Even if he was not a card-bearing member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), the former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana would still be one of the most fetching candidates for the prime cabinet portfolio of Minister of State for Tertiary Education (See “I’m a Card-Bearing NPP Member – Kwesi Yankah” / 3/27/17). Another equally good candidate for the job of Tertiary-Education Minister that I personally lobbied for, voluntarily, in several of my columns some 8 years ago, is Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, the former Vice-Chancellor of the country’s flagship academy, whose arch-lieutenant Prof. Yankah became. Actually, if memory serves me accurately, Prof. Yankah was Legon’s Pro-Vice Chancellor before Prof. Aryeetey became the Vice-Chancellor.

Presently, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Emmanuel Owusu, is either my classmate or my contemporary at Okwawu-Nkwatia’s St. Peter’s Secondary School (PERSCO). I faintly remember the man. I also know that we were classmates and/or contemporaries from reading a couple of his biographies in the media. His very impressive academic credentials tell me that Prof. Owusu, literally, has it all together, as we, New Yorkers, are wont to say. Well, I selected the afore-referenced news article to compose my commentary for the present column because it deals with something very significant that Prof. Yankah said during his confirmation hearings or parliamentary vetting, recently. The distinguished Cultural Anthropologist observed that seminal academies like the University of Ghana, Cape Coast and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), were established by the State as discrete specialist academies that doggedly pursued such clear-cut disciplinary enterprises as Liberal Arts Education, as was the case of the University of Ghana; and Science Education, in the case of the University of Cape Coast; and the Physical and Technological Sciences in the case of KNUST.

In reality, though, Prof. Yankah’s observation is not quite historically accurate, for the University of Ghana, whose founding was staunchly and singularly championed by Dr. J. B. Danquah, the acclaimed Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian Politics, was a veritable “Omnibus University.” What the foregoing means is that Legon originally housed both a College of Science and Technology and a College of Education. It was President Kwame Nkrumah who split up, or atomized, and relocated these two major colleges to Kumasi and Cape Coast, respectively. Indeed, it was the decision to dissociate these two colleges from the University of Ghana that sparked the very public controversy between the Anglo-Irish then-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Connor Cruise O’Brien, and the increasingly extortionate and irrepressibly dictatorial Ghanaian leader.

It is also significant to observe that it was President Nkrumah who had personally invited Prof. O’Brien from the United Kingdom to assume the post of Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s seminal academy. He would bitterly complain that Ghana’s president was unsavorily and unhealthily politicizing the faculty and staff of the University and be forced to resign. Shortly thereafter, Prof. O’Brien would be named a Dean at the globally renowned New York University.

What is dead-on accurate about the observation made by Prof. Yankah is the fact that over the course of time, Ghanaian universities, like most of their counterparts in other parts of the world, have been forced to justify their existence and societal relevance by becoming more practically and culturally responsive to the needs and aspirations of the individuals and societies or communities which they were designed and directed to serve. In the process, the leaders of these institutions have had to retool their administrative skills to include that of public relations experts and salesmen and women for their institutions. This new social reality necessitates the ability of college and university presidents and vice-chancellors to be able to raise funding for student scholarship awards and faculty research. This new social reality also makes it necessary for scholars and scientists to forge a seamless functional relationship with industry, in order to rapidly and mutually enhance the symbiotic role between our knowledge-creating academies and the positive transformation of such knowledge into science and technology products.

Where such relationship and/or partnership succeeds, state subvention and political influence become significantly and healthily minimal. This ought to be the ultimate objective of the new realignment of the industry and academic enterprise.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York