ICT UNDERUTILIZED IN GHANA’s EDUCATIONAL SECTOR , THE CASE OF KNUST

This article is the original work of Nana Esi  Egyirba Amuah, a participator of the SRC genus competition held at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.

Background

t is evident that the information age is far advanced and consistently improving. There are the challenges, opportunities and the potentials in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Ghana for Education, Research and Development. Ghana’s ICT vision portrays the transformation of Ghana into an information-rich knowledge-based society and economy through the development, deployment and exploitation of ICTs within the economy and society. Ghana is ranked the fifth among the first and best ten ICT developed countries in the continent. KNUST has the ICT centre with about 210 computers running online which is open to student and staff use for a good number of hours of the day. There is also the wireless service on campus now and its active in all the halls at varying strengths. There is also the connection of the offices of lecturers and administrative offices onto the internet. But what percentage of the student population own laptops in order to enjoy the wireless? Many KNUST students don’t even know there is an ICT centre. Several faculties, colleges and departments have collaborated to benefit in the area of ICT facility. Students who discover the facility think they have to pay for it and hardly know fees for ICT is incorporated into their school fees. How much and to what extent do the students take advantage of the facility? How far have the students been benefiting? How many students and staff are computer literate? How effectively is the internet facility and pc skills utilized among teaching and non teaching staff? The general question is; how is Ghana especially the youth taking advantage of these technologies towards development as far as it is available so far?

IT can be seen to have at least six areas of complexity which were mentioned earlier as software, hardware, databases, datasets, procedures and knowledge of people. Hence it is no mean task to implement an IT project as many people think.

As compared to other tertiary institutions, KNUST has about one third of the number of pc facilities in Legon and as compared to other institutions, its better off,

Many secondary schools don’t use it.


Many homes don’t have pcs because they are beyond the budget of the average Ghanaian. The average university student cannot afford pcs. People own pcs for fancy sake and scarcely for seeking and development of information

Timing for availability of services is bad – within working hours in KNUST

We are in the information age and there is no doubt information is very vital in all spheres of our lives. The right information just when needed could solve so much problem

With this in mind, man thought of and made the computer, a device that serves as the prime machine in expediting the processing and distribution of information. The world today can boast of millions of computers hooked up onto the internet or as standalones.

Information Technology (IT) is all the software, hardware, databases or datasets, procedures and knowledge of people that are used in a way to satisfy requirements of an entity.

Ghana over the past few years has seen in-floods of hardwares and software of all forms but is seriously lacking a very vital aspect of IT, which is knowledge in IT. There have been cases where firms – small and large – made IT policies and went ahead to implement them. Unfortunately, these laudable projects more or less find their way in the wrong hands. Why am I saying this? Chief Executive Officers or people who have the power to initiate these projects mostly render their friends or loved ones the opportunity to take these projects up, and in most cases, these people may not be competent enough to handle these projects.

IT can be seen to have at least six areas of complexity which were mentioned earlier as software, hardware, databases, datasets, procedures and knowledge of people. Hence it is no mean task to implement an IT project as many people think.

The aforementioned factors and undue politics in initiating IT projects often cause these laudable projects to fail hence making people or end users have a bad perception about IT in general.

Elsewhere in the world, these projects are well implemented by the experts and it has resulted in cases where medical doctors can be assisting in operations in remote centres, lecturers instructing students on various University campuses at the same time, quick checking-in at train and bus terminals, but to mention a few.

The egocentric interests of some Chief Executive Officers have also contributed to these bad perceptions. In some cases, competent people could be found in the country to undertake these IT projects, but because of the selfish interest of some of these Chief Executive Officers, they tend to either bring people from other countries or use incompetent people. After the implementation, maintenance becomes a problem because experts are from outside or the project was poorly executed by non-experts. Looking at the bigger picture, much more harm has been caused than the purchase money which goes down the drain, and this basically creates a bad image for IT.

The knowledge of many in IT in the country is woefully inadequate and it is recommended that, IT be made a sole field of study at the higher level of education to help produce the requisite manpower to man the up-and-coming IT projects.

Furthermore, the few local experts in IT should be rendered the projects allowing for quality and relatively cheap project cost. This will also help in the building of the country’s IT capacity.


The above article is the original work of Nana Esi Amuah, a participator of the SRC genus competition held at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.

Shuffling UCC to CUC

The decision to switch my place of work from the relatively calm Cape Coast to the “hot capital”-Accra was a very challenging one. Endless consultations from one friend, to an elderly person, to a lecturer, to a brother, parents,and other people who mattered took place. My personal experience and long-term plans were closely considered.

My consultation with God, however, revealed the unexpected.  The confusion was fast-mounting! I was calmed down by wonderful assurances leading to a genuine peace within me.

I finally decided to spell UCC “CUC”… No regrets so far.

A “Foughtnight” in the Volta Region?


st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }
<!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>
/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

Friday (4th July, 2008)

All my colleagues had one question on their lips: “Would we spend the weekend at the various centers of the Center for Continuing Education (CCE)” Even on Thursday evening members of working at the CCE couldn’t give a 100% assurance that the weekend lecture on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education was a certainty. With the knowledge that “if you fail to plan then thou are planning to fail”, we made ample preparation like gallant soldiers to respond effectively should we be called to teach/lecture at the various centers pursuing the post-diploma award education.

One vital quality worth developing in life is the ability to exhibit flexibility and quickly adjust to the latest developments in most endeavours. This outstanding quality saved my day. It was a bright and calm morning on Friday, 5th July 2008 when the call from my boss, Mr. J.K.E Edumadze broke my serene morning. His questions as to whether I had prepared for the weekend in sunyani and whether I was within reach was responded to in the affirmative. Then he continued: “Plans have changed; you are no longer going to Sunyani, in the Brong Ahafo region of the republic of Ghana. You are rather going to spend two weeks in Peki in the Volta Region of Ghana.” I maintained my calm, and gave a resounding response; “Yes Sir.” I heeded to his request to quickly come down to the office for further details. Breaking the news to Adwoa B. Amuah  was a challenge as we had planned to explore Sunyani together. As if to add insults to injury she just arrived the previous night. My week had been tiring- developing course materials, marking students’ scripts, helping in the organization of workshops for lecturers on web updating…and other personal tasks.

The busy morning schedule of my boss was apparent. He arranged for me to meet Dr. Duedu of the Primary Education unit of the University of Cape Coast to help with proceedings at the Institute of Education. My initial conversation with Dr. Duedu portrayed him to be a very busy man. His scheduler seemed tight. He rescheduled our meeting at the institute due to time constraint.

With enough coaching from Mr. Amenumey Dagbe, however, I started with the process. It was during my time at the “sacks room” that I had another view of the university: different personalities; the “galamsey advocates”; different duties for lecturers, etc. Our sacks labeled Peki- years one and two respectively was soon dragged out upon suggestion from Dr. Duedu. We patiently went through the process of crosschecking the question papers to be sent to the various training colleges. Two subjects didn’t tally, so we went through the due process of addressing this anomaly.

The mission was clear now- I was accompanying Dr. Duedu to Peki to invigilate/supervise the examination ready to be taken by students of the various training colleges nation-wide. I quickly strategize to counter any eventuality surrounding my quitting Sunyani lectures for the weekend. After convincing John Arthur and Lorraine Johnson, I managed to convince (more like compelling) Adwoa to pair up with Lorraine for Sunyani.

My personal preparation for Peki had begun: two weeks meant extra load; I packed more clothing and provisions. I met my boss for a last minute coaching. I was soon ready for the Volta Region- a region I hail from.

Saturday 5th July 7, 2008 (Departure Day)

The thought of traveling as a group or team seem to send shivers down my spine. I longed for a nice team. This feeling was quenched after learning I will be traveling with Dr. Duedu of the primary education unit of the University of Cape Coast. I began to recall this personality. He sure never lectured me for any course, and I’ve had no direct interaction with him prior to our time at the institute. My first impression about him was a busy man who remained careful in all his endeavours. Perhaps the best of him was yet to be discovered.

My previous night with Mr. Edumadze indicated I had to see him in the house for an amount of 200 Ghana Cedis. This was to “smoothen” the journey. I’ve heard enough from Mr. Dagbe concerning the nature of the place as well as the remuneration existing at the institute. When I got to the residence of Mr. Edumadze around 08:00 hours GMT, we drove to the residence of Dr. Duedu to be told he couldn’t return from Winneba the previous night, where he went to lecture.

By 10 minutes past 11, we were set for the journey to Peki. After a word of prayer from Dr, we set off; passing the house of the driver (Mr. Four Akumeny) and returning before focusing didn’t on our journey. Altogether, we were four persons on board the Opel Kadet owned by Dr. Duedu. Also with us was Mr.Asamoah Gyimah, my Measurement and Evaluation lecturer. The scenery along the roadside was refreshing and occasionally ushered me to dreamland or slumber land. Occasional conversation brought me back to reality often times as we traveled along the long stretch of road.

On getting to the capital, the mood really depicted a typical Saturday. Branching to Malam even made it more evident that we are traveling on a weekend. The apparent loss of business activities and “big men” in their big cars was enough evidence to believe that it was a non-working day. A beautiful side of the capital was worth seeing again and again. Shortly before the motorway were a number of state of the art building and modern road network design.

You could trust our experience driver for his relative speed. The least said about our speedometer on the motorway, all the better. We continue to enjoy little hindrances or obstacles on our road, which put as on a consistent speed, much more like a cruise control.

Our joy was, however, short-lived a couple of kilometers toward Akuse junction. At this stage the vehicle couldn’t respond to clutch and accelerator. Our natural response to stop was heeded. Sparking the car became impossible. It seemed to start with a weird sound. It continued in its adamant state. We were stuck! Our vehicle had broken down. It was barely 13 hours GMT.

The quality of teamwork was clear. Dr suggested it could be from the timing belt, while the driver went ahead to do a couple of inspection in the engine compartment. Meanwhile Mr. Asamoah Gyimah was talking to an experienced driver, who has been using an Opel for over a decade. His first recommendation was to check the timing belt. I ensured that things were intact, and joined Dr by the roadside to stop passing vehicles for assistance. The idea was to board a vehicle to the nearby town for a mechanic. Our persistence yielded fruit, and in no time Dr was onboard and a minivan headed to the nearest town. We had inspected the belt and had found in intact. What we failed to discover was the fact that the damage was hiding beneath! Well our mechanic diagnosed the problem after opening the belt’s compartment and sparking the vehicle. The belt’s inability to turn after sparking confirmed the fact that we were driving with a torn belt! We were fortunate to have a spare in the car. We were also cautious, knowing that fixing of the belt required a precise setting of other related parts. Our effort so far was in vain. The belt was the wrong size! Oops! A taxi driver who doubled up as an apprentice mechanic sped off to town to purchase the right size.

At last we were road-worthy. We had spent about 3 hours on the car! Everybody on the car was hungry except for Charles. He had actually taken some rice he packed earlier on in the hall. We branch to a filling station for quarter a gallon of engine oil. We purchased groceries at the station’s mall. We stopped to take our drinks and snacks. We were refreshed for the journey once again. Thanks be to God.

City view was fast fading from memory and was our God-created memories were being filled with natural scenes. The magnificent structures we admired at the city of Accra were suddenly replaced with buildings for rural folks. Worth of mention was the Adome Bridge at night. The arch of the bridge together with the awesome reflection of the night’s artificial lights made an object to behold!

After passing through various towns, we were near our destination (or perhaps one of our destinations). Peki was visible. Hurray! Well it was not received with much anticipation as the faces in the vehicle were fatigued.

On reaching the metal gates of the training college formerly called GOVCO and now Peki Training College, we began to heave a sigh of relief. Our dreams of getting settled was shuttered when we could not see the vice principal with a mere excuse that he is asleep. We left information of our arrival with him, and soon we were on our next journey after 20:20 hours GMT – Jasikan, also in the Volta region of Ghana.

I had very little observation on the way to Jasikan. Most of my time in the car was spent in Slumber Land. Yes I slept or dozed off with little interruption. If you care to know, I wasn’t the only victim. I think every body did it too. May be only the driver kept vigil. I was not very much bothered because I knew I would make observation on our way back to Peki.

By 23:40 hours GMT, we were in front of Dr’s house in Jasikan. It really looked promising to a tired body. The warmth inside confirmed it. With a whole room to myself, I did my than-you-Lord prayer, attempted several calls, and prepared to organize myself casually. I could not take the rice they had prepared for us.

The next thing I knew it was 04:30 hours GMT, my usual time for waking up on an uninterruptible night. It was Sunday in Jasikan!

On campus at last!!

At about 13:40 GMT, I could sense my new environment. My “foughtnight” in the Volta Region is over. It was really full of wonderful memories needless to say as well as challeging ones.

The subsequent days will detail my daily experience in Peki.

I welcome myself back home!!!

A short pencil better than the longest human memory

This day a configuration seem to work perfectly. The trick was so simple you never believe it could escape you. The next hour is where the catastrophe all begins.

The need to document the tiniest of tasks cannot be over emphasized.

Of a truth a short pencil retains much longer than the most complex human memory (at least for immediate access).

Computer Science, A Distorted Concept?

A group of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) undertaking an introductory course to computer science looked quite puzzled when their professor told them, “computer science is not about computers and not much of a science”. Many people perceive computer science as effective or efficient use technology by which people create, modify and share information in a variety of ways including text, sound, graphic and video. This myopic view tends to limit the broad purpose of computer science. At the end of the day such people push computers, especially personal computers to the centre stage, making it synonymous to computer science. It must be noted, however, that computers are not synonymous to computer science just as geometry is not about surveying instruments. Many years ago, the ancient Egyptians sought means of measuring the earth. Their quest and determination to make their mission a reality led to the introduction of early geometry. Before long the world developed a natural tendency to linking surveying the earth surface to geometry, which could be called an aid or a means to reaching the end. The original aim for the introduction of geometry, however, was to formalize equations on how to do things in their attempt to reach a precise measure or description of their activities. This is similar to the role of the computer in computer science just like microscopes in the study of Biology. Generations to come may wonder what kind of weird tool we were using in the field of computer science. The paradigm may change entirely and consequently distort our notion of associating computers to computer science. The Chinese abacus and the African game oware (Oware Primitive, Prof Nii Narku Quaynor) have equally been useful in the fundamental stages of computing

Computer science as an academic and professional field is very distinct from other sciences. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) defines computer science as “the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society”. The free web encyclopaedia, wikipedia, has this to say on computer science: Computer science (or computing science) is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. Computer science has many sub-fields; some emphasize the computation of specific results (such as computer graphics), while others relate to properties of computational problems (such as computational complexity theory). Still others focus on the challenges in implementing computations. For example, programming language theory studies approaches to describing computations, while computer programming applies specific programming languages to solve specific computational problems. A further subfield, human-computer interaction, focuses on the challenges in making computers and computations useful, usable and universally accessible to people.

Prof. Chen to go.

Below is Tuesday’s news item as published on MyJoyonline concerning Prof. Chen’s termination.

A visiting Canadian lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, Prof. Steve Chen has been fired for expressing his views about the University.

His appointment was terminated following statements he posted on his web site that appear unfavourable to the University.

Prof. Chen told Joy News that he questioned the rationale for spending huge sums of money on expensive cars instead of stocking the university’s library.

According to him the Canadian High Commissioner visited the school and was appealed to for assistance by the university authorities.

Meanwhile the High Commissioner, he noted drove a car half the price of the vehicle used by the University’s administration, something he found incomprehensible.

The Associate Professor expressed disappointment at the situation, saying he thought there was freedom of speech in Ghana and so did not understand why he was victimized for expressing his views.

He stressed that he would discuss with the Canadian authorities the manner in which Canada’s aid is being applied in Ghana.

However the University authorities have denied sacking Prof. Chen

The authorities explained that the Professor’s appointment covered only one semester adding the University decided not to renew his appointment because there were other lecturers who could teach the course he taught.