University lecturers have laid bare daunting challenges of serious staff inadequacies expected to hit public universities with the August intake of the first batch of the free senior high school graduates.
In some six months, tertiary institutions will be expecting more than a 50 per cent increase in the intake of fresh men as the traditional average of 90 thousand students is expected to hit a whopping 155,000 applicants.
This is anticipated to come with a strain on accommodation, lecture halls, staff, laboratories, libraries and other ancillary facilities.
According to the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), the government has taken a lopsided approach to the development as the staff requirement for these high numbers has not been adequately considered.
The lecturers insist teacher to student ratios in most public universities are already dire and fear the load on lecturers could have devastating consequences on their ability to deliver positive educational outcomes.
These figures were brought to the fore in a workshop held by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology chapter of UTAG held on the University’s campus.
Delivering her address, Educationist and Professor with the Department of Art and Built Environment, Professor Nana Afia Amponsah Opoku Asare underscored the enormity of the challenge of increased number of students on the already burdensome work of lecturers.
She explained: “The increase in enrolment in the senior high schools has direct positive and negative implications for us university lecturers. Now we are expecting thousands of 17 and 18 year olds in the university.”
“For the last two academic years, even with the current crop of students, I wonder if any lecturer can tell us he had one week of rest. Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, are we prepared? If emotionally I am drained, if I am not able to rest and I come to school again thinking of these new students how am I suppose to function?, Prof Opoku Asare questioned.
Out of the 90,000 students that applied for enrolment into tertiary institutions, the KNUST enrolled over 15,000 in the 2019-2020 academic year.
The University is projected to accept close to 30,000 students out of the 155,000 students forecasted to make inroads into tertiary schools this year.
The Vice Chancellor of the KNUST who chaired the event, Professor Obiri Danso identified with the staff challenges articulated by the lecturer body on campus.
He pointed out that even though government has given clearance for more staff to be employed, more hands will be required to assist the teachers.
He outlined: “Some of the ratios in some of the departments and programs are too alarming. Thankfully we as a university got clearance to add 426 new staff. But we need to increase the number of teaching assistants to help with tutorials as we also look at technologies where one lecturer can beam lectures to two or three classrooms at the same time.”
Speaking on behalf of the students; a graduate student and former Students Representative Council President Isaac Boakye Nyamekye pleaded that lecturers bend with empathy to offer their best in the lecture theatres in the face of the attendant problems.
Some of the lecturers who were on their feet to ask questions decried the failure of authorities to consider expanding laboratories; libraries and other facilities used for practical activities on campus.
In an interview with Ultimate News, KNUST UTAG President Professor Charles Marfo however assured that at the end of the conference; the lecturers will map up strategies to rise to the occasion despite the foreseen difficulties.
“We have strategies up our sleeves because we have been doing the work which we love even with all these pressures but we believe adding to our numbers will be great,” Prof Marfo told reporter Ivan Heathcote – Fumador.
Meanwhile the KNUST has commenced a number of projects with private developers to beef up the number of hostels to prevent a housing crisis on campus.