Professional education incongruence and its consequences: snoring to the detriment of the nation (1)

The growing development of lack of professionals in vital sectors of Ghana’s socio-economic space is worrying. There seem to be wanton disregard for this growing phenomenon largely by officialdom who are expected to regulate and make policies that will guide the healthy growth of the Ghanaian society. The over-estimated regard for some professions has almost become like a cult, seen as a preserve of a fortunate few rather than giving a wider opportunity to many who are deserving, able, and qualified. Sadly, these are professions that have telling effect on the socio-economic wellbeing of the people which manifests in the development or under development of nations.

In this article, I will dwell on three (3) professions whose professional education are a whopping failure in matching their levels of performance to what is required by the general population of Ghana. These professions are Mental Health, Law and Accountancy.

In the foregoing paragraphs, I will discuss the gigantic failure of these three (3) professions to help improve the socio-economic wellbeing of Ghanaians and how they can turn around to help in the development of the nation.

  1. Mental Health

The definition for mental health has changed from time to time to reflect the current trends in societal and private life. Generally speaking, mental health refers to the human cognitive, behavioural, and emotional wellbeing. Though sometimes referred to as mental disorder, mental health has everything to do with how humans think, feel, and behave.

Mental health can affect all aspects of human relationship and interaction with self and society. A mentally affected person can sometimes be seen in the physical appearance (though this is on the lower level compared to the number of mentally affected persons which does not show in the physical appearance). Simply put, whether seen in the physical appearance or not, poor mental health affects one’s psychological resilience.

The degree of awkwardness in one’s behaviour precipitates a general description of mental disorder. Albeit, it is a mental condition that the specialist or a trained mental health officer is best to prescribe. As a human non-medical person, my inclination to this subject is tuned to the educational needs of the nation to attain the requisite mental health professionals needed to meet the country’s need for its socio-economic balance.

The pressures of family, work and societal life requires that all and sundry receive mental check-up regularly. However, the huge question remains that “how has professional health education flourished in order to attract the required number of mental health professionals and mental health facilities to meet the standards required by the population”?

It is a fact that the ratio of mental health professionals i.e. professional psychiatrists to the Ghanaian population is 1: 1.7million. It is estimated that Ghana has only twenty-four (24) professional psychiatrists. This is a staggering and frightening statistic. No nation desirous of development should harbour such a sorry state of its mental health.

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The congruence in mental health education which does not provide adequate mental health professionals, one that provides for the mental health needs of the nation will have a consequential effect of having majority the population with mental imbalance, hence a tolling effect on the socio-economic development of the nation.

A call for strategic direction

Government must expedite actions to seriously call for a revamping of mental health education in Ghana. The Ministry of Health must have strategic achievable plans of increasing mental health professionals in Ghana. Whether it is the case that many clinical psychology students who write the professional exams do not qualify or the mental health profession is not attractive to many students, remains a task for the authorities concerned.

There should absolutely be no excuse for a national deficiency in mental health professionals when what it takes to train and qualify is not out of the reach of the nation. The situation must be seen as a national crisis and an immediate time-line be given for remedy. On this score, I will propose a four (4) point recommendation to solving the professional mental health education and practice in Ghana.

  1. Funding

Government, corporate institutions and educational philanthropists must provide funding for the award of full scholarships and stipends for deserving, able and qualified students to enrol in professional mental health education in Ghana. I am referring to the study of clinical psychology.

If approached from the angle of a national deficiency, urgency will be made at raising the funds and disbursing for the right purpose devoid of the corruption of misappropriation and the lackadaisical attitudes of public officials usually associated with health management in Ghana.

The funds must not only be limited to students but also to qualified mental health professionals to go pursue further studies in new trends so as to impact the training of students. This will be a worthy way of spending national resources than many of the projects we read in the tabloids.

Funding of mental health education must be devoid of a populist approach as it must not be seen as another political gimmick but rather a conscientious effort to providing a lasting solution to mental health in Ghana.

  1. Curriculum change

The idea that clinical psychology is only studied at the master’s degree level for only applicants who studied psychology at first degree is in my estimation an anti-contextualise approach to solving a debilitating national problem like mental health. That approach must with immediate effect, be pushed to the back burner and the ashes be thrown into the deep blue sea.

The essence of any quality education is to provide solutions to societal problems. Any education that does not achieve this goal is a waste of national resource and stagnation of socio-economic development. The new curriculum must encompass the key elements in mental health education and its complete management.

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Also the curriculum must make way for progression of students with other qualifications in mental health and other nursing programmes to advance their education in mental health leading to the professional qualification of clinical psychologists.

  • Accreditation of private universities to run degree programmes in clinical psychology

The fact remains that public universities in Ghana are still given undue advantage over private universities despite the fact that some private universities have better facilities to students’ ratio than some public universities. It seems like the University of Ghana remains the only university in Ghana that offers clinical psychology.

If this is a fact, then I must say it is a shouting failure on our educational system and a collective lack of foresight on our educational system to purposefully solve the educational problems of the nation. A national problem requires that policy makers decisively regulate the nation’s affairs so as to draw partners in the area that requires national attention.

This will require that certain leverage be given to institutions that have the capacity to run such courses to do so without the needed bureaucracy that characterises first time private institution’s interest. As long as they demonstrate interest and have a good percentage of facilities, they should be helped in ways that will help them offer the programme rather than dissuade them.

  1. Job assurance and satisfaction

Job assurance and satisfaction is one of many reasons why students enrol on some courses. It will become a déjà vu if after acquiring a professional health qualification in mental health, there will be no job placement and/or satisfaction. If government sees the poor state of mental health in Ghana as a setback to socio-economic development, then it must be willing to guarantee job assurance to professionals and also pay them premium salary.

This attempt may draw many more interest to the study of professional mental health if they have to make a decision with other courses of study. It is amazingly satisfactory if students will get to study courses of their interest and be remunerated handsomely.

After all, we cannot entirely dissociate job assurance and satisfaction as a motivating factor for the choice of courses of study by students. In a country where graduate unemployment is high, having an assurance of a profession that promises job assurance and satisfaction will be a big motivation for many to enrol in that course. Though not for the fun of government churning out jobs but strategically solving a debilitating national mental health problem.

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