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Bringing higher education home to all; UCC-CoDE initiative

BY: Shirley Asiedu Addo
Prof George Oduro, Provost of the College of Distance Education

New-born cries echo in the classrooms where their mothers are. Infants and mothers have all been brought together at the university, courtesy the College of Distance Education (CoDE) of the University of Cape Coast (UCC).  

New-born cries echo in the classrooms where their mothers are. Infants and mothers have all been brought together at the university, courtesy the College of Distance Education (CoDE) of the University of Cape Coast (UCC).  

The infants’ presence is necessitated by the fact that they are too young to be left at home; the mothers’attendance is also motivated by an unquenchable desire for higher education.

The idea of CoDE, until recently the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE), was conceived in 1992 following the university’s quest to meet the need for opportunities for higher learning for many of the country’s working population.

Its mission was to particularly train more professional teachers for the basic level of our country’s education, while raising the professional competence of serving personnel in education, industry and commerce for accelerated development.

Twenty-two years down the line, the giant edifice of the college points to the successes chalked up by the college in its effort to bring higher education to the doorstep of those who otherwise would not have had the privilege.

The CoDE building has 16 lecture theatres, each of which can seat between 100 and 150 students; 35 offices, a conference room, a boardroom, three Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres, three seminar rooms and three storerooms.

It has been a long journey, sustained by determination and the changes it has brought to thousands of its products across the country.

Early years

The idea of the centre was conceived in 1992 with the setting up of a Distance Education Unit under the coordinatorship of Professor Nathaniel Pecku. Prof Dominic Agyeman became the first Director of the CCE four years after its establishment, after whom came Mr Kobina Koomson.

The current Provost is Prof George Oduro.

It had, among other goals, to raise the market value of serving personnel to improve their living standards and provide opportunities for applicants who qualify for admission to universities in the country but are not offered the chance due to constrictions in physical facilities.

The college had a very modest start in 2001 when it admitted 750 students to its Diploma in Basic Education programme. Then a centre, it had nine study centres in all the 10 regions except the Volta Region which was later added in 2002.

Having graduated 573 students three years later, the College has consistently graduated students.

By 2007, the college’s student population had increased tremendously to 16,189 students together with course tutors and 22 study centres in all regions of the country.

With the introduction of two business programmes, Management Studies and Commerce at the Diploma and Bachelors levels, the College became even more attractive for many workers who needed to upgrade themselves academically while keeping their jobs.

Courses

The college runs a Diploma and Post-Diploma Education degree in Basic Education, Psychology and Educational Foundations, Commerce, Management Studies, Bachelor of Science (Marketing) and Master of Education in Information Technology.

Nearly 20,000 teachers have gone through the college since it began in 2001.

Mode of Learning

The college operates the semester system with two sessions every academic year. All its courses are documented in modules, and are taught in at least six face-to-face lesson periods every semester by qualified course tutors in all of its study centres across the country. It is during the face to face that some students who are mothers bring their young children along. These students come along with helps and intermittently breastfeed their babies. The quest for education and these breastfeeding scenes only paint more vividly the eagerness with which many seek higher education. CoDE has over the years gained fame for running distance education programmes well.  

Each course has three credit hours and includes two quizzes and an assignment.

Enrolment

The Ashanti Region has 8,915 students, followed by Central with 6,060 students. Greater Accra has 5,914 students, Brong Ahafo 4,229, Western 3,701, with Volta 1,551, Northern 1,380, Upper East 1,216, and Upper West 867.

Nearly 40,000 people are currently at the college.

Benefits

The college’s Education programme is one of the growing avenues for teacher training and development.

According to the Provost of the College, Professor George Oduro, the mission of the college was to bring quality education to the doorsteps of the people through distant learning.

He said the college had worked hard in the past years to position itself as a reference point for quality distant education in Ghana and beyond.

Facilities across GhanaThe CoDE edifice

The CoDE of UCC has expanded gradually and firmly making its presence felt across the length and breadth of the country.

It currently operates in 40 study centres across the 10 regions of the country with the Ashanti Region leading with nine study centres.

The Central Region has seven study centres, five in Brong Ahafo, four each in Greater Accra and Western, three each in Volta and Eastern, two each in Upper West and Northern and one in Upper East.

Infrastructural development

Currently, the college is seeking to develop its own infrastructure on various campuses in the regions.

It has completed a centre at the Papafio Hills in Adjirigano in Accra. Another centre is expected to be completed in Dominase in the Ashanti Region.

Another study centre was begun in August this year and will be completed in two years, while the sod will be cut early next month for the commencement of another study centre in Zuarungu in the Upper East Region.

Again, Prof. Oduro said lands had been purchased at Jumapo in the Eastern Region and Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region for future construction of study centres.

The college is also constructing a staff training and resource centre at Nyarkrom to be completed by March next year.

Future of CoDE.

In five years, Prof Oduro indicated, the college should be able to construct centres in at least eight of the 10 regions.

It was also working to develop its staff, he said.

Prof. Oduro further indicated that the college would constantly revise its programmes to ensure that new ones were developed to meet clientele needs.

Work is going on to introduce a Department of Mathematics and Science, Department of Arts and Social Sciences and a Department of Medical Education.

The college is also dialoguing with the Department of Hospitality and Tourism to help commence a programme by distance learning. 

Other programmes the college would look at soon include the medical education for personnel of the Ghana Health Service who want to upgrade themselves.  

It also hopes to digitise its course materials to make them accessible online.

Prof. Oduro indicated that its online platform was currently 80 per cent completed.

Gender sensitivity

The college is vigorously pursuing an agenda to achieve 50-50 gender parity by the year 2016 in line with UCC gender plan.  

Since 2009, it has worked to encourage more women into their courses to allow more women who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to access higher education.

CoDE is sensitive to gender issues and is committed to bridging the gender disparity.

To this end, CoDE in collaboration with Distance Education Students Association UCC. is building a children’s relaxation centre where children of mothers and their helps can be more comfortable while their mothers seek knowledge.

The College would in future establish crèches on their various campuses to provide nursing mothers who are students with a conducive environment to keep their children while at lectures.

Quality assurance    

Prof. Oduro said quality would be assured by strengthening the college monitoring systems. He said while expanding, the college would ensure a fair balance between expanded enrolment and quality of enrolment.

He said capacity of staff would also be strengthened.

Beneficiaries

Ms Patricia Bonney works with the Central Regional Development Commission and says  distance education was godsend.

 “Keeping a home as a wife and a mother and wanting to upgrade was a headache that was healed by the centre,” she said.

“I have been able to work to keep my job, upgrade my academic qualification while maintaining my home,” she added.

Thousands of teachers have upgraded themselves and are contributing to improving the quality of education.

Prof. Oduro said it is important that distance education students planned well to meet the demands on time.

 “Distance Education has come to stay and it is making a positive impact on the nation’s human resource base. It is higher education brought to you in the comfort of your homes” he said.