A three-week strike by Polytechnic teachers has hindered plans to convert the institutions into technical universities by 2016, says Education Minister.
Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang said, strike by the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) did put-off development partners working with government to achieve the feat.
Government’s plans to convert polytechnics into technical universities is aimed at repositioning polytechnics as strategic institutions for the training of highly skilled human resource to drive the nation’s socioeconomic development.
Polytechnic teachers laid down their tools in June this year for three weeks in protest of non-payment of their book and research allowances.
Government indicated its intention to scrap the allowance to tertiary institution lecturers last year, and announced the setting up of a National Research Fund.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Accra Polytechnic last Friday, the Education Minister although "external partners" had arrived in Ghana for the process to start, the strike by POTAG caused delays.
Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang explained that the rationale for the conversion of polytechnics into technical universities was to achieve parity of esteem with the universities without departing from the practical-oriented philosophy of polytechnic education and training.
“It is expected that the upgraded polytechnics would be required to remain focused on their core function of training technicians and technologists at a higher level to meet the exigencies of the rapidly changing technology-driven work environment”, She said.
Prof. Agyemang revealed that the committee tasked to develop a roadmap for the conversion of polytechnics to technical universities had recommended a gradual upgrading based on criteria such as qualification levels, practical industrial experience of lecturers and the quality of collaboration for the polytechnic with industry and businesses.
Facilities such as infrastructure, equipment and training resources at the polytechnics are also to be considered.
Prof. Sylvester Achio, Rector of Accra Polytechnic, expressed worry that experienced senior lecturers were heading for retirement at the time the Bachelor of Technology portfolio was growing.
He appealed to the Ministries of Education, Finance as well as Employment and Labour Relations to grant polytechnics the approval to retain some academic staff on at least two-year contract appointments for the initial running of degree programmes and in preparation towards the technical universities concept.
He urged the Ministry of Finance to speed up the clearance process for the staff replacement request so as to facilitate work in the polytechnics.
“We foresee brain drain from the polytechnics to the universities where contract appointments are done to retain needy academic staff,” he said.
101 students graduated with Bachelor of Technology degrees from the School of Applied Sciences and Arts.