Successive government’s over a period of about 80 years built six public universities – most of them overcrowded, ill-equipped and poorly-staffed.
At the nation’s ‘premier’ university, it’s a common sight to see hundreds of students crammed into one small lecture hall, craning their necks and twitching their ears to see and hear what their lecturer is straining his vocal chords to say. Public address systems are a rarity.
In power for less than two years, President Atta Mills wants to build two more universities. If he succeeds, Ghana would have eight public universities – 25 percent of them constructed under the presidency of one man: John Atta Mills.
It’s impossible to tell whether this is the dubious reputation President Mills is aiming to achieve. But whatever his motives, it’s clear they have a slight political tinge to them. The administration is building universities to win votes. Just check out the words that were spoken at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the two universities.
In both Ho and Sunyani, the chiefs and people were happy and full of gratitude that they were getting their “own” universities.
The Daily Graphic reported: “President Mills said the people of the Brong Ahafo Region deserved the Energy and Natural Resources University…. The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo, stressed that the realisation of the university project would not only boost the standard and access to tertiary education in the region but also create economic and employment opportunities for the people and, indeed, those from other parts of the country.”
The least said about the university in the Volta Region, the better. But it’s worth pointing out that the decision to build a university in Ho is in fulfilment of a campaign promise to give the region, the stronghold of the ruling party, its “own” university.
It makes little sense that while existing public universities students are crying out for equipment and improved facilities, government thinks it is more prudent for it to spend more money to build new universities, which would end up just like the ones that exist already. Instead of throwing good money after bad (literally!), I think it would have been wiser for the administration to equip the old, existing universities to bring them up to scratch.
If history is anything to go by I am prepared to wager. Ten years from now, the new universities in Ho and Sunyani would be as poorly-resourced as any of the public universities before them – lecture halls crammed, students craning their necks and twitching their ears to see and hear what their lecturers strain their vocal chords to say – no public address systems.
By the time the nation realises the folly in building new universities, which will turn out to be as bad as the existing ones, costly harm would have been done and much more money would be needed to turn things around – money another ill-advised government might want to spend to build new universities to win votes. The cycle is hard to break.