Let's be professionals

BY: Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa
Let's be professionals
Let's be professionals

Ghana suffers from poor professionalism across the board and all is, very recent. Men and women of the professional class in Ghana as late as the 1970s stood up for their beliefs and many suffered and some paid the ultimate price for it during the military eras.

The Association of Recognised Professional Bodies of Ghana comprising the age old professions of doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, planners and surveyors, pharmacists and accountants met regularly to discuss issues confronting the country and coordinated actions which were effective against some of the excesses of the military regimes.

The invasion of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in 1977 following a strike by the Ghana Medical Association after the announcement, sacking two very senior professors of the University of Ghana Medical School, brought together a surreal moment that included the National Union of Ghana Students and in 1979 after the murder of three judges and a military officer. The professionals acted professionally.

Have we lost it?

We seem to have lost all of the verve and concerns for national issues and each profession has become more parochial and its membership more individualistic in pursuit of money. What is surprising is that many have lost the ingredients of professionalism, described as a combination of skill and high standards involving a level of quality or achievements and moral principles which affect people's attitude and behaviour, and doing good to all manner of persons all the time. The country by this has lost its moral compass, the eyes and ears of society.

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The coming in of multiparty democracy seem to have played a big role in the loss of professionalism. Each to the party of their belief, guarding and defending the actions of the party, some however indefensible, and enjoying the spoils of their success. The military involvement in governance perhaps brought all together to fight a common enemy probably depriving them of what was naturally theirs.
Mediocrity and ethics

The loss of professionalism has ingrained mediocrity into our society and we all have come to accept anything for what it is worth. We have not only taken the people of Ghana who paid for our education for granted but have even lost the conduct of reciprocity between professionals.

Conflict of interest does not seem to matter: professionals are steep in the fragrant disregard of it and the various regulatory agencies do not harp on it enough. Being in any position that compromises fair play and puts others at a disadvantage is unacceptable.

The etiquette of professionalism speaks to the ideals of leadership, honesty and integrity, and not using ones position for personal gain.

Ethical considerations feature prominently among professionals- knowing what is right and wrong and taking the moral high ground all the time.

We are at a loss as to what proportion of the nation's professionals appreciate the three important considerations listed above and are prepared to improve themselves regularly and perhaps, subject themselves to fitness to practice test annually?

This is what happens in many developed countries and we can learn from it.

The world has moved on and the number of professional groupings have increased exponentially in the world and also in Ghana. So who is a professional in Ghana today? A Programme that generates significant skill and standards and graduands form an organised group with clearly defined code of ethics to which their membership conform are professionals. They must have continued professional development. It is therefore unacceptable that some teacher unions in Ghana have kicked against it and assessment for practice. It is not good for their members and the students they serve. All professionals must wear their badge of honour on their sleeves and serve their constituencies with the utmost diligence and altruism, doing onto others as they will onto themselves.

Ghana's renaissance can rely on its professionals being professionals and serving once again as the eyes and ears of the society. We owe it to our country and to ourselves.

The writer is a pathologist and a former Director General of the Ghana Health Service.