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Opinions of Monday, 12 August 2019

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

The skirt and blouse policy of Ghana's National Accreditation Board

The recent death of Toni Morrison, 88, the revered African-American novelist and Nobel Prize winner has motivated us to revisit the debate about qualification for a teaching position in Ghana’s universities.

This August, as a new semester begins, many lecturers are losing their positions because they are a “skirt and blouse”.

As per the policy of our National Accreditation Board (NAB), “Skirt and Blouse” simply means your bachelor’s and Masters and or PhD are in different disciplines.

And by NAB standards, you cannot teach undergrad students in your PhD field because that is not what you studied for your bachelor’s and or masters.

Now take Lade Wosornu, the Ghanaian surgeon, for example.

On July 4, the organisers of Accra International Book Festival in a press release on its website accrabookfest.com announced that it was naming its annual Literary Awards after him on account of his essays and poems outside of his medical training.

Seventeen of Wosornu’s poems are to be translated by Bureau of Ghana Languages into various local languages.

“Some of the poems are to be studied for the next five years as part of the African Selected poems in the Senior High Schools,” according to myjoyonline.com in a story published on 9 January, 2019.

Yet by the skirt and blouse policy, if Lade Wosornu, without a bachelor’s degree in English were not retired he cannot get a teaching position in a uni creative art department; he who is being studied as an authority and source of African poetry.

Next example; Kwesi Yankah, Ghana’s minister for tertiary education who was a linguistics professor at University of Ghana (UG) and supervised the university’s radio station.

From the day Radio Univers was established till Prof Yankah left UG he was always the preferred head, despite the phalanx of faculty members at the School of Information and Communication Studies.

Meanwhile Yankah was at Linguistics Department, far away and Univers located in the School of Information and Communication Studies.

By this arrangement UG has demonstrated that narrow academic qualifications alone are not the defining factor for teaching media excellence.

Next let us examine Dr Kingsley Nyarko, the current executive secretary of National Accreditation Board.

Dr Nyarko holds a Bachelor of Education degree and a PhD in Psychology and until last year was a lecturer at UG…..guess which department?

He felt himself qualified to teach psychology students because he can surely justify the linkages but today feels others in similar situations cannot explain themselves.

In short, as my mentor has observed, “Academia and practice cannot be divorced from each other. Do you not know that the purpose of your education is to solve existential problems?”

Toni Morrison occupied a chair at Princeton University. Her “skirt and blouse status” did not matter and she held an MA. and no PhD.

BUT, she had expertise that a faculty needed to train their students.

And no one can tell us Princeton is not a best practice case study. Besides, how many of our Vice-Chancellors have undergrad degrees in Administration?

Kwame Nkrumah held degrees in economics and sociology, and theology.

His PhD topic remained contentious until he left London School of Economics because his supervisors disagreed about whether his topic and research area were under philosophy or anthropology.

But Nkrumah knew what he knew and he published his thoughts in books for all mankind to read.

Reflecting on the contention my mentor remarked: “The irony is that the faculty that will not accept Kwame Nkrumah’s thesis proposals, now have to understand and supervise PhD students researching and writing on his activities and thoughts.”

When an interviewer asked her an unfair question with respect to race and her writing, Toni Morrison responded with poignancy and grace: “Art has no boundaries”.

Her answer teaches us the CENTRALITY OF SOVEREIGNTY; or if you prefer, FREEDOM,” my mentor observes.

Yes indeed, ACADEMIC FREEDOM – now let us walk the talk for the inferences ought to be obvious.

The skirt and blouse policy of the National Accreditation Board is not fit for purpose – it must go!

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