Nii Armah Addy’s thoughts … COVID-19 pandemic: our university in adversity (1)

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Need I talk about Covid-19 and its scare on the world? No single publication can aptly encapsulate the devastating effect of Covid-19 in the world. Perhaps a good report on Covid-19 will be to zero in on individual sectors of the economy. Not to lump everything omnibus only to scratch the surface. Mine is specificity on Ghana’s university education.

In a series of three (3) part article, I will analyse the effect of Covid-19 on Ghana’s universities. In this article, I will focus on the effect of Covid-19 on education in Ghana with in-depth analysis on our universities.

Global education is under attack by the Covid-19 pandemic. From early childhood to university education is suffering setbacks. While some countries are doing well in their management process of the situation, other countries are yet to get round the table to draw policy to guide their educational improvement in the wake of the Covid-19.

Countries that are handling the effect of Covid-19 on the education are those that had foresight and had long and progressively anticipated the future of education and therefore put in place necessary structures which have come of benefit to their educational system. Undoubtedly, developing countries are suffering the lack of effective continuous education in the wake of Covid-19 due to resources constraints and the lack of vision by our universities to be in sync to global education development.

At the basic education level, the rich private schools are using technology aided teaching platforms to continue teaching their pupil in the privacy of their homes while the public schools has to use television aided teaching means of teaching and learning. This means of learning is only for the middle income community dwellers. How about those who do not have television? Little or nothing is done for rural dwellers education. They have no electricity and therefore have no television. This exposes the disparity of the have and has not, hence worsening the plight of rural education that competes in same international education.

This reflection calls for educational curriculum that seeks the relevance of rural dwellers. I have researched extensively on rural education and made public my findings to helping ameliorate the situation. Interested institutions can call for my policy proposal in rural education development.

Management of Ghana’s universities and educational policy makers have been exposed by their lack of foresight, exaggerated importance and the need for money. Public and private universities alike cannot be exonerated from the suffering that has been brought on students in this time of their educational life.

While management of public universities have assumed a demigod stature, their counterparts in the private universities are much concerned about their return-on-investment and possible bank loans that ought to be serviced unfailingly. On the public universities, they are but a cult that belongs to some group of immortal beings. You either belong or you are kept million miles away. They know it all and careless about the tax payers’ money that pays their salaries. In effect, they are riding on the heads of the people who feeds them.

For the private universities, it is quiet understandable. They are running an income and expenditure institutions. They needed to protect anything that brings expenditure and encourage income. Apparently, the public universities also have the money agenda. Summarily, in Ghana, public universities are more of a problem to the development of university education than the private universities considering the resources available to both parties.

In the following subheadings, I will analyse the effect of Covid-19 on Ghana’s universities situating them in adversity. The problem could have been mitigated if sound reasoning existed and allowed love for country to override individual sentimentalities.

  1. Public University Policy

In a progressively developing country like Rwanda, they have a common university policy that governs all their public universities. As a matter of policy and practice, all public universities in Rwanda are under a single umbrella called University of Rwanda.

This doesn’t use to be so in some years past, but progressive development, astute management and focus for the ultimate goal of quality education led a policy directive into bringing all public universities in Rwanda under single governance. The pessimism in Ghana’s public universities must be cured quickly like an infected sour than to be allowed to continue spreading.

The situation in Ghana is far different where some public universities have a posture of importance than others. They raised argument of unequal resources including; higher lecturer qualification for promotion, infrastructure, courses and students numbers.

Public universities in Ghana do not belong to the management of the universities. They belong to Ghanaians whose taxes keep the universities functioning. The Presidency, Ministry of Education and Parliament must take a firm and enforceable decision to put all public universities under a single umbrella for uniformity of governance. If government fails to do it, a citizen action must be applied by Civil Society Organisations.

Ghana’s public universities have for a long time allowed individuals to hold the universities in their pocket as if it is their property and as a result pulled the public good into the abyss of disparity. They feed their egos to the detriment of the country.

If Ghana’s public universities were under a single policy, fashioning a single policy for continuous teaching and learning in the face of Covid-19 would have been managed better than. But as it is now, autonomous decisions are taken by various public universities incognito.

  1. Private University Policy

Private as they are; they must be regulated under a policy that will foster quality teaching and learning. Transfer of grades and taking transferable courses from different campuses must be possible. This will harness resource and help students get the best tuition from the most competent lecturers and campuses that have the best facilities for specific semester courses.

Dispersed resources in view of competition do not work for university education which is a common good. For instance, students enrolled at Central University in Business Administration should be able to take an elective course in Economics in Ashesi University for a semester and transfer grade to Central University and vice versa.

Countries faced with peculiar situations must find unique means through policy directives and cooperation among like-minded institutions to flourish. Ghana’s private university education is one of such example that needs unique solutions to bringing them to prominence; the likes of the Ivy League universities in America where the model of public university emanated.

If there has been synergy among private universities in Ghana, continuous teaching and learning by students and universities in the wake of Covid-19 would have had less negative impact than it is now. It would have been the case that students from other private universities would participate in online courses from partnering universities and transfer grades to their original universities. Knowing that not all universities have all the resources to conduct effective online teaching and learning, cooperation among universities will be the best way to go.

In the absence of common policies governing public and private universities to promote resource sharing, Ghana’s universities are suffering unlike their counterparts in the developed countries.

In part 2 and 3 of this series, I will analyse the following points that hinges on effective online teaching and learning in the university namely; IT infrastructure, lecturer skills and experience in online teaching, online teaching assistance, university repository of online teaching materials (particularly university’s own YouTube videos), internet connectivity, availability of personal electronic gadget (computers, laptop, smart phone) for learning, electricity, student assessment and financing.

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