B Technical varsities await goodies By Benson AFFUL

  • April 10, 2017

Since their conversation, last August, the Technical Universities in Ghana have not wasted time, at all, in rebranding, as the visitor to any one of them is immediately reminded in bold print at the entrance that the term polytechnic is no lo longer applicable.

Beyond the façade of newness, however, lie remnants of decay – machines whose movable parts have long ceased to move, or machines that are not relevant to the training needs of students being prepared for today’s fast-paced automated industrial environment.

When this reporter visited the Accra Technical University’s auto engineering and mechanical engineering workshops, some of the practical machines have become museum pieces, and the students have become daily tourists in the workshops.

Cephas Mensah, the Director of Tertiary Education at the Ministry of Education, said each of the eight polytechnics converted so far will be given US$2.25million to facilitate the conversion process.

“Budgeting has been made, since the policy was announced, to build infrastructure, laboratories and academic facilities, to ensure quality technical education training in the country.”

Government, he added, has entered into a contract with a US company called Amatrol to install ultra-modern equipment in all the technical universities. Until these lofty goals materialize, however, recommendations of the committee which worked on the conversion of the polytechnics to Technical Universities will remain a mirage.

The committee recommended, for example, that the unit cost for training students in the technical universities should be at least GH¢9,000, or at least 50% of what Germany, a country  Ghana considers a prime model in technical education, spends on each student in a technical university.

In a report submitted to the Education Minister in February 2015, the committee estimated that if the student population in the polytechnics grew from 53,000 to 60,000 in the next couple of years, the minimum recurrent cost to government in converting the polytechnics to technical universities would be GH¢540million per annum for the next three years.

The committee said the German government spends between €5,000 and €7200 (or the equivalent of about GH¢23,000 — GH¢ 33,400) on every student in a university of applied sciences per year.

“Currently, the Government of Ghana spends less than GH¢3,000 on a student in a polytechnic per year. The huge gap between the current and optimal funding levels will have to be bridged if the quality of training in the converted polytechnics is to be comparable to international standards,” the report added.

In March, last year, government announced it had secured US$124m from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to retool technical educational institutions, under a Development of Skills for Industry Project (DSIP).

A list of 14 beneficiary institutions under the project, which I obtained from the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), has only the Accra and Takoradi Technical Universities on it, with the rest being second-cycle technical institutes.

Students who spoke to this reporter at the Accra Technical University described some of the machines they are supposed to be learning with, as “white elephants,” or “outmoded,” calling for better machines.

“We want better diagnostic machines. Machines that are used to service plug injectors. But looking at what we have, it is below standard,” an Auto Engineering student said.

“These machines are old fashion; technology has improved and we are still battling with manual and old machines when we can go for computerized ones to teach students with modern methods,” a Mechanical Engineering student said.

Checks by this reporter revealed that some of the machines at the workshops were installed as far back as 1981 and have since remained unchanged.

Sources close to the Accra Technical University administration also told the reporter that since the institution has no established governing council all officials are, at the moment, in acting positions, until the school gets in governing board.

“The current authorities are just sort of acting; because we are now a university, there should be an established governing board before they will appoint the vice-chancellor, pro vice-chancellor and registrar, who can then have the full authority to facilitate developments in the school. Until this is done the institution will remain the same despite the change of name to a university,” the source said.

Some students of the Kumasi Technical University also lamented that they do not see any physical or academic indicators to show that they are in a Technical University. The upgrading of the polytechnics is part of a wide-ranging policy of enhancing technical education, with government, donor and international financial intuitions all participating.

“The Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training has a budget of GHS2.2m ($567,600) for 2016, with 51% of that allocation coming from donors. The funding will be used to strengthen teacher training in particular, with an expanded “trainer of trainers” programme to support those overseeing apprentices. Efforts are also being made to ensure that secondary schools prepare pupils better for further technical education,” the Oxford Business Group report, 2017, indicates.

VO TOA- “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration- g for technical appetite”.

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