We have a really bad habit in Ghana. When bad things in our society are pointed out, our first reaction is outright vituperative denial, and the second a feeble attempt to offer excuses and reasons for the very things that we deny. If we deny that something exists, why do we always find reasons to point to existence of its defects? Surely if something does not exist, it cannot be said to have defects. Surely? This is where thinking has gone awry, and this is what Hosi was lamenting in his tirade. He had a point.
Talk about bad and corrupt judges and you would find someone to defend them and call them some of the best in the world. The same defence is mounted in the face of criticism of our lawyers, doctors, lecturers, teachers, engineers, politicians, and indeed our institutions and systems. And yet after such a defence comes the excuses as to why things are what they are. The only people who are not defended are the ordinary people who are under constant attack and assault.
I often hear some people say that we have some of the best everything in the world. Yet, we do shun these best things and opt for foreign ones. In his infantile rebuttal, Mr Gyampo who teaches at Legon jumps to the defence of Legon and the students that pass through it. He lauds the quality of the graduates he produces from his own course some of whom he says proceed to universities around the world where they excel.
I think Mr Gyampo should ask those Legon alumni who excel when they go abroad how much extra work they have to put in to catch up. If Legon was doing such a good job, why is everybody complaining about the calibre of Legon graduates? Not too long ago, Esi Ansah who teaches at Ashesi was talking about graduates not being able to write an application letter. About a decade ago at and Institute of Bankers annual dinner dance, the president decried the quality of banking, business, insurance, finance and accountancy graduates from all the universities. He said they were all coming out of the universities and into the workplace with knowledge ten years out of date.
A good university listens to the society that it serves and tailors its curriculum to the needs of that society. It must also look seriously at how it trains students. Mr Gyampo suggests to Hosi to read. Gyampo is making a fool of himself. His own colleague, Mr Peter Quartey of ISSER has already given an excuse for that when in his response to Mr Hosi, he implied that standards had slipped because Legon students did not like to read. An academic blaming poor standards for students not reading. Whose fault is that? It is the fault of a university and its lecturers if students do not read. Two things stand in the way of reading: lack of reading material and an incentive not to read. On the second point, it would be interesting to see the reading list that Messrs Gyampo and Quartey recommend to their students which they fail or refuse to read. Do they ask their students to read a chapter for later discussion and drilling which the students refuse to read? How much do these lecturers themselves read to upgrade their lecture notes?
When Hosi says the lecturers do not think, of course he is generalising but somehow such generalisations get taken too personal. When we say Ghana is a poor country, some Ghanaians get angry and say there is poverty in America too. But what has that got to do with poverty in Ghana. Of course there is but in America too anybody who can think would recognise that when we say America is a rich country, we do not imply that everyone in America is rich. Likewise, Ghana being a poor country does not mean everyone in Ghana is poor.
The thinking that should go on at a university is not the kind that keeps you sleepless at night about what how to feed your children the next day. Critical thinking is the stuff of universities. Some lecturers would think but many don’t. They don’t have to because the system allows them to stay on auto pilot till retirement. No one challenges them. They don’t allow anybody to challenge them. It is not that they are incapable of thought. It is that they don’t have to engage in serious thought to get by. Eventually they go stale. Many of these lecturers would tell you that their students do not like to engage in critical examination of concepts, ideas and theories. Maybe they don’t but it has enabled the lecturers also to avoid the whole exercise of critical examination of ideas and concepts.
Mr Gyampo blames lack of funding for the very problems that Mr Hosi laments which he Gyampo denies. Money alone won’t make people examine ideas. Mr Gyampo is already employed at the university to teach. His subject area does not need money at all to teach. It is not a science or technology course so no need for laboratories and equipment. Actually his course can be taught under trees. His students don’t need much contact time either. The last time I checked, lecturers in Ghana’s public universities were paid an allowance for purchasing books and doing research. How many books has Mr Gyampo bought in the past year with his alawa?