Public private partnership in education (2)

BY: Anis Haffar
Graduates from Accra College of Medicine, 2021
Graduates from Accra College of Medicine, 2021

On public private partnership in education, we need to speak with reference to the various levels and not lump pre-tertiary and third cycle together.

The private sector should be encouraged to support the state at the pre-tertiary level in two ways.

First, by providing additional infrastructure and opportunity for young people to go to school near their homes, which they do for 20 per cent of pupils in primary and junior high school now.

The parameters should be defined by the state and once met, the state can provide scholarship at the rate of a third or half of the per capita expenditure on public schools to those who attend what I call “poor private schools”.

The elite schools which cater for the middle and upper class need no financial support except for the National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA) to stop discriminatory harassment and apply the same standards to public and private schools.

Tertiary enrolment

With tertiary education and the training of professionals, the story is different.

If the government wants the country to move from an 18 per cent gross enrolment ratio to 40 per cent in the near future, a new partnership between the state and the non-state actors is needed.

First, even at 40 per cent, it means tertiary education is still for the privileged few and given the associated benefits, the cost should largely be borne by the beneficiaries, with the state facilitating it in the form of infrastructure and systems support as well as paying public sector lecturers.

All other expenses must be borne by beneficiaries, the vulnerable being supported with loans.

Second, state sponsorship should not be wholesale and based on West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) aggregate though I am proud that students from Hwiremoase Christian High are scoring eight, seven, six and five As in their numbers.

Since our human resource needs require that we produce 60 per cent Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and 40 per cent of other graduates, government sponsorship must reflect that.

Thus, a science student with an aggregate of 24 may get a scholarship while an Arts or Business student with aggregate 12 may not because the scientist will compete in the category of STEM students and others in theirs.

I tell you, anyone with an aggregate of 24 can do engineering, medicine, or basic science.

Scholarship for programmes

Third, government scholarship for students at the tertiary level should henceforth not be based on ownership of the college but programmes.

So, for example if a science student opts for Accra College of Medicine or Ashesi University or Central University and qualifies for the scholarship set, say at $6,500, the student must get the bursary or its equivalent irrespective of their going to Legon or Central.

If we do, our private universities will move to subjects following national labour objectives and expand, and public universities will sit up and improve quality to attract students.

Fourth, the government should use policy to ensure across the board standards and de-emphasise the current mentorship system.

There should be objective standards set by the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission to ensure quality accreditation and not allow the largely public universities to influence when others get their charter.

As an educationist, I am proud of my role in the public sector from being a public basic school teacher, lecturer at University of Ghana, Legon, Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and a tutor at Sydney University.

I have also been in the private sector co-founding top rated Ghana Christian International High School, being Professor at both Pentecost University College and Ashesi and now privileged to be the Council Chair of the private Accra Medical College from its beginning.

My conclusion is to paraphrase Dr Kwegyir Aggrey’s statement: It takes both the black and white keys - both the public and private sectors - to educate the youth in Ghana. Let’s exploit both for national good.

Fifth, there are some things like ICT backbone, subsidised laptop for students which can be produced locally and subscription of databases that must be national and not provided by the state along on Public and Private divide basis.

Every school must be connected as a public good.

Advice to graduates

To my graduating students, let me share some personal experience as a Christian professional now in the transit quarters with my cemetery flowers:

One, go out there to work serving the Lord with heart, hands, time and talents.

If you don’t, the practice of medicine will kill you before your time.

There is joy, however, in having a purpose in working beyond your paycheck.

Two, be humble.

This will not come easy as they will start calling you Doctor from today, more so because your patients come vulnerable.

It takes a commitment to be servant leaders.

Three, to be more effective, work in cooperation with nature.

I think modern medicine is wonderful but the more I grow the more I find that the doctors could have done better by taking account of God’s natural healing, knowing that food is both medicine and poison and that there is need to combine pills with nature’s provision.

Finally, have faith in God for even though your training in medicine has prepared you to be a doctor, only God knows everything. After all, none of you scored 100 per cent in all subjects, if any. Give your patients not only medicine but hope for now and eternity.

Despite all your help, we all will have our biography end with the phrase – “And he died”.

The joy of living comes from knowing that it is appointed for man to die once, and after that – judgement.

The above is the concluding part of the address by Professor Stephen Adei, Chairman of the ACM Council, for the convocation for the award of degrees to the eight new medical doctors on December 11, 2021.

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