Quality education should be priority of African Governments – Obiageli Ezekwesili

Obiagele Ezewesili - World Bank Vice President for Africa Region

Ms Obiageli Ezekwesili, Vice President for Africa at the World Bank, on Monday advised African government to make quality education a priority in their developmental agenda since that is the key to economic development

She said: “In today’s global knowledge-based economy, it is ideas and innovation largely driven by universities that are the new sources of growth, economic development and wealth creation.

Ms Ezekwesili further advised the academicians to focus on knowledge intensive approach to education, paying more attention to quality and relevance of especially tertiary education in today’s world.

The World Bank’s Vice President for Africa gave the advice at the opening of the University of Ghana International Educational Fair and ‘Home Coming’ Event.

This year’s event on the theme: “Making Legon a World-Class University for Africa,” serves as a platform for stakeholders in education to participate in various discussions and show their commitment to the University.

She said African countries could not continue to see education as ‘business as usual’ and pointed out that education must function with a sense of urgent approach, saying, “We need to see education as ‘business unusual’ in order to bring about the game-changing transformation in tertiary education that our countries need.”

Ms Ezekwesili, who shared her experiences as a former Minister of Education in Nigeria, said African countries should also consider leveraging their collective strengths across national borders and build linkages with existing pools of world class knowledge including linking African tertiary institutions with each other and with other institutions around the globe.

She explained that not every African country could afford to invest in quality tertiary education and world class research in all fields of study hence the need to build linkages.

“Not all universities should automatically qualify to grant masters’ and doctorate degrees for instance,” she said and added that there was also the need to work more collaboratively with the private sector so as to produce graduates with the right skills for the job market.

She noted that it was quality university education that stimulates innovation, trigger creativity and will contribute to the production of new varieties of goods and services as well as crops and sources of energy that could create millions of jobs, speed progress towards reducing poverty, curb vulnerability, build the resilience of African economies, help achieve food security, fight disease, pandemics and improve health.

Ms Ezekwesili urged the private sector to partner the educational sectors, saying; universities train students not for themselves but in the hope to make them skilled workers, inventors and entrepreneurs.

She added that funding of universities could therefore not continue to be the business of only government and individuals in the education sector.

Turning attention to those in the informal sector, Ms Ezekwesili said many people may not succeed with formal education but they should not be seen as failures, saying those people go through the ‘University of Life’ which is perhaps just as important as the university of Ghana.

Explaining what she meant by university of life, she said: “Anyone who visits the market at circle here in Accra must marvel at the young girls and men, who repair, reconfigure, unlock cell phones, mend cutting edge flat-screen TVs and other electronic gadgets ,” and pointed out the need for solid higher vocational and technical skills training.

Ms Ezekwesili challenged African governments to create an environment that encourages people to excel and said government could play a role in ensuring that university education serves as a ladder for even the poorest in our societies to climb out of poverty.

Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of the University, urged the private sector to use the occasion as an opportunity to tell the University of Ghana what is going wrong, “We expect employers, both public and private to articulate what their expectations of Legon are.”

He said the University of Ghana was seeking to develop a partnership with employers in the training and research programmes and was also creating a platform for students to articulate their expectations in a more mature way.

Prof. Aryeetey said the university shall require GH₵25 million annually for new research, staff development and capital developments.

Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, who represented government, supported the call for partnership between the university and the private sector especially in the area of funding.

She urged retired lecturers to volunteer to teach in schools in deprived communities in the country.

Source: GNA

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