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Opinions of Friday, 2 January 2015

Columnist: Anonymous, J C

UDS – A Center For Excellence?

The main purpose of a University is to impact positively on the community and the nation as a whole. Since independence, many an attempt has been made to make university education accessible to all – it led to the creation of University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Cape Coast. The Northern Region was blessed with a University in 1992 which has multi-campus institutions in Nyankpala, Tamale, Wa and Navrongo. Its motto since inception has been “Knowledge for Service” but it seems paradoxical to note that a University with this motto will subject its students with unnecessary and incessant torture by making them comparatively suffer more than they should.

To commence, the school fees of the university compared to other university is high. There is no need in denying the fact that the school fees is questionable and yet, the other universities who have lower school fees compared to ours enjoy better services than we do. For instance in KNUST, the students have a Vodafone package which is included in the school fees – where they enjoy 300MB internet allowance, 4 hours free talk time to all Vodafone numbers and also 50 free SMS and yet they have a lower fees than we do. The margin of difference in school fees between UDS and others universities like Legon, KNUST and UCC ranges between Ghc200-300. We simply cannot fathom why this is so. There are also at times when we never get some things we paid for in the school fees. For instance, in 2013, the first years were billed with a book worth GHC150.00 but were never given this said book. This represents clear extortion and exploitation on all grounds.

There is acute furniture shortage in all the three campuses. It is but rather sad that a week before exams, authorities will go round the various halls and private hostels to take chairs from students’ room to place them at the examination hall to enable students to write exams. As if this is not insulting enough, students pay for furniture and yet are subjected to the torture of having to look for furniture during lecture period and also during examination weeks. At this juncture, that question that most readers will ask is “How will students learn if during lecture time some would have to stand, squat or employ other tactics to see and hear what the lecturer is teaching. The lecture theatre and the classrooms are simply too small to accommodate increasing number of students. How can one conduct effective teaching and learning where there is improper air conditioning system in the various classrooms? There is either spoilt air conditioning system, or the ceiling fans are simply not working and even when they work, they work at minimal power since most are over a decade old. The PA system in the school is bad – the microphones are either malfunctioned or don’t have the power to produce audible voice tone to the hearing of all and sundry. Again, the hustle and bustle at which students go through to find a good place to sit in order to get knowledge to service the nation in itself make us ask if the authorities are performing their functions.

As if this is not enough, there exist no examination halls where students will write exams. As a result, classrooms and lecture theatres are converted into examination halls during examination time. There is already limited classrooms for studies and its conversion to examination hall brings with it challenges of conducting effective examinations. As a result, the timetables for writing examination are packed thereby allowing students not to have enough time for studies. The examinations are usually written continuously since the school only uses two weeks for its examination. One can imagine the stress a student who does thirteen courses will go through during examinations. Already, the university timetable for lectures is over-burdensome and hence some students do not have time for studies; just imagine a student doing over ten courses a trimester, how does he or she survives? I am in by no means trying to denigrate any course since there is no need in arguing that every course and subject learnt is important. The University does not have a place where people can study since the library is far from the classrooms and the roads leading to the library is extremely dusty which doesn’t have enough street lightening system coupled with the bushy nature of the road leading to the place. This gives the green light for thieves and unscrupulous people to rob innocent student off their mobile phone devices, laptops and other valuables. The university library is faced with various and many problems – the library is inadequately furnished with books and the few available are usually obsolete or does not meet the current level for knowledge and research. The wireless connection in the various campuses is erratically slow and does not facilitate the student’s research. It is at times so slow that one cannot use it to have access to educational materials. Also, these unlimited classrooms are used by some Christian denominations to conduct their church services. So at the end of the day, students are left with no other option than to learn in their hostels or any other places they will find.

Talking about accommodation, the university has limited accommodation for students in the university. The limited halls the school has are faced with poor cleaning systems; rubbishes are at times left unattended for days. The maintenance culture in the various campuses are poor, it is often common to see school properties and facilities unattended to when they get faulty. There is equally pressure and heat in the traditional halls and as a result, students have to resort to private hostels which have enough problems of their own. The nature and ways the private hostels are scattered is an insult to injury. The lands are virtually being wasted in the aim of generating income for private individuals. The university has not set standards for which private individuals are to follow in building hostels. Hence, all what one sees are short compound houses which sit aloof wasting the lands of the school. The drainage system in the school is bad, for instance, some private hostels do not have toilet facilities and hence some students have to defecate in bushes and unapproved places. The aim of a university is to train better people for the country so what citizens do we create for the country if by virtue of limited toilet facilities, some students are forced to defecate around. Don’t forget the health hazard this act causes by its own. If someone is to fall sick, the school clinic is not well equipped to cater for the needs of the student.

The school initiated a programme to help the local communities in the three regions of Ghana and also the Brong Ahafo Region. The programme commonly called “TTFPP” which is to equip student to have a good exposure to the plight of the poor and also about the working environment they would in the future find themselves. Despite this being a good programme, it is drenched in its own challenges. Students are required to finance the project by themselves. According to the school, they are to provide souvenirs to help the students to carry out this activity – it is shameful to say that these souvenirs which are said to include rice, oil, torchlight, mosquito nets among others never come. The school at times provides rLG laptops which in itself have its own problems so at the end of the day; students simply use their own laptops for the project. All what basically the school wants it’s the final project and hence simply don’t care about the torture and pain students go through to get the final project. Some of the communities the students are posted to, do not have potable water, electricity, good roads and good housing system. Students are therefore subjected to vagaries of the weather. Sometimes some students die from diseases like malaria and water borne diseases because they do not have clinics and the near-by clinics are usually far and not well stocked with medicines. Some of the clinics in themselves do not have lights and other facilities to befit a health facility. At times, the students get cash trapped and cannot afford even a daily mail and have to borrow to sustain themselves.

These challenges and many more are presenting a very uncomfortable situation to most student of this prestigious university. We believe that all cannot be solved at a go but the school should make pragmatic steps to solve these challenges in phases so that the welfare of students are met thereby leading to an increase in the performance of students. For example, based on the unfavorable weather coupled with the stress students go through, the examination timetable can be drawn to cover a period of at least three weeks; this is something the school can do more quickly without long bureaucratic process. Also, the way the trialed papers are organized should be changed to help minimize the rate at which students suffer during examinations. For instance, they can be written before the trimester begins as other universities like Legon and KNUST do.

The quest to make UDS a better university to meet its motto is a responsibility for us all. We must not push it solely on the University but the student as a whole should help to make this dream come through. That is why I write this article. UDS “Knowledge for Service.”

WRITTEN BY Anonymous