The Minister of Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, yesterday opened the fifth workshop of the Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project and called on Africa to focus on higher education and especially on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
She said that was necessary in order to address the seeming shortage of skills in the face of a steady economic growth and expansion in the continent.
Addressing the opening session of a three-day workshop at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said the continent had undoubtedly experienced remarkable development.
“Our significant economic attainments have helped to change the world’s understanding of the African region, and have given good assurances for the future,” she said.
The Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project is a World Bank-sponsored initiative aimed at promoting regional specialisation in fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, earth and agriculture that address regional development challenges, as well as facilitating the delivery of high-quality training and applied research, and meeting the skills demand of the regional labour market.
The ACE Project has two main components with the first one seeking to strengthen the capacity of 22 competitively selected institutions as centres of excellence that would deliver regional and quality training and applied research, in partnership with regional and international academic institutions and industry-related organisations.
The second component seeks to support regional capacity-building activities, project implementation, monitoring and evaluation and develop regional policies.
In addition, to boost regional collaboration and strengthen higher educational institutions, support is to be provided to The Gambia so that its institutions can purchase educational services from the centres of excellence established under the first component.
Rebranding of technical education
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang announced that the country had put in place a number of interventions to address the challenges that science, mathematics and technology faced.
She mentioned them as including training of science and mathematics teachers as well as the recruitment of qualified teachers across the country “to support our young ones from the basic to the senior high school levels as part of efforts to prepare them for technical, vocational education and training at the higher level”.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang also said the government had made remarkable progress in rebranding technical, vocational education and training at the higher level of education.
“By September 2016, six of our 10 polytechnics will be converted to technical universities as part of our strategy to train students to acquire high-level technical skills to drive the country’s economic and national development agenda,” she told the international gathering.
Centres of Excellence in Ghana
She announced that Ghana had three centres of excellence. Two of them, West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), were being hosted by the University of Ghana, Legon, while the third, the Centre for Water and Environmental Sanitation, was located at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang reported that each centre had prepared short courses for industry experts to help in knowledge and skills upgrading.
All Africa Universities
The Secretary-General of the All Africa Universities (AAU), Prof. Etienne Ehile, expressed happiness that the workshop would create an opportunity for the participants to exchange information and learn from best practices in order to make the project more efficient at all the implementing centres.
He gave an assurance that the AAU was commited to ensuring the achievement of the aims and aspirations of the project, with support from the World Bank.