Presbyterian University calls for strong systems amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Ghana’s education sector stakeholders have been advised to build strong systems and world-class infrastructure to remain resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic and other future occurrences.

Reverend Professor Emmanuel Adow Obeng, President of Presbyterian University College (PUCG), who made the call, said the COVID-19 pandemic had brought about some unimaginable challenges to governments, institutions like education, families and individuals.

“Nonetheless, there are great opportunities amid this storm that tertiary institutions can leverage for a successful future,” he said.

He advised that it was critical in the pandemic time for all stakeholders in education to come together and build robust educational infrastructure and systems.

He gave the advice at the 15th graduation ceremony of PUCG on the theme: “Thriving in adversity: Lifelong lessons from a pandemic,” at the Okwahu campus, Abetifi.

A total of 586 students graduated from various programmes in the 2020/2021 academic year.

The figure comprises 324 males, representing 55.3 per cent and 262 females, representing 44.7 per cent.

Out of that, 83 obtained first class, 275 obtained second class upper division, 216 had second class lower division and 12 got third class.

Prof Obeng said it was important the government supported private tertiary institutions to thrive during the pandemic.

He said the state needed to institute deliberate measures to support private tertiary institutions as it was doing for public institutions.

He proposed the investment in Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in all educational institutions and robust training of lecturers in online teaching and examinations.

He also suggested the formulation of appropriate policies that will guide, support and direct tertiary institutions and research.

This would help increase investment and policy support to tertiary institutions, especially private not-for-profit institutions.

He said, “I wish to note that any support from industry and government to tertiary institutions must cater for both public as well as private universities.

“The current practice where private universities are cut off from any government support from even a common fund such as GETFund needs to be reconsidered.

“Several calls have been made for this, but they seem to fall on deaf ears.”

“I wish to call upon the Heads of Churches to do some advocacy work on this for us. We are all in the business of training Ghanaians for Ghana. The perception that private universities are established for profit is very untrue,” Rev. Prof. Obeng said.

In the name of fairness, he stressed, there must be some support for the private universities, especially the non-for-profit ones, to benefit from the GETFund to survive the pandemic.

The pandemic has dramatically reshaped the way global education is delivered with millions of learners being affected by educational institution closures.

The situation has resulted in the largest online movement in the history of education.

Prof Obeng stated that a new hybrid model of education had emerged and given the digital divide, new shifts in education approaches could widen equality gaps.

He said the pandemic has succeeded in exposing the world to serious challenges underpinning the educational systems and the need to reform to meet the basic objective of education, which is to develop spacious thinking in the younger generations.

“Many Universities have resorted to online teaching and conduct of examinations of which some experienced success but others could not adapt to the system because they did not have the infrastructure to operate.’’

He said the need for reform had become urgent due to the plethora of challenges faced when tertiary institutions switched to online platforms.

Highlighting some of the challenges, Rev. Prof. Obeng said lack of robust systems to support online learning, bare problems of infrastructure and capacities in Universities and Colleges.

“The degree of quality of education has come under scrutiny as education institutions are compelled to switch to online learning, lecturers still struggling to maintain the same depth of engagement with students they could have in a classroom setting,” he said.

“There is the need to find solutions and fast to avoid a dip in the quality of education being provided, especially with respect to online examinations.”

He explained that the finances of institutions were in crisis, especially the private set-ups whose finances are mainly from fees paid by students and donor grants.

The economic consequences of the pandemic have been particularly severe for low and lower-middle-income countries of which Ghana is no exception as the world has been plunged into the deepest global recession in living memory.

Rev Prof Obeng advised the graduates to be resilient and creative, network among themselves, linking their ideas, strength, small resources and connections together to start small businesses.

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