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Prof. Otoo-Ellis, giving meaning to science and technology education

BY: Daniel K. Kenu

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent." --Douglas MacArthur

Prof. William Otoo-Ellis, a food scientist and alumnus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), takes a bow as the Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s foremost science and technology institution after his mandatory four-year stewardship.

Indeed, serving the university as the Vice-Chancellor is no news, but Prof. Otoo-Ellis’s unique leadership style of carrying his management team along on the same path and his aggressive infrastructural development, as well as adding value to the current human capacity, makes him one of the best, if not the best VC, of the KNUST in recent times. 

Fondly referred to as the ‘Sunday School Teacher’ for his staunch belief in tutoring children in the Lord, even at his level as a VC, the outgoing VC has helped in the decentralisation of matriculation and congregation into college activities, automation of the university’s financial system and the introduction of biometric registration of students.

The decentralisation policy, in line with his vision of repositioning KNUST as a global institution for science and technology with national development as the focal point, is to streamline the activities of the various colleges, empower them and make them more self-reliant and innovative. 

But key to the outgoing VC’s achievements is his radical infrastructural development and the enhancing of e-learning to link up with the rest of the world and partners.

However, in realising that dream, Prof. Otoo-Ellis’s administration has completed land title registration of the main campus to secure it and ward off encroachers.

Notable among the projects are the J. K. Siaw Block for School of Graduate Studies, re-location and stabilisation of the Faculty of Forest Resources Technology to the Kumasi Campus from Sunyani and labelling of infrastructure on campus.

Modernisation of laboratories

Some of the infrastructural facilities under the watch of the VC which KNUST can boast of include the establishment of  centralised laboratories of oil and gas, Faculty of Pharmacy Research lab, re-tooling of the microbiology and biotechnology lab, five green houses at the Department of Horticulture, a KNUST/Vodafone Technology hub for mobile application research, a solar energy research lab at the College of Engineering, a Cook Stove research lab and a chemical engineering research lab.

State of university address

Delivering his last State of the University address to convocation, Prof. Otoo-Ellis expressed excitement at the elevation of the Institute for Distance Learning (IDL) to the status of a college and restructuring of its operations.

He commended his team for helping to establish the College of Art and Built Environment,  the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Centre for Business Development.

Technology

Under his watch, KNUST can also boast of a Technology and Architecture Studio with a re-tooling of 500 pieces of studio furniture, teaching laboratories for sonography programme and ultrasound equipment to aid hands-on teaching, an ICT lab at the IDL Conference Centre, an ICT lab for IDL at the new examination block and a 200-seater computer lab for the Computer Science Department in the College of Science complex as well as a 100-seater computer lab for the Mathematics Department.

Library facilities

Prof. Otoo-Ellis supervised the increment in the computer stocks by 85 and the expansion of the Electronic Information Department (EID), the refurbishment of the Research Commons, a unit within the library meant for graduate students under the ‘Building Stronger Universities’ (BSC) project and the introduction of the ‘Turnitin’ plagiarism software.

Research grant

In order to enhance research, the VC established an office for grant and research in line with its goal of consolidating the gains achieved in the first term and build upon the vision of making the university a global institution for science and technology.

Sequel to that, he facilitated  several research grants which were won by the staff of the university.

Among them was the Solar and Renewable Energy projects won by the Energy Centre within the university.

Infrastructure

KNUST has expanded the fibre-optic cable network from 30km to 100km under the tenure of Prof. Otoo-Ellis. Beyond that, the university has increased Local Area Network (LAN) points from 6,000 to 15,000, increased total number of computers from 3,000 to 4,800 and established of the Disaster Recovery Centre (DRC) at the Accra City Campus and Learning Centre.

Other project are the establishment of e-library system at the College of Arts and Built Environment and a video conferencing facility at the VC’s office through the support of Vodafone. 

Capacity building and staff training

In order to make the university a number one science and technology tertiary institution on the continent, Prof. Otoo-Ellis and his team instituted a number of training and capacity-building programmes to bring staff up to the level desired by such establishments.

Some of the thematic areas of training include, leadership, preparing for retirement, summer schools for staff and other external and internal training programmes at all levels.

Academic development

A number of structures have been put in place to encourage lecturers and staff to improve academically over the last four years.

There has been a doctoral programme  for three lecturers in French, five others in mathematics initiated and coordinated by  KNUST and supported by the French Embassy.

Eight others under the Danish University initiatives are benefitting from PhD programmes in other areas.

International conferences and workshops

During the last four years, KNUST has had the opportunity to host 16 international conferences delivering blueprints to solving some of Ghana’s problems including flooding.

Sports

The university’s Paa Joe mini-stadium has received a facelift and has become the attraction of many sporting activities across Kumasi.

Former League Champions, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, was once using the facility as their training grounds before relocating to Adako Jachie due to security concerns.

Asside from the university’s stellar performances at major sporting events, its hockey team stands out as the best in the region.

At the just ended Ashanti regional hockey league, the KNUST hockey teams proved too strong for the rest of the clubs to win the league with ease.

Bursary  

The university has also created a bursary system to support sportsmen and sportswomen to encourage them to give their best. Currently 50 students are benefitting from the bursary.

Community relations

KNUST has had good relations with communities around the university; this is seen in the provision of basic and essential livelihood to the people. From boreholes to an eye clinic at Ayeduase. The university continues to solve major problems within such communities.

Ongoing projects

Despite the massive infrastructural development on campus including asphalted roads, a number of ongoing projects are currently being executed to expand the frontiers of the university.

Among them are the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the Clinical Lecture Block and the Faculty of Allied Health Science Complex.

Prof. Otoo-Ellis leaves office on July 31, 2016, and his place taken by the Provost of the College of Science, Prof. Kwasi Obiri-Danso, on August 1, 2016.