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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Columnist: Dr. Prosper Yao Tsikata And Dr. A. Kobla Dotse

Still on SMC, NAB and the standard of tertiary institutions in Ghana

By Dr. Prosper Yao Tsikata And Dr. A. Kobla Dotse

We wish to commend the Executive Secretary of the Ghana National Accreditation Board (NAB), Mr. Kwame Dattey, for coming out with a press statement on the issue of accreditation and diploma mills conferring awards on Ghanaians.

We also commend him for warning prospective students in Ghana to stay away from the Swiss Management Center (SMC) and other unaccredited institutions operating in Ghana.

Unfortunately, while Mr. Dattey attempted to address some of the issues in contention, his calculated attempt to cast insinuations that tend to question our integrity leaves so much to be desired of a public office holder who should be commending us for expending our scarce resources—time, money, knowledge, and energy—to make this disruptive phenomenon the focus of public discourse for the past few weeks.

In the introductory paragraph of Mr. Dattey’s press statement, he stated that the “NAB has serious reservations about the ethical considerations employed for the study.” We wish to inform the Executive Secretary and his organization that, for a public discourse such as this, it will do all of us (the reading public) a lot of good if he can pinpoint the ethical principles that our work has breached.

More so, we are not sure there is any profession under the sun that does not have its ethical challenges. If a physician, in the course of his/her duties, commits a malpractice or an error, there are institutional review boards that examine malpractices or errors in professional practice with a view to ensuring that the offending practitioner gets the appropriate sanction and education.

This way, public service is improved and the recurrence of the malpractice or the error is forestalled. To employ insinuation cannot be deemed to be a professional way of addressing the substantive issues of public interest.

Casting insinuations at individuals you disagree with can only be a demonstration of lack of understanding of the substantive issues or a sign of immaturity. Thus, we urge the Executive Secretary of the NAB to state emphatically which ethical principles our work has breached, register the breach with the Valdosta State University, or constitute his own panel of ethicist and serve us notice and we will respond to him and his organization.

Now back to the substantive issues at stake: Honorary Degrees

We do appreciate the work the NAB has done over the years in warning the public about some of these shadowy institutions and the questionable awards they confer on our compatriots from time to time. Our appreciation for the work of NAB is never in doubt.

On page 21 of the 56-page report, we acknowledged the difficult task of NAB when we pointed out that:

With the declaration of Kwesi Appiah’s honorary doctorate null and void by the NAB on September 18, 2014, that precedent quashes all other doctoral awards by the aforementioned institutions. That being the case, one would expect a reputable media organization such as the Daily Graphic to respect the legal instrument of the NAB.

Contrary to this expectation, on December 16, 2014, in the run-up to the NDC congress at which Kofi Portuphy was elected as the NDC Chairman, the Daily Graphic carried a profile feature on Portuphy.

In this piece, Kobby Asmah and Kofi Yeboah, quoted Porturphy’s discredited honorary doctorate degree to promote his candidacy. (Tsikata & Dotse, 2016, p. 21).

The point is that for even our first policeman of the land, IGP (Dr.) John Kudalor, NDC Chairman, (Dr.) Kofi Portuphy, Member of Parliament, (Dr.) Bernice Adiku Heloo Heloo Presidential Candidate (Dr.) Hassan Ayariga, and (Dr.) Patrick Kobla Agboba, alias Torgbi Sri III, among others to still be parading themselves in the public space as doctorate holders (whether earned or honoris causa) can attest to the fact that the NAB’s actions have not been biting enough to deter any of these individuals and institutions.

This frustration is succinctly captured by the Minister of Education, Prof. Naana Opoku-Agyemang, when she pointed out that “this worrisome and disruptive phenomenon has been discussed in the public domain for years; some papers have been written on it” (Personal Communication, August 18, 2016).

The average reader can infer from the foregoing that the NAB cannot tame this hydra-headed phenomenon alone. Thus, we rather deserve commendation and appreciation, not insinuations and condemnation from the NAB and its Executive Secretary, Mr. Kwame Dattey.

Unaccredited Institutions

We wish to point out to the NAB and its Executive Secretary that we are not oblivious of the challenges that national organizations such as the NAB face in an ever-widening global sphere in the execution of their duties of monitoring and supervising the accreditation process of educational institutions.

Any “serious minded” individual would discern that fact from the very title we chose for our work: “Accreditation Challenges in Transnational Educational Ecology: The Ghanaian Experience.” The emphasis is on the word “challenges.” In the opening chapters of the report, we highlighted these challenges not only for Ghana, but for the rest of Africa and the developing world.

We went on to state our recommendations for implementation, before drawing some important conclusions. For the NAB Executive Secretary to now issue a press statement demanding from his “august researchers” how the NAB should act on institutions outside the jurisdiction of Ghana is simply befuddling.

It only raises the question: Did the NAB Executive Secretary and his institutional members read and digest the report before issuing this pathetic press statement or at best they only read the most convenient parts?

We wish to point out emphatically that the kind of arrangements at the NAB that made it possible for Professor Paul Buatsi, who is concurrently a member of the NAB and the SMC representative in Ghana — a clear conflict of interest situation — and other graduates of the SMC; an institution we are contesting, are the arrangements that we are bringing to the attention of the public and the system’s managers.

An example of the SMC product being an Academic Advisor to the NAB is Rev. (Prof. Dr. Dr.) Mrs. Goski Alabi. These are cases of conflict of interest that Mr. Dattey should rather be explaining to the Ghanaian public and to the UPSA community in particular.

We are sure the NAB as an institution is answerable to an oversight institution—the Ministry of Education.

Swiss Management Center (SMC)

At this point, there is no belaboring SMC’s accreditation status from the Swiss Embassy in Accra and other unrecognized institutions by the office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) of the US Department of Education (DoE). It is heartening to know the registration of the SMC has been withdrawn until it is able to satisfy the national accreditation requirements of the Swiss authorities.

For now, we still remand this matter with the Ministry of Education to set up a task force to investigate all the degrees conferred by the SMC, including the double doctoral degrees it conferred, in conjunction with the Central University of Nicaragua.

In a previous rejoinder, we cautioned the NAB and the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) to desist from using a letter from the Swiss Embassy in Accra as sufficient basis to register the SMC.

In that letter, the Embassy clearly remanded final registration decision with NAB and UPSA, upon due diligence with accrediting institutions in Switzerland.

For the benefit of readers, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is a body in the United States (US) that accredits business programs offered by institutions/universities. ACBSP does not have the mandate to accredit SMC! It can only accredit business programs offered by SMC. These are two different things.

(Rejoinder retrievable from http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/rejoinder-upsa-justifies-swiss-university-s-accreditation.html).

Unqualified teachers in tertiary systems

In public speaking and for that - matter public intellectual work, we emphasize diversity of source materials, including the popular press.

Newspapers can become a source of support, especially if the individual being reported is an authority figure or an expert in a particular field. In this vein, if Joy FM, Ghana Business News, and Ghana News, among others, published that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Education Winneba, Professor Mawutor Avorke, speaking at the 20th congregation of his university referenced that 61% of lecturers in tertiary institutions in Ghana are unqualified, we would have no doubt from the cross references.

If the NAB can prove this statement to be untrue, then, again, it would only go to underscore the institutional failures we have been trying to highlight—including the media and even authority figures in our universities.

We, therefore, urge the NAB to take up the challenge to investigate the assertion of the learned professor to prove its mandate and justify the taxpayers sustaining either Professor Avoke or Mr. Kwame Dattey. Unless the NAB, like the so-called Vice Chancellor of the SMC, Dr. Ted Sun, can assert that materials in the news or from authority figures can no longer be the basis for public intellectual work (Please follow the links to the news below:

1. http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2016/April-26th/61-of-teachers-in-tertiary-institutions-unqualified-survey.php

2. http://www.newsghana.com.gh/ghana-has-over-61-unqualified-teachers-in-tertiary-institutions/

3. http://theheardnewsonline.com/2016/01/09/wisi-enimad-minim-veniam/

4. https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2016/04/25/about-61-of-teachers-in-tertiary-institutions-unqualified/).


Going forward

It is very unfortunate that a public officer in the person of Mr. Kwame Dattey, on behalf of his institution, would attempt to question our patriotism for attempting to ensure that undesirable elements in our educational sector, especially those in higher education, are found and removed for the benefit of the society.

Patriotism can be such an ambiguous word that even those who are blatantly flouting Ghanaian institutional edicts can also claim to be patriotic. To us, in the context of our discourse on accreditation, patriotism implies that we have to ensure that when our students go through Ghanaian institutions and apply for postgraduate admission to accredited institutions both in Ghana and abroad, a first class holder should be represented as such.

And the only way we can ensure that is to begin to take a critical look at the institutions and professors that confer these degrees and awards. Mr. Dattey should be informed that the days when institutional failures are swept under the carpet are gradually giving way to institutional transparency, probity, and accountability.

If we cannot expose these institutional failures, because we are patriotic, then that patriotism is rather questionable and only meant to maintain the status quo. Does Mr. Kwame Dattey benefit from the status quo?

Further, the attempt to malign our hard work to expose crime and corruption as a “hearsay research” is neither here nor there. We cannot ascertain what materials Mr. Dattey and his colleagues at the NAB have been reading about ethical principles and secondary sources.

Emails and other forms of personal communication always serve as a fodder of authenticity to corroborate communication between researchers and respondents, especially in this age of the Internet, and are always added to research work as an appendix. We would advise Mr. Dattey and his colleagues to appreciate the fact that the phrase he chose, “personal emails,” neither renders those emails private nor confidential.

Those email communications were initiated between him and his institution on the one side, and the researchers on the other, in an official capacity.

Therefore, the public has a right to these forms of communication. Mr. Dattey can contact us behind the scenes if he needs materials on that to enrich his understanding of public communication.

By the way, Mr. Dattey and his colleagues should be aware of the fact that e-mail communication anywhere in the world cannot be deemed to be “private.”

Going forward, the NAB and its Executive Secretary should appreciate that in our report, we identified over 10 institutions and over 40 individuals. NAB and the UPSA should not unnecessarily divert attention from those institutions and individuals by their unnecessary tirades.

We have clearly indicated that the Ministry of Education is called upon to play its oversight role without further delay. In this regard, NAB should not be unnecessarily interfering in these matters which are in dispute. If we may prescribe, the preoccupation of the NAB at the moment, it should be how to find ways to deal with individuals and institutions that are in clear violation of its edicts, including getting them to publicly recant their dubious PhDs and honorary doctorates.

The NAB should also, henceforth, cease from its diversionary antics by referencing non-existent breaches in ethical principles and research methods.

If Mr. Dattey cannot point to the exact ethical breach, we will demand a withdrawal of that errant insinuation and an apology from him and the NAB.

For those interested in appreciating the constraints under which this work emerged, some of those issues have been addressed in a previous rejoinder (Retrievable from: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/Rejoinder-response-from-SMC-on-recent-media-allegations-464150).

If Mr. Dattey and his organizational members are unaware of what is known as public intellectual work, it would serve them a great deal of good to do some reading on that — when academics step into the public space, away from academic complexities, to address some of these issues.

By and large, the public can agree that we have successfully ignited and steered this ongoing discourse very successfully so far. What is now needed to be seriously implemented is to investigate the issue to be followed by Corrective Actions and Preventive Actions (CAPA) from all institutions concerned—NAB, UPSA, SMC, and the Ministry of Education as key players.

This article is jointly authored by: Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Communication.

A. Kobla Dotse, Ph.D. Director, Chemical Research and Development.

Note: The article was originally titled: Rejoinder: Response to an investigative report