The first ever female Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse, was yesterday sworn in at a colourful ceremony at the Great Hall of the university.
The ceremony was attended by dignitaries, including President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; former President J.A. Kufuor, a former Interim President of Liberia, Dr Amos Sawyer, and the Chairman of the Council of State, Nana Otuo Siriboe, who is also the Paramount Chief of the Juaben Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region.
Also in attendance were some government officials, past Chairmen of the University Council, former vice-chancellors, the management and staff of the university.
A distinguished civil servant and diplomat with the United Nations, Mrs Chinery-Hesse is described as an important voice on economic development issues and ardent defender of human rights, particularly women's rights.
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An alumna of the Volta Hall of the University of Ghana, Mrs Chinery-Hesse is an active advocate for African imperatives, conflict resolution and mediation.
President Akufo-Addo, who performed the swearing-in ceremony, described Mrs Chinery-Hesse as an outstanding Ghanaian fit to be made a chancellor of the university.
He said she was a worthy successor as a chancellor, considering her wealth of experience as a public servant and international diplomat of great repute.
The President commended the authorities of the university for the “excellent choice of this distinguished person, one who happens to be a firm believer in academic freedom”.
“As the first female chancellor of any Ghanaian public university, Mrs Chinery-Hesse blazes again a trail for other women to follow,” he said, and expressed the conviction that she would bring to bear what a woman could do.
He also commended the immediate past Chancellor of the university, Mr Kofi Annan, whom he described as “one of Ghana’s most illustrious sons under whose stewardship the university attained the rank of one of the best universities in West Africa”.
Expansion of facilities
Commenting on the free SHS policy, President Akufo-Addo tasked the universities to brace themselves up for the huge number of students who would be seeking admission for tertiary education and challenged them to begin making adequate preparations towards that.
“One of the most important immediate challenges that will confront this university and others will be the dramatically increased population of students who will be seeking admission in two years as a result of the free SHS policy,” he said.
He said the free SHS had come to stay and would be a permanent feature of the country’s educational architecture, insisting that “we cannot be caught off guard”.
President Akufo-Addo pledged government's commitment to support the university and all other universities in the country and expressed the conviction that the University of Ghana would continue to produce graduates who would take up higher positions globally.
He saluted the forefathers of the country for their untiring fight for freedom and justice and charged the youth to emulate their shining example which led to the attainment of independence.
In her acceptance speech, Mrs Chinery-Hesse thanked the authorities of the university for the honour bestowed on her.
“I salute the university for this ground-breaking appointment in the annals of university leadership. The chancellorship position just conferred on me is one I humbly accept, cherish more the associated responsibilities than any inherent privileges,” she said.
She promised not to be a ceremonial figure but one who would put all the skills she had learnt from the schools of life and the extensive networks she developed in the process at the disposal of the university.
While commending the university for the strides it had made in its gender composition, she noted that the progress continued to be uneven.
“While the proportion of undergraduate students who are female has grown appreciably, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Sciences and postgraduate studies still need to make progress in this regard.
“The situation with faculty has improved much more slowly and the university management continues to be largely male dominated. We need to continue to improve these numbers and also create favourable conditions and a conducive environment for female students and faculty to thrive at the University of Ghana,” the Chancellor stressed.
Mrs Chinery-Hesse acknowledged the efforts of the university to ensure gender parity and catalogued some of the strides so far made, such as the gender ratios in its current enrolment and admission pattern, the successful launch of sexual harassment policies and the establishment of the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy that coordinated gender-related issues and advised the university.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of the University Council, Professor Yaw Twumasi, said he was excited to be associated with Mrs Chinery-Hesse.