fs' are continually being scored en masse by their counterparts at the senior high school level. An educational mess that knows no boundaries is plainly playing out across the nation. Something is definitely gone amiss with educational instruction in our nation and the College of Education would do well to always have this in earnest view. Otherwise, it will be the same old story of the accumulation of so-called world-class degrees without corresponding changes in our classrooms and workplaces.

Will our schools and workplaces be made better by UG-trained teachers and administrators?

Unfortunately, this question cannot be rightly answered now. So we have no option than to patiently await time's evaluation (and judgement thereof) of education programmes rolled out by the University of Ghana's College of Education. Trust me, this evaluation will be objective and it will determine whether the University of Ghana should be given a cheering thumbs-up or a booing thumbs-down.

Gideon Amoako Sarpong
University of Ghana
aca_education at yahoo