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Opinions of Sunday, 15 January 2006

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

Kwesi Andam Vrs Kwadwo Sarfo: Debate Between Science And Craft

At the just ended 57th Annual New Year School one issue which generated a quantum of debate and controversy was the assertion that Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo of the Krsito Asafo Mission is doing better than our scientists and technologists churned out by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, KNUST.

The answer given by the Vice Chancellor of KNUST Professor Kwesi Andam to a question by a participant generated mixed reaction. The Graphic news item on Friday 6th January, 2006 which was also posted on Ghana Home Page (www.ghanaweb.com) generated hundreds of comments by readers with some going so low to insult this great professor in some even unutterable words. Professor Andam is someone whose boundless integrity cannot be doubted. Nobody can doubt the height of his character; nobody can doubt the depth of his commitment to science and technology advancement in the country. Apostle Sarfo has gained popularity for his technological and craft work and as a philanthropist. In recognition of that the University of Ghana awarded him an honorary doctorate degree, while the University of Education, Winneba, has offered to document all his works.

It would be proper if we carefully and objectively analyse and synthesize the truth and the facts for national development. Ghanaians must be grateful for the life of Apostle Sarfo, a practical philanthropist whose contribution to the nation cannot be washed under the carpet. We must not also forget the contributions chalked by this distinguished professor since he became the vice chancellor. They are not rivals. They are complimentary.

One thing that we must see is that there is a difference between science and craft. Before there can be something like a mobile phone somebody must imagine the thing and then try to create it. Every invention in the world came as results of creativity. It means creating something new which has never been invented before. If someone can design a car costing billions of cedis and the car cannot travel a mile then we better walk. What we need is durability, performance and reliance. These are the marks of an engineer.

We talk of invention of cars. Before cars or aeroplanes were invented scientists and mathematicians had to research into the designing, testing and manufacturing aspects before they came to the market for sales. As a physicist, I know by training that before one can make a car he has to know classical and quantum mechanics, know about Newton?s three laws of motion and substantial amounts of mathematics (calculus and algebra) and not simply the kind of know-how that pertains to our local garages, (the Magazines and the Kokompes).

It could be true that Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo is ?making? cars, helicopters and TV sets as claimed and published by the media. When he was making the cars did he think of centre of gravity in the design process so that the car can move without falling off? In designing a ship one needs to know concepts called buoyancy, floatation, density, pressure etc. How can one know the maximum load by which a ship can carry without taking into account all these concepts? Who invented these mathematical formulas needed for calculating density, pressure etc? It may be true that someone can copy already existing model of a ship and try to do the same but it would capsize easily as the kind of calculation and engineering that go into these cannot easily be found at Sofoline, Suame Magazine or Abossey Okai, Kokompe, you name it.

Knowledge is power. We should have respect for knowledge because it is knowledge which can lift a people from the stinging darts of poverty to a life of prosperity. Without great scientists like Galileo, Isaac Newton, Kepler, Michael Faraday, Albert Einstein this modern would have been nothing but the duplication of the Dark Ages. What is happening is Ghana now is making people to have disrespect for knowledge based scientific knowledge. Because our nation did place premium on our engineers that is why they have left for greener pastures and are doing well there and fitters in our local garages have taken the place of engineers.

Apostle Sarfo assertion that he is almost at par with the engineers at KNUST is sadly unfortunate. It can discourage young people and prospective engineers. The public and media must know that the Apostle Sarfo?s place is not a research institution.

It must be understood that what is happing in Suame Magazine or Kokompe and that of Apostle Sarfo?s centre will need a bit more work to be regarded as real scientific and engineering feats.

We sometimes criticise the universities for not doing much to transform the technology base of the country. We seem to gloss over or forget the neglect and under funding that these institutions are subject to. KNUST for instance has not seen much infrastructural development over the years. Getting lecturers and researchers for some programmes is sometimes not easy. Government after government over the years seem to believe that Ghanaian universities can progress on the wheels of inevitability. Most of the equipment in the universities are more than half a century old. They can best decorate our science museums. Our governments refuse to invest in the science and technology that can produce cars and other technological feats. It would be hypocritical for us to blame Professor Andam and KNUST and for that matter the scientists of our time. We must blame Ghana for not adorning science and technology Again, there is no basis for comparing the two. Imagine VALCO, Anglogold-Ashanti, TOR, GHACEM, VRA, etc without KNUST engineers. We must also come to see that there is a difference between Prof Andam and Apostle Sarfo. Prof Andam is of science, technology and engineering whilst that of Apostle Sarfo is of craft and re-engineering. There is no need to engage in any further empty philosophical debate and romantic illusions. Truth is truth and facts are facts. All this said however, I believe that there not engage in a tug of war over these two people. From the bass black Prof. Kwesi Andam to the treble fair coloured Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo, everybody is needed on God?s key board in life?s orchestra.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is an international freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through:
Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation,
P.O. BOX. KS 13640.
Kumasi. Tel 027-740-2467
www.interconnection.org/lotfound
e-mail: appiah@whatsonghana.com


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.