The Vice-Chancellor of University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), Professor John Owusu Gyapong, has asked the country’s universities to use lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to help accelerate the institutional reform agenda.
“We need to change the way we do business. It should not be business as usual and the key areas l propose we look at digital transformation, effective leadership, strong institutional culture and sustainable funding,” he said.
“There is the need for us to begin to do things differently as universities if we are going to survive the environment.”
Prof. Gyapong gave the advice at the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa when he spoke on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Around the World” at the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) 20th biennial delegates conference.
He said, “We need to embed digital transformation into our institutional culture, invest in digital infrastructure, develop online design competencies, entrench technology-mediated modalities of teaching and learning, develop holistic and innovative curricula, students centred learning and policies that address the digital divide.”
He said the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 forced universities around the world to be confronted with unprecedented challenges that simultaneously exposed and exacerbated existing deficiencies and dysfunctions.
Universities in Africa were among the most affected and least able to manage the multi-pronged crisis because of their pre-existing capacity challenges that centred around financial resources, physical and technological infrastructure, leadership and governance, human capital and research output, Prof. Gyapong indicated.
He said many Africa universities suffered from limited digital infrastructure, capacity and connectivity, which made it difficult for them to transition online for education, research and administration.
He said while some universities produced sanitisers and face masks the advanced communities produced ventilators, Epi Tents for patient isolation and mobile hospitals, testing kits and robots for delivery of food and medicines to patients.
Others researched the epidemiology of COVID treatment, the socio-economic impact, provided advisory services to the government, developed software to monitor the pandemic spread, created awareness and provided psycho-socio support to their constituents and the society.
He stated that COVID-19 should be a wake-up call to our research capabilities, science, technology and innovation systems, manufacturing capabilities, inter-institutional and interdisciplinary collaboration through existing consortia
Prof. Gyapong said despite innovations made in some universities “the scale of collaboration with the industry that takes headline-making innovation beyond the walls of an institution is conspicuously missing, This can provide an opportunity for further validation and a path to widespread adoption and commercialization.”
The Vice-Chancellor explained that “When the pandemic broke in Ghana, we met leaders in the educational sector and they gave us all the promises but when the rubber hit the road we were found wanting.
We could have thrown our hands in the air and said we don’t have it so that is the end but as University managers, administrators and academia who have to do the teaching we all pulled together to get things going so the digital divide for me had been a very key transformational issue when it comes to managing COVID-19 in the educational environment.”
“So the funding of research to universities should not just be a talk show but it should materialize. We are still waiting for the reconstruction national research fund to be operationalized so that we can access those sums of monies to be able to do the kind of research that would impact our country from across disciplines,” he added.