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Opinions of Monday, 21 October 2013

Columnist: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

Untapped Sources of Money in Plain Sight

The general codes and regulations that governs most educational institutions in Ghana relative to how they operate, generate funds to self-support and sustain, as well as the extend of its boundaries might not be very well known to the general public. Neither nor the dynamics of the codes and regulations design to follow the ever changing socioeconomic times in which we find ourselves in today. Generally, is it extremely difficult to move away from the status quo and our conventional ways to make room for modifications and challenges to meet today’s demands even if aspects of the codes are glaringly restricting some capabilities. Some codes and regulations needs to be dynamic and requires adaptability to change for survival. It could be recorded that varied funds, get to the universities for example through the government education fund, company contributions, students and foreign sources; however, funding from local individuals, universities, and other institutional sources could have huge potential but are currently untapped. While these funds from the government may not be sufficient or readily available as well as depreciates before getting to the universities and other tertiary institutions, these institutions should be given some flexibility to operate to earn extra money from local individuals through a number of programs and avenues to support the universities and students while making impacts on the Ghanaian economy. These institutions may want to conduct research, support new and innovative scientific development to provide solutions to some of the emerging Ghanaian problems. A typical scenario that would have defaulted under the category of “no funds” under the status quo. In most local and external funding cases, one stands a greater chance to receive funding from agencies such as UNESCO, UN, DFID, DANIDA, etc. if some initial progress has been made with supporting evidence and documentation to meet the funding approval process requirements. These institutions may need innovative freedom to meet the funding requirement which could be impeded by some governmental bureaucratic and internal university/institution interference cum codes that may limit this solution path. It brings into scope the urgent need for all such institutions to have a tint of business operating savvy and style. While some individuals, home and abroad may be interested in engaging in research activities as well as small /local organizations and companies, the risks of lack of policies and transparencies in the area of ownerships, intellectual property protection of ideas, apportionment of research benefits, etc. as well as the absence of pertinent tools such as the ethics of proper documentation, on-time delivery, trust, project tracking and mapping to reflect the various project phases for monetary demands and allocations, and the over aching effect of lack of professionalism and bad attitudes toward potential investors translate into loss of investment. For decades, the university continually loses investment opportunities including funding from local and foreign individuals as well as small companies and organizations. Preliminary assessment and evaluation of the system indicate that there are tons of attractive opportunities in Ghana which are investment worthy if made available. This fact has been elaborated in the next few paragraphs below. The situation looks helpless on the surface and one may think there is some underlining reason why it’s remained this way for this long. Reason such as lack of surety of money from the government, out dated codes, absence of transparency process, lengthy bureaucracy procedures may be preventing universities to look above and beyond the normal boundaries for funds. Additionally, absence of foreign funds or insufficiencies and delayed of funds from the government to the various universities and institutions should not be a show stopper. Rather the universities should be strategized or set up in a way that it’s able to sustain itself. Since the universities including other institutions in the country are considered brain powers of the nations and hence expected to provide solutions for themselves and for the nation at large. Other expectation includes the production of quality, aggressive, top notched graduates to meet global demands and challenges. Empowerment and foresight of a university or institution heavily depends on how much funds are accessible. However, the aforementioned problems possess risks to individuals and organizations preventing investment in programs of our universities and institutions. Moreover, universities have not aligned themselves to tap into opportunities of interest to stakeholders. While little drops will contribute somehow to the overall effectiveness, the following are some areas to generate some low hanging funds; • Hosting sports events and student shows on campus to the general public. In developed countries sports serves as a source of huge funds for universities. • Renting the stadium for team training including division 1 and hosting some of the matches to split the revenue with organizers. • University renting out the club house and guest houses for weddings, camping, training etc. • Rooms for renting for conferences, conventions and wedding events. • Conduction analytical testing services for manufacturing companies in the country. Again in the developed countries the various department in the universities conduct test services to companies. • Accepting short term with quick turnaround investigation projects from companies. • Equipment for renting and instrument for testing. • Various departments organizing shows and inviting dignitaries. • Generally, activities to engage the outside world to the universities. • Providing spaces for companies/businesses to sell their products on campus and collecting rent monies, these businesses could include computer shops, coffee shops, photo printing shops, computer repairing shops, shoe repairing shop etc. All the above should be organized in a way to earn money for the universities hence needs to be planned effectively while dimming the effects of the consequences. Others include; • Universities partnering with local or foreign investors on some of the attractive projects including student research to establish a company. • Universities establishing an intellectual property and patent office to capture innovative ideas and ground breaking discoveries. • Universities offering sale of some of the intellectual properties and patent to local and foreign investors to generate money to sustain the initiative as well as support the universities. • Universities offering attractive student research projects to local or foreign investors rather than sitting on shelves to rot. • Universities nurturing and supporting new companies and graduates. • The establishing of a “Student Career Center” at every university is overdue. Since these centers would cater to the graduating student in the area of job search, resume writing, training and tracking. • Universities helping Alumni student to take their research project to another level after graduation with guidance from lecturer and systems put in place to give back to the university. • Universities to offer practical research work to student to better them as well as Ghana. • Universities opening up and connecting with Ghanaians abroad for ideas, projects, connections to organization and visitations to provide short courses at token to benefit all. It does not necessary have to be an alumni. • Universities creating various clubs such as the “Book Writing Club”, “Review Club”, and Philanthropic Club to create an environment that everyone can contribute based on their affiliation to a particular club. • Universities establishing “Who is Who” an alumni tracking system to document how graduates from the university are doing and where they are. This is something that every institution in the developed countries has. The question is if a student becomes successful will he not be willing to give back to the university or institution? This even solidifies the alumni to give collectively back to support the Alma Matter. Most universities outside are well supported by the alumni. A healthy alumni system always results in a healthy university or institution. The universities should seek to the welfare of students and protect them against lecturers whose aims are to fail with no better reasons. Large population of students failing or having low grades could be looked to as lecturers not fulfilling their responsibilities rather than students wanting to fail or have low grades. The idea that students’ education and project be practical, productive, tailored to address national issues should be looked to as embryos for nation building, beginning of new businesses and a way to curb the headache of “brain drain”. Will a graduate be willing to reside on another land if his/her project start off as a new but profitable business after school? The question is what makes people wanting to leave a nation -“Greener Pasture”? Yes! in most cases. Some areas that will require additional debate include; • How to trigger investors interested to University projects? • How to caress investors to partner with the universities? • Will the current student to lecturer ratio allow some of the above to take place? • How much research does the university do today with no positive cash flow from that effort? • The fear of incident or accident occurrences on campus as results of universities opening up for the public? • Destruction or maintenance of university properties when rented out for an event? • The fear that the earnings from the above will not be enough to offset the inputs cost? • When should these activities take place and how often? If on weekends then who will manage these programs since in Ghana most people work Monday - Friday 8.00 am to 5 pm at the most. • If on weekends does it means campus police needs to be deployed to maintain sanity for extra pay or overtime? • How could this be managed to make it profitable to meet the necessary need? • Will this not interrupt the actual school program? • Can students concentrate and learn while there are attractive campus programs on going? • Where does this money go and how is this money going to be appropriated? • Will this money bring a curse or blessing? • How can these proposed ideas sustain themselves? • Is it worth the hassle? • The fact of the concept and its content works in other parts of the world does not mean it going to work in Ghana? Since these other places have box office for automatic ticketing and payments, buses, bus routes, parking spaces, good rest rooms, police, drinking water dispensers, good receipt concept, etc. Although, it is not in any person’s place to tell all the excellent group of lectures and school authorities what to do, I know people have thought about these or have been down these paths. However, as concerned Ghanaians, we believe there are low hanging funds and opportunities available to convert some of the idle hands to useful work to make the system productive. Some of the above suggestions need to be revisited with effective management style to make it work. A step in the right direction is identifying the pros and cons in order to tailor solutions effectively. Note that challenges are opportunities to innovate to be successful but not impedance to success. Nothing comes cheap. Students from business and allied programs can be effective at developing their skills given the above ideas as project and assignment to develop and manage. Moreover, some of the suggested ideas if applied successful could open up access ways to funds to enhance self-sustenance of the universities to assist developing programs to equip graduates with the necessary tools to meet the global demands. I believe the university should be empowered to decide their destiny with very little governmental interference but well-funded to align to provide necessary solutions to Ghana’s needs. There are several untapped sources of money in our plain slight and it’s about how we device strategies to tap to make them win –win situations. God bless.

Alexander Anim-Mensah, PhD (ChE), alexraymonda@yahoo.com , Dayton Ohio Jacqueline A. Anim, MSc. (ChE), Jackieanim2@yahoo.com , Cincinnati Ohio