The 67th New School and Conference has ended and it is the hope of all and sundry that government would adhere to the recommendations suggested, by implementing them for the nation’s socio-economic advancement.
Among the numerous recommendations are the calls for the establishment of a national health data bank for professional health service workers, patients, pharmaceuticals, and other health information; to facilitate access to their data countrywide.
In addition, is the call for a more comprehensive review and restructuring of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), whilst its financing structure should be carried out to ensure sustainability.
The call by Reverend Professor Cephas Omenyo, the Provost, College of Education, University of Ghana, for the restructuring of the annual New Year School and Conference to attract more participants and to make its impact more evident, is a step in the right direction.
According to the Provost: “Some have questioned the relevance of the annual New Year School and Conference, as well as its impact on the population in the area of national policies formulation.”
The fact is that over the years, discussions from the School and Conference have often transcended far beyond mere talk show, and recommendations have attracted some attention from government.
The adoption of November 7 as the day for the 2016 general election was one of the recommendations from the 61st annual New Year School and Conference.
The 61st Annual New Year and Conference in January 2010 on the theme: “Sustaining Democratic Governance in Ghana: Issues Before the Nation,” recommended that the date of the national election should be changed from December 7 to the first Thursday of November every year.
The rationale was to ensure smooth transfer of power, as December 7, as currently established under the 1992 Constitution, puts undue pressure on the incoming and outgoing governments.
The change in date would allow more time for transfer of power.
In addition, the much praised and talked about NHIS is one of such key recommendations from one of the past editions of the New Year School and Conference; which has come a long way to shape the nation’s health sector.
This year, the School recorded a total number of 128 participants; made up of 76 registered participants, 35 University of Ghana staff and 17 resource persons. Of the 76 registered participants, men formed 75 per cent.
Prof Agyeman Badu Akosa, former Director General of the Ghana Health Service during a panel discussion at the New Year School and Conference, described this year’s edition as the scantiest New Year School, he had ever attended, which leaves much to be desired.
Although the organisers of the programme deserve double honour for the successful organisation; the University of Ghana must try as much as possible to device means and ways of restructuring the New Year School and Conference to improve upon participation in the next and subsequence editions.
Also room should be created for sponsorship of at least one undergraduate and postgraduate student from the various colleges of the University of Ghana to part take in the programme.
This would create more awareness among the up and coming future leaders of the country; so that when they eventually assume the realm of leadership in any facet of society in the near future, they would attach more importance to the recommendations of the annual New Year School and Conference.
For it is very surprising to hear some former students of the University confess that they have no idea of what the New Year School is all about.
On the other hand, government should also ensure that all the ministries, agencies and departments and the entire 216 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, are ably represented in every New Year School; since it is for the national good.
The annual New Year School and Conference has successfully been organised year after year, without any interruption regardless of which government is in power, and with or without government financial support.
It has over the years, brought people from all walks of life with diverse skills, professions and experiences to converge at the University of Ghana to deliberate on vital issues of national and international concern.
Born out of the philosophy of liberal education, the New Year School and Conference focuses on the intellectual development of participants.
In changing the face of the annual New Year School and Conference, two years ago, the then Institute of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Education, University of Ghana, launched a Five-Year Programme on a Broader Theme, with Annual Themes and Sub-Themes.
The broader theme for the five-year agenda is “Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and National Development.”
According to Prof Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, Dean of the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Education, University of Ghana, this agenda has been informed by the fact that as global efforts shift towards knowledge-based economies and smart societies, information and communication technologies have been identified as key to the development of skills and knowledge often associated with productivity, competition, wealth and general well-being of citizens.
“Therefore, there is no doubt that for Ghana to accelerate its economic growth and raise the living standards of its citizens in this era of social and technological innovation to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, new concepts, strategies, and organisations are required,” he said.
“The use of ICTs is essential to meet all kinds of socio-economic needs for Ghana to redefine its philosophy on the integration of all aspects of the economy to promote growth, social cohesion and the wellbeing and empowerment of its citizens, and also to position itself for the emerging middle-income knowledge economy,” he stated.
The first in the ICTs and National Development Themes for the Annual New Year School and Conference was the 65th Annual New Year School and Conference, January 2014, on the theme: “ICT-Driven Education for Sustainable Human Development: Challenges and Prospects,” with Prof Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Education, Winneba, delivering the Keynote Address.
The second in the ICTs and National Development Series was on the theme: “Improving the Performance of the Local Government System in the Era of E-Governance,” with Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Director, Institute of Local Government Studies, delivering the keynote address.
This year the organisers of the School and Conference selected the theme: “Promoting Universal Health for Sustainable Development in Ghana: Is ICT the Game Changer?”
Prof Oheneba-Sakyi described the theme as very appropriate and timely, considering the fact that the Ghanaian public has in recent times been inundated with news items that revolve the solvency of the NHIS, working conditions of health professionals, managing health records, corruption, accountability, transparency, and prudent fiscal management of resources both at the national and local levels in the midst of declining budgetary allocations.
Objectives of the 67th Annual New Year School and Conference were to provide the national platform for sharing of information and lessons among policy-makers, practitioners, and participants on; and how far Ghana’s e-Health Strategy has achieved its objectives
Prof Richard Adanu, Dean of the School of Public Health, University of Ghana, in his keynote address at the opening of the 67th New Year School and Conference observed that, he envisioned a time in Ghana when ICTs could be used for appointments scheduling to avoid queues at the hospitals, call centres, referral systems and smart interactive web pages to give advice and medical information to patients.
Indeed, ICT has a vital role to play in changing and modernising the nation’s healthcare delivery and build foundations for addressing non-communicable diseases.
Hopefully the School would in the near future offer another platform on: “The Role of ICT in Advancing Ghana’s Agriculture,” to enable participants come out with ways and means of harnessing the agriculture potential of the nation.
Airtel Ghana deserves commendation for being the main sponsor of the event with a donation of GHȼ 200,000 in cash and GHȼ 50,000 in kind and other corporate entities should emulate this kind gesture.
As a nation, the annual New Year School must be held in high esteem by all and sundry, especially government and stakeholders; since it contributes in a substantial way in shaping our destiny.
A GNA Feature by Iddi Z. Yire