The Association of African Universities (AAU), is set to get its permanent Secretariat by December 2015, after 30 years of relocating to Ghana
Speaking at a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a multi-purpose office complex to house the Secretariat of the AAU, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman, Minister of Education, said the association had performed remarkably well in spite of the limitations posed by the inadequate office space.
She said the move by the association to have a new secretariat would enable it to perform better.
She noted that membership of the association had increased from the initial 34 higher education institutions in 1967 to about 320 in 2014, with corresponding increase in the portfolio of programmes and services it provides to its members.
Feedback from a survey conducted by the association had also shown that its stakeholders expect more services, especially in the area of management, leadership, development, strategic planning and change management, among others.
Prof Agyeman said major economic and social challenges facing higher education in Africa present more opportunities for further research and proposals.
“The AAU has a role to play especially in reducing, if not removing, the challenges of funding, linkages, recognition of certificates, raising the level of research output, deepening relevance of higher education to national and continental development, as well as making the AAU continuously relevant and increasing its visibility,” she stated.
“The board in 2010 advanced the call for a permanent place and again made an appeal to the late President Atta Mills. In response, government pledged a yearly allocation of two million Ghana cedis from the Ghana Education Trust Fund towards building a permanent office for the secretariat to resolve the challenges of inadequate office space and enhance output,” she said.
Prof Agyeman noted that the relationship between Ghana and the AAU is long-standing, dating back to the establishment of the association in 1967.
She said Ghana had accepted to host the secretariat of the AAU, provide a residence for the Secretary General of the association and to extend diplomatic privileges to it; a commitment which government has fulfilled till date.
She stressed that the fulfillment of the pledge even after the passing of the late president demonstrates the appreciation of the role of higher education in national and regional development.
She said the completion of the new secretariat would help the AAU provide more working space for new programmes and additional staff to facilitate the organisation of forums on higher education.
It would also enable the AAU to host visiting scholars, facilitate access to indigenous research through its library and resource centre and to do research, which is key to finding solutions to national and continental problems.
Professor Etienne Ehile, AAU Secretary General, explained that available space at the current office had been converted to offices to accommodate humans, equipment and publications, a challenge which limits the association’s ability to recruit more staff to run its various projects, ICT infrastructure and conference facilities.
He paid tribute to the late President John Evans Atta Mills for giving a positive response to the building of the AAU secretariat.
He said hosting the secretariat on the soils of the University of Ghana could not have been more appropriate as it would serve as a perpetual memorial to the tenacity of the late Professor Alex Kwapong; the first African Vice Chancellor of the University, to relocate AAU to Ghana.
He called on AAU members and development partners to donate towards the fulfillment of the worthy enterprise.
The multipurpose facility would comprise a secretary general’s office, at least seven directorates, library and resource centre, 50-seater conference room, smaller meeting rooms, offices for visiting scholars, document reproduction room and general facilities.
The building would also have special facilities for people with disabilities and as well as solar panels to serve as alternative source of energy. It would also have a rain harvesting system with the water stored in underground water cisterns.