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General News of Friday, 5 March 2010

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Samia Nkrumah calls for comprehensive reform of Polytechnic Education

Samia Yaba Nkrumah said the ten polytechnics and various School of Nursing nationwide must be upgraded and allow to award university degrees as a matter of urgency. As Ghana gears up to become a major oil producing country, it has become imperative that the Education ministry and various academic bodies are mandated to restructure curricula at the nation’s polytechnics and various nursing training colleges with a view to introducing new programmes aimed at producing competent graduates.

Samia Yaba Nkrumah said polytechnic education must be strengthen and ensure they concentrate on their core objectives – producing graduates with technical and vocational skills to help in the country’s industrialisation and development.

Speaking to this writer in Accra recently, Ms Nkrumah stated that the higher education diplomas and “mini degrees” awards must be phased out and replaced with full technology and vocational bachelor and postgraduate degrees. She said Ghanaian polytechnics can learn from the reforms of the polytechnic education in United Kingdom under John Major’s Tory government in the early 1990s, and stated that Westminster, Kingston and London South Bank Universities, all in the UK, are now among the world’s top universities in academic, technical and vocational excellence.

Samia Yaba Nkrumah said many un-successful would be “university” students would be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the polytechnics to acquire the necessary skills, not only to prepare them for employment, but also to help fill the skills shortages in the country. Ms Nkrumah said research findings from various countries, including United Kingdom (where she studied for her undergraduate and post graduate degrees at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) shows that graduates from former polytechnics have better practical experience in certain fields of engineering and technology. She said with the removal of barriers, the industrial and practical training acquire by polytechnic graduates will increase their earning power. She called for the disparities in career prospects between the so called “traditional” universities and the polytechnics to be removed.

Nkrumah said the conversion of the ten polytechnics and selected nursing training colleges into degree-awarding institutions would create opportunities for brilliant students to undertake post graduate technical studies and warned that the polytechnics must be mandated to stick to their core objective – the training of technical and engineering graduates for industry.

On Ghana’s goal of achieving middle income status by 2020, Ms Nkrumah said national development is a multi-dimensional process that involves the economic, social and political systems of a nation and thus involves the setting of economic targets for various sectors, the availability of manpower and skills. She explained that human resources development is therefore seen as a strategic tool in the context of national development, which is widely accepted as the number one tool for socio-economic development, more so in promoting industrialisation and technological upgrading.

Samia said the late President and founder and father of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, knew education would play a vital role in Ghana’s economic and national development and thus ensure that education is made accessible to everyone, regardless of wealth, tribe or region, through rapid expansion of primary and secondary education. Samia said as Ghana moves into the next phase of her development (middle income status) the link between education and national development becomes clearer, just like under the Nkrumah’s CPP administration.

With eyes firmly fixed on the portrait of the late President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Samia Yaba Christina said, “The education and training of the population needed to be ahead of industry demands. The polytechnic institutions – “Institutes of Technology” – must be characterised by a strong orientation towards science and technology, rather than liberal arts”. Samia said the polytechnic reforms must succeed in producing a work force that can manage technology, especially in the emerging oil sector. She said they are unique in that they provide very important middle-level support sector for business and industry.

Samia said experience from elsewhere illustrates that the driving force behind polytechnic education is not the needs of the individual but of the economy as a whole. She said the challenge for the ten polytechnics is to respond to the current challenges with creativity and innovation and to anticipate the changes that they are presented in the current economy.

With her eyes still fixed on the portrait of the late President, Samia said, “I am proud of Ghana’s polytechnics and hope that when they become institutes of technologies graduates will benefit from industrially relevant education”. She stated that the ten polytechnics shoulder a heavy responsibility in educating the Ghanaian workforce. She said, “Unlike the 1960s, today we live in a world where technology and innovation are the key drivers for economic growth, polytechnic graduates will form the backbone of our industrialisation”.