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Opinions of Sunday, 23 September 2007

Columnist: Kpuusuu, Amadu

UDS holds the answer to Ghana's leadership crisis


The colonial authorities were denounced by Ghanaian nationalists, when every social ill was blamed on the ‘Whiteman’. The colonial administration was perceived as the only obstacle to Ghana’s prosperity. It was claimed by the nationalists that self-government was all that Ghana needed to solve the grievances and hardships inflicted by the colonialists. The nationalist leaders referred to themselves as men of property and standing (the intelligentsia); and called for the fullest support of everyone in the country. The intelligentsia maintained that the end of colonial rule would bring to the people of Ghana a new world of opportunity and prosperity.

The colonial administration saw the inherent dangers in the towns where a groundswell of discontent over unemployment, low wages, poor housing, high prices and other socio-economic problems was rising and granted the gold Coast independence as demanded.

In 1957, the alleged devil (the colonial administration) was ‘murdered’ and we have since taken absolute control over our own destiny. So why are the people of Ghana still floundering in the abject poverty, disease and ignorance which characterised the era prior to independence? Why is it that countless Ghanaians roam our streets with no jobs, frustrated and sick? Opinions on these issues have always been divided.

Those who view our underdevelopment with the aid of President Robert Mugabe’s lens, think that the ghost of the colonialists (British) is haunting us and should be held responsible. They believe that our resources were depleted by the British. They believe that our strongest men and women were lost to the slave trade. They see nothing positive about colonialisation. This writer believes that half a century later, Ghanaians should be looking to the future, not the past. Although it is essential to be aware of our country’s history, now we should be taking a positive look at how to manage our longed-for independence. Ghana’s inability to offer the citizenry a better life stems from bad political leadership which is typical of the African continent.

The University of Development Studies (UDS) was established in 1992 in Ghana with the intention of creating a seedbed for leadership capacity building to end the misrule which has characterised post independent Ghana. Post independent Ghana is dominated by detached leaders whose interests conflict with the ruled. To tackle this leadership crisis in the country, we should commit more resources to the establishment of institutions such as UDS.

UDS is primarily tasked to train students to live and work in rural communities where poverty, ignorance and environmental degradation are fierce. The university has a special program known as The Third Trimester Field Practical Training Programme (TTFPTP) which is a distinguishing feature designed to offer students ample time to interact with the rural communities. This interaction between students and the rural communities enables students to see things through the eyes of the people; get to know and understand the problems of the communities and offer meaningful ideas and strategies as to how to tackle the various issues militating against development in the community. Basically, the TTFPTP extends the university’s rigorous academic training into practical and worthwhile activity.

We have had a succession of leaders in this country who have lived privileged lives, with no idea of how the rural communities exist. This calibre of leaders has been to private school and studied courses which are solely classroom based. They haven’t experienced at first hand the poverty, hardships of the daily struggle to survive or the disadvantages of illiteracy. Their wealth and privileges have insulated them from the situation of the majority of Ghanaians.

By the very nature of UDS, students are trained to understand at first hand the problems and challenges of ruthem, but to deal with them, having been given the insight and skills to identify what needs to be done – and most importantly – the ability and enthusiasm to do it. This is the sort of academic institutions our nation should prize highly. Its core role is to equip potential leaders with the essential skills and knowledge they should attain before taking up leadership roles.

I have always maintained that Ghana will be cocooned in misery until the leaders have a practical knowledge and understanding of the socio-economic problems of their citizens. This would eventually lead to leaders identifying themselves with the plight of the people. In turn, this would generate more honesty and openness with taxpayers’ money.

Although it is abundantly clear that the UDS is capable of bringing immeasurable benefits to our country, it has been beset by problems since its inception. These hamper effective teaching and learning. The faculty of Integrated Development Studies (IDS) for instance is occupying borrowed premises with most of the structures not designed for academic work. Due to the increasing demand for university education in the country, many are seeking admission into UDS. It is understandable that many people in Ghana are struggling to acquire a degree. It is education that offers a social structure with an equal opportunity for a more inclusive society. Universities all over the world are the modern cathedrals and everyone has a qualified right to attend.

This has led to a rise in enrolment figures in UDS, especially IDS, which is intolerably disproportionate to what the infrastructure can support. There is no doubt that the few facilities, hard working staff and enthusiastic students in the university are thinly stretched. The library in the IDS campus is slightly larger than a hen coop with over 3,000 students competing to have access to its contents, commonly known as ‘the Bibles.’ When an assignment is set, maybe for 800 students, there is fierce competition for a single copy of a reference book. A few hopelessly outdated computers are available to the students, although most of them are not even aware of this. With the current trend towards computerisation, every employer requires applicants to be able to demonstrate some computer skills.

In the lecture theatres, students pack themselves like sardines with great number of students hanging outside the building hoping to grasp the lecture through the windows. When all efforts to follow the lecture from outside fail, these students become frustrated, disappointed and irritated. The public address system is frequently out of order, meaning that students are unable to hear the lecturers. Local communities are doing their best to provide accommodation for students and lecturers, but there is a limit to what they can do.

It is time for the government, the regional co-ordinating councils, the district and municipal assemblies to act. If the university is showing the way forward for Ghana, the authorities must invest substantially in buildings and resources to create a university which can meet its aims.

The future of Ghana depends on the education we provide for the population. It is clear that the students are desperate to learn and to develop their country. The evidence is clear from the increasing numbers of applicants to the university, despite the difficulties. This writer urges the government to transcend the political divide and push forward the development agenda of our country.

Kpuusuu Amadu
Central Lancashire Law School
Preston - UK

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