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Opinions of Thursday, 28 July 2016

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw

Conversion of Polytechnics into Technical Universities is catalyst for unemployment

Education is nothing but indoctrination. We are indoctrinated on theoretical and grammar-based education and we are now aware that an intransigent failure of Ghanaian educational policy-makers to deconstruct teaching and learning from its colonial framework has not yielded any dividends.

Graduate unemployment is increasing at an alarming rate. One would have expected that the urgent need of cogitating and ferreting out exact factors responsible for graduate unemployment would have been made maximally efficient and factored into policies and programs.

However, contrary is the case, as out of political expediency, our leaders remorselessly continue to joke with job creation, youth employment and the right form of education.

The purpose of this article is to elucidate on the significance of technological education and the dangers associated with conversion of our polytechnics into technical universities without recourse to national interest (social insecurity due to graduate unemployment).

Over the years, it has never been uncommon to hear agitations from the members of Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) on what they described as an injustice and a discrimination. They want to be treated on level terms with the lecturers of the public research universities.

They embarked on strike actions every now and then to augment their grievances over research and book allowances. Series of negotiations had been wriggled through bureaucratic bottleneck concerning their grievances mentioned above.

The students of polytechnics have also joined the bandwagon of striving for educational equality and asked to be treated as their university counterparts. There is nothing wrong with POTAG members and Polytechnic students asking for equality or aspiring for a higher thing.

Every individual is motivated to strive for superiority and its attendant final fictive goal in order to compensate for inferiority (Alfred Adler, 1870-1937).

However, as a country, we establish polytechnics for their teaching staff and students to fight for equality with the faculty and students of public research universities or we did so for the purpose of technological education and its benefits?

I love this quote from the former US Supreme court judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, “If there is any principle of the constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Indeed the thought we hate include kowtowing to the whims and caprices of unmitigated self-seekers at the expense of national interest. Educational curriculum and its design must be directed towards the needs of society: development and job creation.

Some of the major conundrums of educational pundits include: whether these conversions of polytechnics into technical universities are really necessary now considering the graduate unemployment level in the country or just to satisfy the demands of polytechnic students and members of POTAG. Are these conversions in the national interest?

Polytechnic education was established in 1992 by the PNDCL 321 to provide tertiary education through full time courses in the field of manufacturing, commerce, science, technology, applied social science, applied arts and such other areas as may be determined by the authority for the time being responsible for higher education;(b) encourage study in technical subjects at tertiary level; and(c) provide opportunity for development, research and publication of research findings.

The reasons behind the creation of polytechnic education were very strong. The imperative need to jettison other demands of polytechnics and concentrate on science and technology must not be shelved as it will have a far-reaching effects on the economy relative to job creation.

History bears a favorable testimony to the contribution of science and technology to national and global developments. For example, science and technology laid a solid foundation for France.

France between 1750 and 1850 had taken a lead in the scientific and technological research. The French became intensive researchers into every field of scientific exploration: mathematical, chemical, physical, biological and technological.

France’s great mathematicians, physicists, chemists and biologists had contributed than those of any other country to increasing the frontiers of scientific knowledge (Thomson, 1957).

Their characteristic faith was expressed by the great chemist, Antoine Lavoisier in 1793, when he submitted a memorandum on national education to convention to make science a vital national subject. France emphasis on science and technology contributed to the rise of that country as a dominant economic power in Europe.

Every strong economy thrives on technical education and thus, the creation of technical universities is not a bad idea.

However, where are the technical schools to feed them? What kind of faculty do the technological universities need and where are they?

When the technical schools were converted into polytechnics, all the technical skills instructors were replaced with university graduates whose technical knowledge were very minimal or had no technical knowledge at all.

As the polytechnics have been converted into technical universities, the faculty members will be Masters and PhD holders whose knowledge have no bearings with technical education. KNUST was established for the purpose of science and technology and how far has the university accomplished its objectives?

Today, KNUST is offering courses in sociology, accounting, management, economics, geography, Akan, history, political science, religious studies and other related social sciences. The name technical university is irrelevant if the issue of right content is ignored.

I have no intension to scandalize and bastardize any reputable educational policy-maker in the country even so Albert Einstein thinks: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think we could rather compel KNUST to redirect its focus to science and technology as we convert two or three polytechnics to support them. We still need polytechnic education in Ghana.

Let us just think of the employment benefits of extending railways to northern Ghana. Africa and Ghana no exception has contributed substantially to the upsurge of the West’s industrial civilization while the rise of African’s own industrial culture has been hampered. Africa’s contribution to the west’s industrialization ranged from the era of slave trade for western plantations to the new era of cobalt and chromes for western industries (Mazrui, 1986).

Africa’s contribution to western industrial development inadvertently helped to create the White technological Brahmins of the world (Mazrui, 1986). We need pragmatic measures to transform our own economic and educational fortunes on the continent. In the view of Max Weber “The fate of our times characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and above all, by the disenchantment of the world.”

Indeed, the disenchantment of Ghanaians’ world is youth unemployment. The hurried manner in which these transitions of polytechnics into technical universities were done will not help future graduate employment prospects.

I think we need more industries to feed current university graduates not more universities. This conversion will end up putting a lot of pressures on the future governments relative to graduate unemployment.

Reference Mazrui, A. A (1986). The Africans, a triple heritage, Boston, Toronto, Little, Brown and Company. Thomson, D (1957). Europe since Napoleon, New York, Alfred A Knope

I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing (Socrates). I humbly stand for Corrections. Feedbacks must be emailed to

Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo), PhD Candidate, Psychology College of Doctoral Studies Grand Canyon University, Arizona, USA