Speech Delivered by Prof. Domwini Dabire Kuupole

SPEECH DELIVERED BY PROF. DOMWINI DABIRE KUUPOLE, FORMER VICE CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST AT THE PRESBYTERIAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, ABETIFI, ON 19TH NOVEMBER, 2016

It is a pleasure for me to stand before you to give this address on the occasion of the 10th graduation of this noble institution. But, first of all, permit me to express my profound gratitude to Papa President and the entire management of PUCG.  I am particularly happy to see the beaming smiles on the faces of these expectant graduates, which is an indication that they are poised for work in their various fields of endeavour. I therefore congratulate all graduands on bracing the storms and overcoming all hurdles to make it this far. Your ability to withstand those storms and cross those hurdles gives an indication that you are capable of overcoming every obstacle in your quest to get to the highest point of your chosen careers.

Mr. Chairman, while these graduands might have acquired the needed knowledge and skills to enable them contribute their quota to national development, the opportunities by way of job vacancies for them to do so might not be readily available. This message is not intended to dampen their spirits, neither is it intended to replace the smiles on their faces with grievances.

The bitter truth is that, many of the graduates from our tertiary institutions struggle to find jobs after national service and the situation keeps worsening year after year.

Mr. Chairman, the question is, if many graduands from Ghanaian tertiary institutions struggle to find jobs after their training, what then is the need for education? What type of education are our educational institutions giving to the society? A situation where many graduates are jobless or underemployed, where people are getting more illiterate and poorer, yet universities are increasing in size and numbers, is worrisome. I therefore consider the topic very apt and will be pleased to share my thoughts on it this morning.

Stakeholders of the education enterprise have, at various times, blamed the seemingly increased level of graduate unemployment on what they refer to as the strictly knowledge-based education system that is being practised in the country’s tertiary institutions. They contend that this phenomenon has over the years denied graduates requisite job skills needed to fit into the industrialized nature of the country’s economy, and hence proposed to make a paradigm shift from that.

A critical look at the total programmes offered by our universities show that a majority of courses, are still very academic and contain mostly theoretical under-pinnings. For this reason, majority of graduates become job seekers, unemployed or employed beneath their educational status. In other words, our tertiary education system simply is not capable of producing well educated graduates to meet the needs of the economy andindustry.

However, what we have not taken note of are the aims of a university education, which among other things are:

  • to provide higher education to persons suitably qualified and capable of benefitting from such education,
  • to train students in methods of critical and independent thought making them aware of their responsibility to use their education for the general good of the Ghanaian society, and
  • toprovide facilities for, and engage in teaching and research for the purpose of promoting the advancement and dissemination of learning and knowledge, with particular reference to the needs and aspirations of the people of Ghana and the furtherance of co-operation of African states.

The International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) of the ILO considers a person of working age (e.g. 18+ years in Ghana) to be unemployed if during a specified reference period (either a day or a week), that person had been:

  1. ‘without work’, not even for one hour in paid employment or self‐employment of the type covered by the international definition of employment;
  2. ‘currently available for work’, whether for paid employment or self‐employment; and
  • ‘seeking work’, by taking active steps in a specified recent period to seek paid employment or self‐

What is really the unemployment rate for Ghana? What level of our graduates is unemployed? What are the hard facts, or established statistics that can be used to plan? What do we use to plan?

The Ghana Statistical Service/Tradingeconomics.com reported a consistent drop in unemployment rate in Ghana. Unemployment rate in Ghana averaged 8.82 percent from 2001, reaching an all-time high of 12.90 percent in 2005, and decreased to 5.20 percent in 2013 from 5.96 percent in 2010.

The forecast for Ghana unemployment rate by the Ghana Statistical Service/Trading Economics.com as last predicted on October 3, 2016 was 8.7% in the 4th quarter of 2016, 8.9% in the first three quarters of 2017, rising to 10% in 2020 when the population is projected to be 30.34m.

What should then be done?

There are job openings, but industries, businesses and civil society cannot find people with the right skills. Institutions of higher learning are not asking what the business community needs today. It may be that they are teaching what businesses might have wanted several years ago.

Mr. Chairman, education forms the basis for socio-economic transformation in every society. Show me a society with low literacy rate and I will show you a society with low socio-economic development.

While admitting that education is a key factor in bringing about socio-economic transformation, the nature of the education itself needs to be critically examined if it is to play its expected role in society. In broad terms, educational goals are statements that describe the competences, skills and attributes that students should possess upon completion of a course or programme. That is to say that educational goals often operate within the interacting domains of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Education therefore, should aim at giving our young people the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will help to build society and ensure sustainable development of the nation. This is to say that the centrality of the education to sustainable national development cannot be over- emphasized.

It is however, regrettable that our national tertiary education policy has remained out of step with time. For example, our current educational curricular and system are geared towards the provision of knowledge without much effort being made to meet the other goals of education.

Many of our educational training institutions focus mainly on providing knowledge to the students without adequate provision for practical training of what they learn in their books.

A mismatch of skills has been found to contribute to the rising youth unemployment. More young people have been found to be gaining tertiary qualifications than ever before, backed up by ILO data which indicate that tertiary education rates have increased but that young people were not gaining qualifications relevant to a changing labour market. The World Bank Report recommended that the government of Ghana must work towards equipping the youth with relevant skills through the educational system.

Education facilities need to be more tuned-in to what the modern job force requires, and to encourage students to think and learn about what is expected from them in the labour market.

All levels of education need to be smarter, and teach academic skills through internships and apprenticeships to help young people learn things about work that they cannot get in a classroom.

New technology requires jobs be shuffled from one industry to another. People are moving from low-income agricultural jobs, to middle-income jobs in manufacturing, and then onto higher incomes in the service industry.

Government can implement developmental programmes only in an atmosphere of peace and security. It is therefore incumbent on both government and management of tertiary institutions to work closely with the private sector to promote internships, graduate trainee programmes, and community-based projects that create jobs for young people.

One of the surest ways of dealing with this graduate unemployment phenomenon is through entrepreneurship( A mandatory experience for all students).Many of the young people in our tertiary institutions have very wonderful business ideas and if we provide them with the right nurturing and sensitization by way of academic training in entrepreneurial development, they can easily set up their own businesses after school and succeed. But of course that also means supporting such young entrepreneurs with some critical starter packs or soft loans from Banks with state guarantee.

Having realized this fact, as Vice-Chancellor, the University of Cape Coast under my tenure saw the introduction of entrepreneurship as a course of study and every third-year undergraduate student has to register and pursue the course for one academic year. No student in the University of Cape Coast at the moment can graduate without a pass in this course. Those who wish to develop their business concepts are supported by the Incubation Centre under the Small-Scale Business Enterprise Centre at the School of Business. The idea is to enable our students to explore the numerous business opportunities around and make the best out of them.

As a nation, we need a comprehensive policy on technical and vocational education; this calls for a clearly articulated policy on science, technical and vocational education as well as well-trained human capital in ICT service in education.

Vocational and technical education, in no doubt, will help this country to deal with the graduate unemployment or underemployment phenomenon. This, it is believed, would help produce graduates with the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise for the industries to expand the economy to create jobs and also unlock the numerous resources that exist in the country. It is a fact that professional education is a necessary tool for gaining access to the best job opportunity and wealth.  In addition, professional education opens doors to skilled employment, higher standard of living and thus help reduce the poverty gap.

In the past, there was nothing like unemployment in our villages and communities. Every young person was given some kind of vocational training as they grew up and this made them either farmers, carvers, weavers, blacksmiths, hunters, fishermen, just to mention a few. Those who lacked the physical strength to undertake or carry out these trades learnt to use their voices, hands and feet in ways that could make them earn a decent living. These are the people who became griots, dirge singers, instrumentalists such as xylophonists and drummers, etc.Everybody had, at least, a talent and those talents were discovered and horned to maturity for the benefit of the entire community. The term “unemployment” was therefore not in the vocabulary of our fore-fathers.

Having the past or tradition as our guide, why do we jettison all these indigenous experiences that inure so much to the benefit of our fore-fathers and are creating a phantom phenomenon which has so many deleterious consequences to our survival as people?

With the necessary measures put in place to enhance vocational and technical training in this country, Ghana should be able to eradicate or drastically reduce its unemployment cancer in the very near future as many of our graduates will be able to create their own wealth after school given the abundant natural resources available.

The need for us to interrogate our education system andrestructure the curricula to meet the needs of industry and to enable our graduates to create their own jobs, should not be misconstrued to mean that education is only geared toward providing jobs after school. Even if every individual is employed on the very day he or she is born, there will still be the need for education. This is in view of the fact that education plays certain vital functions towards the progress of the human race. These functions are towards the individual, society and the nation as a whole. In view of this, universities must engage policy makers, civil society and industry to contribute to curriculum design and reviews, without forsaking their mandate.

The functions of education towards the individual fall within the domain of strengthening his or her personality, making the person to indulge in ethical behaviour, improve the reasoning and thinking power of a person and also help the individual to maintain a clean environment.

However,an educated person is smart, confident and brave and will therefore fight against corruption.He or she cannot be easily duped. Educated people always believe in fair practices as many of them study ethics as part of their training. Also, an educated person is a logical person who thinks widely and for all. Education also teaches a person to preserve the natural environment as well as live in a clean and hygienic environment.

There is the need to develop a comprehensive tertiary education policy in Ghana for both private and state owned institutions that should reflect our values, aspirations and vision for the future.  In other words, the policy should articulate a clear vision for human capital development: thus, a policy that should start by a clear assessment of our social, economic and educational needs. The national constitution (1992) places a high premium on free and equitable education.  However, Clause (2) states that: “Every person shall have the right, at his own expense, to establish and maintain private school or schools at all levels and of such categories and in accordance with such conditions as may be provided by law”. In my view, this clause needs to be revisited in respect of government support for private institutions so as to strengthen them to participate meaningfully in tertiary education.  This will undoubtedly lead to improved standards in private tertiary institutions.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we had cause to complain about some of our traditional customs and practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and discrimination against the child in the past, it was all due to lack of education. Education fights against prejudice and hatred in society and teaches us to give equal opportunity to all caste, religion and creed.

On the national perspective, education helps to promote national unity and acceptance. This function of education is particularly very important to us as a country as we make preparations to elect our political leaders come December 7, this year. Our gallant graduands were able to undergo four years of rigorous academic training in this institution because of the tolerance they have for Management and for one another. We have been holding elections since 1992 but our ability to sustain peace, harmony, stability and remain as a country will stem from the quality of our education.

Mr. Chairman, I do not pretend to have any remedy to the malaisein our educational system but it is clear that education plays a much broader role in the life of a person, society and the nation as a whole than just preparing people to come out from school and find jobs. It is true that finding a job after school is very important and all efforts must be made to make sure that our graduates find jobs after leaving school. But before we make the necessary corrections and changes in our curricula to make them job placement friendly, our young people should continue to take their education seriously in order to guarantee a better future for themselves, their societies and the nation as a whole.

Thank you for your attention and God bless us all.