The Chairman of the Governing Council of the Accra Business School (ABS), Prof. Kwame Boasiako Omane-Antwi, has underscored the need for private universities to be strengthened to contribute their quota to provide easy access to tertiary education for free senior high school (SHS) graduates.
Consequently, he has called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, support private universities in the acquisition of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) architecture to facilitate teaching and learning.
He said the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic had led to a paradigm shift from traditional teaching and learning to the virtual space, hence the need for universities to be adequately equipped to embrace digital learning to ensure quality educational outcomes which would, in the end, benefit the nation for its human resource development.
Prof. Omane-Antwi was speaking at the 11th congregation of the ABS at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra last Saturday.
It was on the theme: “Education in a post-COVID-19 era: A digital perspective”.
A total of 227 students were conferred with various degrees and awarded diplomas by the school.
Ms Richlove Owusu Akomea was adjudged the Overall Best Student (MSc), having received the Valedictorian Award.
Prof. Omane-Antwi said factors such as a strong digital infrastructure, expansion of broadband infrastructure, the adoption and implementation of government policies and programmes designed for future-oriented education, constant power supply, among others, were crucial to ensuring successful digital learning in a post-COVID-19 era.
“Speaking as the Chairman of the Governing Council of a private university, I wish to make a special appeal to the government, on behalf of private universities in Ghana, that the factors enumerated above, particularly support in the acquisitisition of ICT architecture, including supply of data and network connectivity for teaching and learning, should claim the urgent attention of the government.
“Private universities should be strengthened to play a pivotal role in providing easy access to tertiary education for free SHS graduates, as well as the STEM(M) – Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine educational agenda of forward-looking countries today,” he said.
Prof. Omane-Antwi, while commending the management of the school for its contribution to the academic lives of its students, charged the students to, in turn, be loyal to the county in their various capacities as professionals, emphasising: “As you go out there as policy makers, educational entrepreneurs or whatever capacity you may find yourselves in the public space, remember that your country needs you, as history is being written with great speed.”
Additionally, he said, the narrative in the higher educational sector was changing rapidly, especially in the context of the new regulatory framework developed for all private universities, and that the ABS, with determination and a sense of purpose, was poised to soon join the already existing fully fledged chartered institutions.
“We pride ourselves at the Accra Business School on the quality of our teaching and of the learning and student experience, and I think there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that we do it at the highest threshold,” Prof. Omane-Antwi said.
Delivering the keynote address, a Deputy Minister of Education, Rev. John Ntim Fordjour, said the government was committed to supporting private universities to aid accessibility to quality tertiary education towards the attainment of the 40 per cent gross tertiary enrolment by the year 2030.
He added that the government had accelerated efforts at delivering digital learning, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the call by Prof. Omane-Antwi to invest in the development of digital learning was a step in the right direction.
He noted that the government had taken steps to realign teaching technologies at both the tertiary and the pre-tertiary levels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Cedric Bell, the President of the ABS, in his remarks, noted that the school had repositioned itself towards achieving its goal of becoming a leading Business School in Africa.
There are 73 accredited private universities in the country, contributing to the provision of tertiary and specialised education in the country.
Over the years, however, many of them have been suffering due to the low number of intake and the cost of teaching and learning.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which saw the closure of schools and the introduction of online teaching and learning, affected many tertiary institutions.
Prof. Omane-Antwi's call is the latest by managers of private universities, following similar calls by the Methodist University College of Ghana, the Presbyterian University College, the African University College of Communications (AUCC) and the Private Universities Association of Ghana (PUSAG).
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG), Rt Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante, last March implored the government to come to terms with the fact that private universities were very key stakeholders in the delivery of quality education in the country and so it ought to be intentional about helping them to position themselves to provide higher education for the citizenry.
Rt Rev. Prof. Mante reiterated his call on the government to take a second look at its level of support to the mission-founded universities to see how best it could provide educational support and incentive packages for the private universities.
Also, the PUSAG has, on several occasions, expressed concern about the fact that private universities in Ghana did not have access to government interventions such as the GETFund, state scholarship and research grants or subsidy for infrastructure expansion.
Again, the President of the AUCC, Dr Christopher Akwaa-Mensah, had, at a school event, called on stakeholders in the educational sector to expand debate on the absorption of fees to help the private universities have more intake to help resolve the enrolment deficit for tertiary education.