The establishment of Technical Universities in Ghana is “timely”, but must be in “phases, a few at a time” to avoid mistakes associated with upgrading Polytechnics to tertiary institutions.
“Abortive-take-offs are expensive and have disastrous consequences,” Dr Paul Effah, Former Executive Secretary of the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) has cautioned.
“By far it is the government that has the biggest responsibility to set up Technical Universities and set them up well” he said.
Dr Effah said the problem with the Polytechnics was partly because the decision to elevate them “was implemented in haste.”
“The upgrading of polytechnics to tertiary status did not address the problem of deficit in skills training in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).”
“The Polytechnics received about 28 per cent of their assessed financial requirements, although this increased to about 50 per cent in 2000, given the magnitude of the requirements, it was far below what was required to enable them to meet their objectives,” Dr Effah said.
“They (Technical Universities) have to be well resourced and positioned to train people in the TVET to the highest level possible.”
Dr Effah was delivering the maiden “Rector’s Distinguished Lecture Series” instituted by the Ho Polytechnic.
The topic was “The role of the New Technical Universities in the improvement and implementation of TVET concept.”
Dr Effah, a Scholar in residence at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), said the proposed Technical Universities must not suffer the fate of the Polytechnics, which prevented them from operating “on the same scale as their counterparts in South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands.”
He said the government must therefore follow the examples of China and India and channel “unprecedented sums into “our Technical Universities.”
Dr Effah said all stakeholders have the responsibility towards making the proposed Technical Universities vibrant partners in Ghana’s economic development “particularly in addressing graduate unemployment…in reducing poverty and raising the standard of living.”
This would require that industry forged partnership with the Technical universities in curriculum design and practical attachments and internships.
Both students and teachers must bring into the university, problems facing industry, study them and find solutions to those problems if they were to become relevant, Dr Effah stated.
He advised that the internship and attachment programmes of the proposed Technical Universities must be all –year- round to permit the release of students in smaller numbers to industry.
“It is impossible to release a total of about 50,000 students pursuing TVET programmes during one long vacation to industry”, he said.
Dr Effah, also, President of Radford University College, Accra, said student attachments should not be limited to large scale enterprises. “The small and medium, scale businesses are available to offer attachment programmes,” he said.
“Some incentive packages should be worked out to make attachments and practical training attractive to industry,” he suggested.
While endorsing the establishment of Technical Universities in Ghana, Dr Effah indicated that “Polytechnic education is good for the country.”
He likened the Polytechnics to the community colleges in the United States of America (USA) as the foundation providing technical and career-oriented programmes to feed the technical universities to provide opportunities for all categories of students who are TVET inclined to progress to the highest level possible without losing focus.
“The country would benefit by creating more opportunities for students to go through the TVET stream,” he said.
“No system of education is complete without TVET, which is one critical avenue for creating opportunities for the child to escape poverty and move upward on the social ladder…” Dr Effah said.
In his inaugural address Professor Emmanuel K. Sakyi, Rector of Ho Polytechnic said the lecture series sought to give “our lecturers and students as well as the community, the rare opportunity to learn directly from those who have excelled through innovation and dedication to their work.
“It is hoped that through the ‘Distinguished Lecture Series,’ we would be able to provoke serious debate about a range of topics that will not only inform but produce policies and programmes about technical and vocational education and training in Ghana”
He said the Rector’s Lecture series, which has become one of the key events on the Polytechnic’s academic calendar will attract distinguished scholars and “the highest calibre from the world of academia, business, industry and civil society to enhance our academic experience…” GNA