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The principal reason why I wrote my recently launched books is the poor writing skills exhibited by some recent graduates of our tertiary education system.

Besides grammatical issues, it is very difficult to comprehend some of the things they write. What I call ‘Twi-nglish’ or ‘Ga-nglish’ is so rife in their scripts. It is that serious.

I chose to provide a guide to writing features and creative writing because these are write-ups many a practicing journalist and PR practitioner struggles with.

Having contributed what I could by publishing the two books, I sought to know what could account for the so called poor quality of university graduates. I found out that the challenges are hydra-headed.

Inadequate faculty results in one lecturer handling many students. That students stand outside lecture halls to listen to lectures, is a common occurrence on the campuses of our public tertiary institutions.

Inadequate remuneration for the little faculty available causes them to put in very little or no extra efforts. They save their energies for part-time ‘gigs’ at the numerous other universities around. It is therefore very common to find a lecturer who lectures at the Communication Department of university A, B and C. They call it ‘galamsey’. In the process, the students don’t get what they deserve.

Recently, I had cause to interact with students from some of these schools. I was ‘shockprised’ when one of them, who is studying for a Public Relations degree told me that although they have been taught what a Press Release is, she has not seen one before. Talk less of having ever written one. Essentially, but for our encounter, she could have graduated, possibly with a 1st Class degree in PR, without knowing what a Press Release looks like.

I concede that university education is not about being spoon-fed. But I know that for effective teaching and learning to have taken place, an assignment could have been given in this regard. Through that homework, the students would have researched and found out for themselves, the elements of a Press Release. A bonus would be for their work to be marked with shortfalls indicated in the form of remarks.

There was this other student whose news stories left so much to be desired. I was thus compelled to ask if their lecturers mark and share their scripts with them. “Sometimes they do, other times they don’t,” she responded.

Fortunately, she knows about the 5Ws and H. So I reminded her about the need to cover the What, Who, Where, Why, When and How in every story she writes. Somehow, since our encounter, her scripts have ‘turned over a new leaf’. If this analogy is anything to go by, it underscores the need for that one-on-one engagement with students by lecturers.

During our days at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), although we did not have one-on-one interactions with lecturers, our scripts were marked and returned to us. At least, the best and the worst written scripts were discussed openly. This helped us to learn from our mistakes.

It was the same at GIMPA. Here, the students were even required to evaluate the lecturers at the end of each semester. As such, they did their best to ensure that we did not just go through the lectures, but we imbibed the lessons.

Even at the Master’s level at University of Ghana, scripts were marked and returned for us to know why we did not obtain the full marks.

I guess a lot has passed under the bridge. What I am hearing is that, currently, tests are mostly administered with Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and fill in the blank spaces. And that the marking of these scripts are left in the hands of Teaching Assistants (TAs). They mark and compile the results for the lecturers. I hope it is a mere rumour.

GTEC the new regulator

Not too long ago, I knew of colleagues of mine who had Master of Arts (MA) degrees yet could teach in tertiary institutions. From what I am told, there has been a change in policy by the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC).

Information available on their website indicates that GTEC came about when the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) and the National Accreditation Board (NAB) were merged under the new Education Regulatory Bodies Act, 2020 (Act 1023).

Essentially, the Commission exists to “ensure equitable access to relevant world class tertiary education through the formulation and coordination of policies and plans, provision of accreditation and quality assurance.”

It does this by promoting:

  1. efficient and effective administration and accreditation of tertiary education institutions;
  2. principles of the provision of consistent quality of service by tertiary education institutions;
  3. advancement and application of knowledge through teaching, scholarly research and collaboration with industry and public sector; and
  4. the development of appropriate human capital for the sustainable advancement of the national economy.

All these towards a vision – “Driving a world class tertiary education system for National Development.”

There is no doubt that the GTEC has not been around for long. However, I am aware that its predecessors, especially the NAB did so much in ensuring that tertiary institutions they accredit are worth their salt.

Having said that, the question that begs for answers is why then is almost every user complaining about the products of the universities they accredit?

Na who cause am?

As alluded to above, it is obvious that some of these products who come to our newsrooms have a long way to go in terms of contribution to productivity. It is doubtless that with determination the serious ones take away what they came for-Practical skills.

But how come the refrain is that education standards are falling? The individual student cannot escape blame. There are many students who are in school because their parents asked them to. By their deeds while in school, one can easily identify them. They go through the schools but the schools do not go through them.

How about the serious ones? Do they get what they pay for? The answer cannot be a definite yes. The managers of the tertiary institutions may have their own challenges, including lack of adequate qualified faculty.

The public universities may add inability to charge competitive fees as a key challenge and go on to cite that as contributing to their inability to attract the best lecturers.

What about GTEC? Has it lived up to its mandate?

Two of GTEC’s functions are examined here:

  1. Promote efficient and effective administration and accreditation of tertiary education institutions

If revelations in the Auditor-General’s report for 2021 is anything to go by, then GTEC has failed in this regard.

According to the report, KNUST and University of Ghana are running programmes without accreditation. How? The Auditor-General’s 2021 report revealed that over 600 programmes run by the two leading universities are without accreditation.

Out of 360 programmes run by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), only 61 are accredited. The University of Ghana has 374 of its programmes unaccredited.

Intriguingly, spokespersons of the two tertiary institutions did not deny the revelation. They rationalized it.

“We have submitted over 468 applications for existing programmes, so when the documents are with GTEC, and they haven’t been worked on, there is a little delay. That is not to say, the university is running unaccredited programmes. KNUST existed long ago before the setting up of the National Accreditation Board and GTEC so most of these programmes we are talking about have been running for over 70 years. So how can one say that, these programmes that have trained some of the finest brains in this country are unaccredited?” Dr. Norris Bekoe of KNUST was reported by myjoyonline.com to have said.

On the same portal, Prof. Gordon Awandare of the University of Ghana had this to say, “I think that the numbers are not that high, but it is true that there have been some lapses in the system in terms of keeping the accreditation valid for all times. And this is something that has happened over a long period of time over the years, where sometimes lapses in communication between the National Accreditation Board then and now GTEC, have led to some of these gaps.”

Then it was the turn of Prof. Mohammed Salifu, Director –General of GTEC.

“The universities have been summoned to the Accreditation Committee of the Commission. The excuses that are being given are not the excuses that were given us. Some of the programmes, the accreditation elapsed as far back as 2014/2015. It is not acceptable, how is it that you can blame issues on GTEC. They should stop the blame game, we have engaged them several times. So let’s stop the blame game and deal with the issues,” I heard him say on Joy FM’s Mid-day news on September 2, 2022.

My little knowledge of requirements for accreditation is that, adequate and appropriate faculty is a key criterion, besides well-equipped library and adequate infrastructure. Actually, lecturer to student ratio is a critical determinant of whether or not a programme will be accredited.

I am willing to be controverted if inadequate faculty members is not an issue in the unfolding discourse on accreditation of programmes in no less institutions than UG my alma mater and KNUST, a formidable tertiary institutions in GH.

  • Promote the development of appropriate human capital for the sustainable advancement of the national economy

This is where review of curricula to be used by any applicant for accreditation by GTEC falls.

The objective is obvious. We need the appropriate human capital in the relevant areas of our national economy to achieve the desired development.

But, if the programmes have not been accredited, it goes without saying that the curricula have not been subjected to the needed scrutiny by the experts in that field of study. And they are many. As many as 374 in UG and 259 at KNUST.

In the case of UG, out of the 374 courses, 14 of them are Diploma programmes, 80 are Undergraduate courses, Post-Graduate unaccredited courses are 213, and 67 PhD courses.

For KNUST, accreditation for programmes including B.A. Political Science, B.A. Sociology, B.Sc. Computer Engineering, B.Sc. Computer Science, B.Sc. Mathematics, MPhil Political Science, MSc Mathematics, PhD English, PhD Sociology have expired.

So who can vouch for the competence of the persons trained with these curricula?

Scratch my back, I scratch your back

There is no gainsaying the fact that the GTEC is overwhelmed. New universities keep coming up and the existing ones, for financial gains, keep introducing new courses.

The irony of the situation is that GTEC itself does not have enough human capital to execute its accreditation mandate. According to Deputy Director-General, Dr. Ahmed Jinapor, Who spoke on JoyNews’ Newsfile on September 3, 2022, they rely on experts from the existing universities to accredit programmes applied by others.

That is to say, if UG wants to run a BA in Pharmacy programme, experts from various institutions including KNUST will be assigned to review UG’s application and report to the board of the Commission for consideration.

When it comes to submission of application, there does not seem to be adequate hands at GTEC to receive the documents for processing. My source for this information is Dr. Norris Bekoe of the KNUST. He said it on the Newsfile edition aforementioned. If he lied then I am also lying.

It’s time to go

Clearly, the harvest (need for training of human capital) is plenty but the labourers (lecturers) are few.

It is against this backdrop that I find GTEC’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Master of Philosophy Degree (MPhil) as the only requirement to teach in tertiary institutions, problematic.

The other day I saw a message on WhatsApp that had to do with an argument between a professor and a non-professor. While the Prof. claims that ‘knowledge is power’, the non-Professor touts ‘experience is the best teacher’.

I don’t know what you think. But I believe that a little bit of this and that should pass. That is why the GTEC Board must take another look at this policy.

I declared my intention to lecture on part-time basis to a friend who holds a PhD. He gladly welcomed the idea, “we need people like you,” he remarked and quickly picked up his phone. He called someone who has set up a university and in need of lecturers.

To demonstrate his commitment and enthusiasm to sort me out, he put on the loud speaker function of the phone:

My friend: I have someone who can support in your communication department.

University Owner: What’s the person’s qualification?

My friend: MA with 25 years’ experience.

University Owner: (He spoke in Twi), “Yeeii na GTEC fuo yi, s3 omu mpini oo” – GTEC will not allow it.

My Friend: This is really an issue. Mtcheew, charley!!!

After the phone conversation, my friend turned to me and said he does not understand why GTEC is so unbending as regards this policy. “Who can teach better than the one who has practiced the profession?” he quizzed. I could only say hmm! In response. Later, I decided to put this piece together.

It is not as if the cost of pursuing a PhD is child’s play. I passed by UG to check how much it would cost to undergo a PhD programme. Guess what? GHC50,000.00 at least. MPhil on the other hand could cost nothing less than GHC15,000.00 elsewhere. What about a lecturer’s salary? Peanuts, according to UTAG.

I have had cause to lament over the fact that per GTEC’s policy, media personalities like Kwami Sefa Kayi, Oheneyere Gifty Anti, Kafui Dey, Doreen Andoh to mention a few cannot take up a job in any journalism school to lecture on broadcasting, unless they have PhD or MPhil. And yours truly cannot even teach journalism, feature or creative writing? Okay o!

I proceeded to proffer a suggestion to the effect that a sandwich programme of 6-month duration could be mounted to equip such persons with the required pedagogical skills to enable them fill any gabs in knowledge as regards teaching. But to no avail.

I don’t get it. Maybe it is just me. Nonetheless, because I want to share knowledge, I have had to start saving towards the MPhil, seeing as GTEC does not intend to change this policy anytime soon.

So on to my MPhil project I go. Wish me well.

Sayonara- That’s good bye in Japanese.

Let God Lead! Follow Him directly, not through any human.

The writer works at Myjoyonline.com. He is also the author of two books whose contents share knowledge on how anyone desirous of writing like him can do so. Eric can be reached via email eric.mensah-ayettey@myjoyonline.comThe two books cost GHC80.00.