Dean of Engineering shares perspective on STEM

March 6, 2017
Sixty years ago, on the 6th of March, Ghana became an independent country, rounding of years of colonization. Buoyed by the nation’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the young country was hailed as a beacon of hope for Africa, leading the way in infrastructural development, transatlantic partnerships and steady industrial growth.

Over the years however, Ghana’s growth has slowed, reeling from tough economic conditions, growing unemployment rates among the youth, weak institutions and nationwide corruption.

In this post, Dean of Engineering School, Dr. Fred McBagonluri shares his perspectives on Ghana’s growth over the last six decades, particularly in the area of STEM.

Post-colonization, Ghana took key steps that placed us trajectory towards prosperity; a number of good secondary schools sprang up, the Ghana Atomic Commission, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana Standard Boards and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology were also among some of the institutions set up.

However, despite 60 years of independence, we still have not found our footing as to the kind of educational system that will work for our industries. To design an educational system and an industrial society, we need to figure out exactly where we want to go- and we haven’t done that.

We need to capitalize on our natural resources; not just exporting raw materials, but also developing the entire value chain so we can reap the bouquet of benefits from the resources. To do this, we have to step back to see what kind of educational system will support this system.

I think the Ashesi model is the way forward; an educational system where you have a broad-based diversified worldview reinforced with the liberal arts education, and finally with technical training layered on it. Just knowing engineering alone is not enough, however, understanding how that engineering works within the context of society is critical.

Additionally, women naturally must play a key role in the next developmental cycle. Women account for more than half the world’s population, and will have good buying power. So if we design products neglecting input from women, those products are unlikely to sell. So it’s important to have diversification in education, with women as a natural part of the strength.

We also have to make a deliberate effort to establish centers of excellence, and have to make sure those centers of excellence are relevant to our developmental objectives. We need to be deliberate about our development needs, define them clearly and evaluate whether the engineering training we have is relevant to that, and finally, execute effectively.

If we do these things and do them well, the needle will move farther it has than in the last sixty years.

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