The aims and objectives of polytechnics in Ghana, as enshrined by the Polytechnic Act 745 of 2007, include providing tertiary education through full time courses in the field of manufacturing, commerce, science, technology, applied social science
and applied arts.
It is also to pursue such other areas as may be determined by authorities of the polytechnics for the time being responsible for higher education as well as to encourage study in technical subjects at tertiary level.
The polytechnics are also to provide opportunity for development, research and publication of research findings.
Space is limited for me to go into the nitty-gritty of each of the fields as mandates given the polytechnics to train the future manufacturers of Ghana.
But in my view, from all indications, the mandates of the polytechnics in the country are to provide not less than 98 percent technical or technological training to their students.
However, issues had been raised by some writers and scholars to indicate that our polytechnics are losing focus in fulfilling their mandate, considering that a larger part of its population are pursuing business and management studies instead of the technical or technological courses.
Recently I interviewed some polytechnic students, and among the many answers given, my attention was attracted to what seemed to be an appeal from them; that they want polytechnics in the country to be upgraded to university status.
They were specific that the upgrading should come with a name change which would see polytechnics having ‘University’ attached to whatever name given.
The reason…? They said by that polytechnics would gain some of the respect being commanded by the universities.
I wondered if the students had been oriented about the core mandate of the institution in which they find themselves.
What kind of university do these students want a polytechnic to be? …A general university…? …or a technical university…? What at all is in the word “university” that students in special tertiary institutions like the polytechnics and other ones like the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) want to have it attached to their names?
All developed countries around the globe are developed because of the existence of special institutions that provide technical and technological training to a greater part of its citizens. Yet those institutions never have university attached to their names.
In the United States of America (USA), we have the California Institute of Technology; in India we have the India Institute of technology among others. All those institutions do not have the word ‘university’ attached to their names and yet they are the most respected in their respective countries and around the globe.
So why should the Ghanaian student perceive that attending an institution that has a ‘university’ attached to it is superior to any other institution in Ghana?
Polytechnics in the country are doing very great in terms of innovations that make life a bit easier for citizens, though there is still more room for improvement. Notable among them include the ‘fufu’ pounding machine invented by the Koforidua and Kumasi Polytechnics, the solar wheel chair invented by the Kumasi Polytechnic among other inventions.
By these achievements therefore, it is very imperative that our polytechnics be made purely technical and technological institutes in order that they solely concentrate on manufacturing, production and inventions of more and higher technologies (High-tech).
The applied social science aspect in the mandate of Polytechnics should be scrapped out. That aspect must be left to the universities so that the students will concentrate on producing technical or technological men and women to build Ghana.
Ghana polytechnics are currently producing more social scientists as well as Business and Management graduates than their core business of producing more of the technical manpower for the country.
Today, over half of the polytechnic population pursue courses in marketing, accounting, Secretaryship and management studies, hotel management and other courses that are not really technical (technological).
There is the need to leave those courses to special institutions of Business and Management Studies, which should be established by the government just as we have new special universities for Health and Allied Sciences in Ho and that of Mines and Natural Resources in Sunyani.
Polytechnics should be upgraded to award degrees as they are already doing, but they should not become general universities like University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, among others.
They do not need to become universities before they can discharge their mandate of producing skilled professionals.
Time is now up for the polytechnics to be turned into Institutes of Technology so that Cape Coast Polytechnic could become Cape Coast Institute of Technology, Takoradi would also become Takoradi Institute of Technology et cetera.
The polytechnics should understand that they are not in the business of producing secretaries, accountants or psychologists. Thus the aspect of the polytechnic Act that permits them to “pursue other areas as may be determined by authorities of the polytechnics” should be reviewed.
When that portion of the Act continues to exist, very soon we would see the polytechnics beginning to enroll students to pursue programmes in theatre arts, music, journalism and communication, event management among others because they have the mandate to do that.
Time is now up to see the polytechnics concentrating solely on producing engineers, technologists and technicians who would do so at all levels including the awarding of Masters and the PhD’s.
Such Institutes of Technology will only need the nation or the government to resource and equip them with what they need to do exactly what they are established to do.
By this, there is the need to put up meaningful-job-creation-industries to absorb this technical or technological manpower who would graduate from the proposed Institute of Technologies.
No one is trying to oppose that graduates should be self productive by way of establishing their own businesses, mostly through assistance from the government, but where just a few privileged, due to their political affiliation to a party in power, would benefit to the detriment of others is what needs to be stopped.
The charade of governments getting power and creating what I call “modules”-i.e. the GYEEDA, LESDEP among others- which only sees political faithful being employed for the period a political party will be in office and being disengaged when another political party comes into office must be stopped.
Let us revive or re-establish all those now-dead-industries or companies established in the days of Dr Kwame Nkrumah so that issues of politically motivated modules, with their corruptible tendencies, do not occur.
By McAnthony Dagyenga