The rich cultural and traditional values of the Ashantis, government’s financial commitment to public universities to enhance capacity building and research work, as well as the need for the government to recruit more lecturers for universities to enhance quality teaching and learning, were among the highlights that climaxed the 51st congregation of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.
Another issue raised during the ceremony, which had the Chancellor, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, as the guest speaker, was how to traverse the Cuba grounds, where the government would collaborate with the KNUST and other nursing training institutions to train more nurses to work in neighbouring countries, thereby reducing the unemployment challenges, while generating adequate foreign exchange for Ghana.
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For those totally alien to Ashanti customs and traditions, Otumfuo never speaks in public functions unless his horn blowers sing his appelations. Depending on the occasion, the appelations can take between five and 10 minutes or more.
The use of the horns to sing Otumfuo’s appelations, is supposed to put him in good mood and the right frame of mind to deliver his messages to the satisfaction of his audience. The horn blowing and singing of appelations are therefore part and parcel of Ashanti cultural and traditional values which also signify the majesty of the Asantehene.
In all situations, no matter how long it takes, the Asantehene has to wait patiently for the horn blowers to end their appelations before he begins his addresses.
This was exactly what happened when Otumfuo Osei Tutu was called to the podium to deliver his address as the Chancellor of the KNUST at the Great Hall of the KNUST on July 8, 2017.
The horn blowers were in their best, and for almost 10 minutes, they succeeded in holding the audience, including the graduating students, spell bound, thus creating much excitement at the Great Hall.
It was, therefore, not surprising that there was spontaneous excitement when it finally ended, a situation that also induced the Asantehene to beam with broad smiles before going into the business of the day where he urged university administrators to devise means of building the capacity of students more meaningfully for them to meet the aspiration of industry.
“University education has become more critical in this era of sophisticated technologies, complex policies, organisation of knowledge and the ever-changing world dynamics, so if Ghana is to keep pace with these complexities, then middle-level manpower capacity should go beyond the diploma and first degrees into higher degrees,’’ the Asantehene challenged.
He added that “as a university, the least we can do to push forward the development agenda of Ghana is to be committed to the training, re-training and improvement of our human resource capacities in various disciplines with emphasis on science, engineering and technology.”
Expressing concern about the disparity between the teaching staff and students and their negative effect on academic performances, Otumfuo Osei Tutu said it was time the government yielded to the request of university administrators to recruit more lecturers to enhance efficient and effective academic work.
“The primary mandate of universities is to train the needed manpower to stimulate the development agenda of Ghana. Paradoxically, the universities themselves do not have the full complement of staff as the teacher-student ratio is far above what is required to provide conducive teaching and learning.
“The situation is not different from the administration and support staff of the universities. Management of universities have sought permission from the government to recruit staff for the efficient and effective management of the universities to no avail,” he lamented.
“My appeal to government is to consider as a matter of urgency to yield to the request of the universities to recruit staff for the management of the universities, thereby preventing the situation where improper training of students would be produced as manpower to the detriment of our society,” he stated.
Touching on funding of universities, he said the irregular disbursement of government’s subventions to the universities had not only been undermining meaningful planning, research and academic work, but was also affecting smooth community services.
“It is sad to note that the payment of subventions had not been regular over the years, making it difficult for universities to undertake meaningful planning to execute research and other academic activities. To compound the problem, the universities cannot hold onto their internally generated funds as about 84 per cent of internally generate funds are paid into government chest. Depriving universities of their internally generated funds and pay them into the consolidated fund is robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he complained.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu added that, “It is high time for Ghana to build a more sustainable means of funding universities. Over the years, the universities have been grappling with how to fund teaching, research and community service. This is as a result of insufficient subvention by government.”
Otumfuo’s address, especially, on the area where he urged university administrators to collaborate with government to build the capacity of students more meaningfully for them to meet the aspiration of industry, should not be brushed aside by the government.
This is because focusing attention on meaningful capacity building would ensure that products from the universities would be engaged by various industries, thereby consigning the challenges of graduate unemployment to history.
Many of such students would also be astute entrepreneurs to initiate small and medium-scale industries, and grow them to accelerate development. This will go a long way for Ghana to be recognised as one of the fast developing countries in Africa.
When he took his turn, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Kwasi Obiri-Danso, was emphatic on KNUST’s desire to collaborate with the government to go the Cuban way of producing nurses on large scale and exporting them to countries in Africa and beyond.
That, he said, would dignify the youth by providing them employment avenues while also generating foreign exchange for the government to initiate policies and programmes that would sustain accelerated development.
Nurses for export
“Two weeks ago, the university graduated a total of 7,045 nurses and added 280 more, bringing the total number to 7,325. The question is whether as a country, we should not start exporting our nurses to countries where there is the need. This will help curb the unemployment situation and earn foreign exchange revenue for the country at the same time,” Prof. Obiri-Danso suggested.
The Vice Chancellor’s address was also food for thought which should engage government’s attention. This is because if the Health Ministry and the Ghana Health Service collaborate with nursing training institutions to train nurses on large scale for export, it would soon become catchy to attract many of our youth who would earn a living through nursing.