UTAG Did Our Students No Favor Whatsoever

I don’t blame the members of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) for embarking on their recent strike action; and neither would I commend the executive members of UTAG for calling off their strike, largely because the rationale given by UTAG’s President Anthony Simmons is rather myopic and academically unregenerate and unsound (See “We Suspended Strike Because of Our Students – UTAG” Peacefmonline / Ghanaweb?4/17/13).

I have no kudos, whatsoever for the UTAG executive membership because the latter clearly fails to recognize the all-too-stark fact that the future success of Ghanaian college and university students is inextricably intertwined with the intellectual and cultural, as well as the technological, socioeconomic and political development of the country.

In sum, UTAG’s strike action was far less about the need for students to sit for their examinations on schedule, than about the far-reaching implications of the caliber of students annually graduated by the country’s three leading universities. And as one who was directly affected by university strike actions prior to my auspicious departure from the country in 1985, I can frankly testify that I have absolutely no love lost for what presently passes for modern Ghanaian education.

What with the unsavorily perennial culture of exam-paper leakage and the rampant cancellation of WAEC-sponsored examinations? I also don’t miss Ghanaian education because, by and large, the leaders of our academic institutions, during the course of the last three decades, have not shown any remarkable administrative competence and vision.

As garnered from the abjectly poor quality of language usage and the gaping dearth of contribution to academic journals and the publication and sponsorship of the latter, we, Ghanaians, have a very long way to go. Our morbid fixation on membership in foreign academic organizations and petty honors is rather nauseating, to speak much less about the patently absurd.

Rampant strikes also means that not much sustainable research projects are being undertaken and/or sponsored. And this is the more reason why even on the African continent itself, hitherto flagship academies like the University of Ghana, Cape Coast and Science and Technology appear to have decidedly been relegated to second-class academies.

In the latest ranking of African universities that I read on one of the major Ghanaian news websites, two Ghanaian critics of these periodic rankings lamely attempted to muff up the seriousness of the problem by facilely chalking it to inadequate Internet presence of these aforementioned flagship academies. Nonetheless, we all know that the grim truth lies somewhere between the woeful underfunding of these major national brain trusts by the government and abject lack of diligence on the part of faculty, irrespective of discipline.

What is needed presently is an academic and cultural revolution, one that places an emphasis on cutting-edge research activities and best-practice pedagogical innovativeness. To be certain, the talent is widely and readily available; what seems to be sorely lacking are policies that encourage the generous rewarding of academic enterprise and/or scholarship. This partially explains the mass migration of Ghanaian intellectuals and scholars from the classroom and research laboratories into Parliament and the political arena in general.

Needless to say, any country that lacks a viable brain trust is destined to wallow in misery and abject impoverishment. Dropping computer laptops into the arms of high school students at the seasonal height of a political campaign, and in the heart of “darkness” or a chronic and perennial “dumsonomic culture,” is not good governance.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Department of English

Nassau Community College of SUNY

Garden City, New York

April 19, 2013

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