Ghana: Have Professional Standards Become an Unknown 'Quantity' in Ghana?

18 November 2019
opinion

I was extremely shocked by the report that lectures at the University of Cape Coast had had to be suspended, on 30 October 2019, as a result of floods that had made the campus unsafe, in the administration's view.

It is reported that two factors have been blamed for the catastrophe: the location of the University and drains on the campus that had become clogged up.

If the "location" was the cause of the floods, was it not incompetence on the part of the architects who sited the University at its current "location"?

And if it was choked drains that were the cause, was that, again, not an indication of incompetence on the part of the institution's maintenance body?

But apart from those directly responsible for safety on the campus, are there not, also, scores of knowledgeable people at the University who should have foreseen - and warned against - the fact that the campus was in danger of being flooded? A University is supposed to be the storehouse of knowledge on ALL subjects. Aren't University people always telling others how to run things?

Okay - assuming that some of them were prescient enough to tell the authorities about fears they entertained that their campus could be flooded, but that the authorities did nothing about their fears should they just have sat down and done nothing? Aren't Universities the places where people are taught skills that enable them to take action to CHANGE society?

So I find the academic staff of the University of Cape Coast uniformly culpable. But, of course, the primary responsibility does lie with the University's estate office, which, one presumes, is staffed with qualified personnel. No - change that to "certificated" personnel, for in Ghana, it appears that aptitude and native intelligence are ignored in preference to certificates.

Also -- what about the student body? They are always ready to put on red arm-bands and go on "alutas" (sometimes in respect of such relatively trivial misdeeds on the part of the administration). But when it came to choked drains on the campus, they could not figure out the possible threat to the actual lives of students? Or the potential threat that floods would pose to the academic time-table?

What is distressing is that the abject failure of standards that should operate at Cape Coast U is a reflection of an absence of standards all over Ghana. Drive around our capital city, Accra, and you won't believe that Ghana has ever produced a single road engineer worth the name. Traffic is always in a "go-slow" because we prefer roundabouts and crossroads to underpasses and overpasses.

Again, our engineers go to Universities in Europe and America and learn a lot about how to construct roads with good pavements, on which people can walk safely and even enjoy walking to the extent that they sometimes forsake cars and buses and walk long distance, because of the good health that long walks can bring. But when the same engineers "qualify" abroad and come back home, they construct roads for us without pavements.

These road-builders of ours forget that our teeming population also need to walk in relative safety, like their counterparts in Europe and America. Our open, smelly gutters, however we came by them, are a sign, everywhere, that our road-builders do not adhere to world-class standards of building roads in urban centres. Of course, we know that politicians are sometimes responsible for such horrific road construction because they do not vote enough money for road projects, or they dip their dirty hands into road-construction budgets. But if the engineers - and they have a strong union - were really concerned, they shouldn't they take some action? After all, no politician construct a road by himself without an engineer?

Of course, it doesn't help that our citizenry do not possess any "standards" of behaviour, either. Instead of crying against the failures of the engineers, they rather take advantage of them. The open gutters left by the engineers serve as an easy means of disposing of rubbish. Who cares for the absence of proper "borlas" conveniently sited near markets and food hawkers (for instance) when a Minister lacks professional standards enough to declare publicly that he is not the "Minister for Borla"?

So, we find our gutters and streets filled with plastic and other non-biodegradable substances, which only wait for the rains to come before they are washed down open gutters to accumulate in an ugly manner at conspicuous corners. The rubbish clogs up waterways and cause flood waters to invade homes and petrol stations - creating a double danger. We have been talking about these things and talking and talking and talking. But we DO almost nothing about them.

Can anyone believe that our lack of standards has even been allowed to affect the one road in Ghana that everyone was once proud of - the Accra-Tema motorway? The other day, traffic piled up on it for hours - because of a heavy downpour of rain. The natural outlets for the runoff of water from the road have been allowed to be blocked by hawkers' sheds and containers. Houses have been erected in some areas close to the motorway. And unauthorised access roads have been cut across many parts of the motorway, and some continue to exist, despite the fact that an actual head of state was nearly killed when his vehicle collided with one that was using an unauthorised access road to enter the motorway.

Our electricity supply is patchy. I learnt the other day that a brand new house on a brand new estate had been handed over to the purchaser with electricity connected to it in ONE PHASE, INSTEAD OF THREE! The connection was also improperly earthed! The poor guy who rented the house had to rely on a generators - at great cost! - until someone detected the faults for him! And this is a beautiful development that is worth scores of millions to the investor! What "standards" are being enforced in such businesses? Should the Government not classify houses "safe" before they are allowed to be inhabited? like that?

Finally, look at what has happened to the Aburi -Ayimensah road, which was constructed only a few years ago? It is only now that it has been realised that siting buildings high up but close to the road, or carrying out semi-quarrying activities near it to beautify these houses, poses a terminal danger to the road. Does that make sense?

Enough is enough! We must now hold our engineers, architects and other professionals to high standards, or let them know that we shall bypass them and employ people from overseas -- people who value their professional reputations and will enforces high standards that speak more loudly than the papers they hold in their hands, as a result of passing exams.

Truly, knowledge, or "certified" expertise, without verifiable and credible practical results, is all but dead.

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