The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, has appealed to African states to prioritise the funding of higher education in their national budget allocations in recognition of students’ academic and social needs.
“Lack of funding impedes research, thwarts scholarship and defeats the purpose of higher education which aims at discovering new knowledge to stimulate social growth”, he stated.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang made the appeal at the opening of an International Conference on Distance Education and Teacher Training in Africa (DETA) at Cape Coast on Tuesday.
The four-day conference is being attended by about 80 experts involved in distance education on the continent.
Participants were from African tertiary institutions, including Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Mali and Nigeria.
On the theme, ‘Issues and challenges in education in Africa - the need for a new teacher’, the conference seeks to identify the problems of distance education and formulate strategies to improve the quality of students under the distance education programme.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang further called for the development of human resources in the context of African cultural identity and said that a fair percentage of the teacher stock in Africa did not meet the minimum standards for the profession.
“Coupled with this problem is a high attrition rate as a result of the demotivating factor of the conditions of service of teachers in Africa” she added.
She therefore, advocated for a capacity building in education, especially in teacher education, saying, “a robust educational policy buttressed by a strong teaching force will render the policy effective and advance the ambition for national growth.”
To enhance quality education on the continent, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang stated the need to look at the mastery of education programmes, the use of methodologies, provision of adequate teaching materials and sufficient teaching time.
She mentioned shortage of teachers which result in overcrowded classes and poor quality of teachers as some of the reasons that result in inadequate learning outcomes on the African continent.
She urged African governments, institutions of higher learning and stakeholders in education to take a critical look at the important role of distance education in addressing some of the challenges of education.
“A way out is to envision a learner who has foresight, initiative and the confidence to turn challenges into opportunities and above all, a learner who recognises that education that he or she has acquired via distance gains relevance only in so far as it help resolve societal and continental challenges” she said.
The Minister of Education, Alex Tettey-Enyo, in an address, underscored the need to invest in teacher quality at the earliest stages of a teacher’s career.
He said that the traditional educational practices no longer provided prospective teachers with all the necessary skills for teaching and called for a blend with the modern technological mode of teacher education.
Mr Tettey-Enyo called on stakeholders in education to help build a comprehensive model of teacher development that he said should start with pre-training coupled with in-service training throughout the teacher’s career.