Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pretending to be scientists: why the low level of science in Ghana?

After long and careful observation, I now know the exact and the fundamental reasons why the standard of science in Ghana is so low compared to countries, which were at Ghana’s level at the time of independence. The efforts made by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to set up the institutions needed to pursue science and apply it to the development of this country have generally not been followed up. This is largely because trained Ghanaian scientists have not been genuinely committed to science and the pursuit of science research in this country. Developed countries achieved their improved quality of life largely by the use of science and technology and it is often said that Africa's development gap is a technology gap.

It is surprising to see that over the past 50 years no real effort has been made to bring the benefits of science and technology to the development process; it always about economic management and IMF and World Bank and ‘donors’, etc. etc.... It should be obvious by now that until someone in this country decides to make the pursuit of science and technology the centerpiece of our development programme, we are not getting anywhere and poverty will continue to rise.

The current mediocre situation
Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” For the sake of social justice and as a matter of urgency, Ghana’s current leadership must make a critical intervention in order to prevent an obvious future tragedy. A tour of all institutions of higher learning in this country will show the sorry state of laboratories where training is supposed to be conducted.

There are hardly any functioning pieces of equipment for gifted students to use for their training. Laboratory supplies are never adequate and yet university students are made to pay academic facility user fees, which are supposed to supplement the government subvention. While it is easy to blame everything on the government, it is also obvious that Ghanaian scientists do not have a basic commitment to science as others do elsewhere in the world.

 The leaders of science institutions and departments fail to inspire up-and-coming scientists to rise to excellent status but rather restrain them so they continue to operate with the mediocre standards that are contributing to more ignorance and more poverty. The few science-based and science-driven companies operating in Ghana thrive only on wholesale importation of technology and products.

The critical intervention

The risk of causing human resource loss to this country is great; what has been lost already is not that bad but we cannot afford any increase in the rate of loss. As the global population grows, there will be increasing competition for resources and the only way to make sure that these insufficient amounts go round is to unleash the power of technology. Each country will have to deploy its own technology using its own, very well trained human resource. This why I am screaming for Ghana’s leadership to do the youth of today a big favor by changing a system of science education that is only programming the youth for obvious future defeat. It is necessary to ignite a rapid overhaul of the current system by first establishing science and engineering resource centers in all secondary schools and tertiary institutions.

These centers should be staffed in part by Ghanaian scientists in the Diaspora, who should be engaged on a contract that allows them to spend one month a year in Ghana to run clinics for students of science and engineering. Such clinics should be run outside the current curricula and the outside the current education management system across the country. They should be run as a special initiative that is designed to offset the intellectual and skills bankruptcy of the current educational system. Making systematic use of Ghanaian scientists in the Diaspora will help ensure that the youth of today get opportunities equivalent to those of their counterparts in industrialized countries.

Creating institutions of excellence in science and technology

The financial resources needed to create institutions of science and technologies in Ghana are currently available; the problem is that they are being misapplied. The academic facility user fees that have been paid since 1998 or so amount to huge sums of money but I daresay that the state of facilities does not reflect the monies collected to date. How can our education managers act in a manner that hurts the prospects of future generation?
We do not need any extraordinary arrangement to kick-start the creation of such institutions. We just need leaders and managers who love the country to begin the process of applying available resources correctly. They should also enlist the practical support of Ghanaian scientists in the Diaspora to turn the current situation around. If Ghanaian scientists would demonstrate clear and strong commitment to science and research, this alone would give impetus towards realizing the dream of first-class science centers in Ghana.
The political leadership needs to wake up, see the bad leadership it is providing, and sit up. We need leaders who understand the elements of our being and who do not focus solely on ‘economic and financial management’ as the only way of developing a country, when that is actually the least of our problems.
Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),


  1. One of the reasons for low level of science is simply due to lack of Role models for upcoming scientists. This is due the fact that Young and upcoming scientist do not see any future in the science. Only few of our scientists are actually living science. How can a mechanical engineer hire an illiterate to fix a simple mechanical problem? And electrical engineer, agric scientist and others the same. This makes people think that the word scientist is just a mere term or slogan and not something realistic. Notwithstanding this, there are more to be done by government by pumping huge money and at least basic resources into science. By this way science will be attractive.

  2. I cannot blame our political leaders so much. These are mostly people from the social sciences and so have very little or no applied science background. They therefore are not able to appreciate the relevance of science and technology. Science in our schools is more of theory than practical. Hence very few science students pursue research since they do not get to develop interest in it. Also, science in Ghana is largely limited to medicine, with focus on health delivering than research.
    All these ideas are hindrances to science and technology in Ghana. With such ideas at the back of the mind of the ordinary Ghanaian, a science centre might just not suffice.
    What I think we need is for some really concerned scientists to penetrate the political setting of the nation and effect the change we are waiting to see.

  3. The thing is we cannot wait until a scientist becomes President. We need a wise leader who know what it takes to develop a country. Who has learned that Advanced countries developed with Research, Innovation and Development (RID)

    Like I commented earlier, such wise leaders will lead Ghana to use Science and technology to create a better life. Law and Economics is just not deep enough.

    Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was not a scientist but he had a very deep appreciate and believe that only science and technology can bring progress.

  4. I believe it is mostly our way of thinking that has led to a low level of science in this country. The economic and business sector has become so famous and the system has made it easier for students who study science to enter these sectors and make it big. Why then would any one want to go through a long process of seeking for funds to fund a single research programme which might not even come or may come but greatly reduced? We must make sure to specialize the sectors such that science goes to science and business to business. Our leaders would be influential in this area. I also agree that African scientists in the diaspora should come home and try to make a difference. It is by developing science and technology that we can compete with the outside world. Our syllabus for science and technology I believe are also outdated. Though I believe that it is necessary to hold on to first principles I believe that is all we do and we do not change with the changing developments in science. How can we be on the same level with scientists outside? We should restructure our syllabus.

  5. The type of personality Dr. Nkrumah had I think was only one in heaven that God gave to him. Initially I use to think that WE MUST HAVE A SCIENTIST PRESIDENT before science and technology will be the number one priority on our budget but I have come to realized that it is a fallacy. We have a number of engineers, medical doctors, science lecturers who are either ministers or MPs but I tell you they are evening doing worst than the BFA guy who will consider entertainment, tourism to be his priority. Let’s consider UG and KNUST and take the trouble to count the number of Prof’s, Dr’s and Mr’s in science and compare that to environmental, health, etc problems that we have. Just recently there was gas shortage in the country, water problems all over but all these people are there. So Ghanaians are only studying science to get jobs but not necessarily the social impact that matters us.
    Thank you.

  6. @ PAKAR,
    Well, that is true. What we would need to do then is to proclaim this message till it gets to top.
    Our political leadership really needs to wake up before it's too late.

  7. I agree with you very much as to how many trained scientist are bankers and economists. The University of Mines and Technology is mainly built so as to help in the mining activities in Ghana, yet we have whites still managing the major mining companies, after streams of students having graduated from the school. I saw a caption-flag flier “An engineer can become a banker”. Indeed the scientist coming home once a year can motivate the youth to be more interested in science. Most people in Ghana may be interested in science but they ask: where are the resources?

  8. The main cause of all these is lack of follow up. As you said Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was not a scientist, yet he knew the that the success behind a nation was through the scientific and technological approach. He had this in mind when setting up KNUST. I think the government should try and invest more into the science field, else we suffer the risk of producing unskilled scientist to face the difficult tasks the future has to offer. In some universities for example, their laboratories are either poorly equipped or insufficient instruments. The students in turn are only acquainted with the theoretical aspects and can boast of no skills acquired. I also appeal to renowned companies to invest in the science industries rather than all these reality shows on our screens nowadays.

  9. The entire situation is sad. Its goes like this, after all this years, the problems are still persisting whiles the solutions do exist, but the way or mechanism to solve these problems seem to be lost. Why? This I find to be preposterous. I do wonder if the government invest with our revenues into the future of the country, other than paying debts all the time. Even if they do invest some of our revenues, do they invest into profitable enterprises? Why can’t they for once invest heavily into science and technology In Ghana, so that they see what will happen. Why can’t they learn from the industrial revolution of the western world since the major breakthrough was form science and technology? The questions are endless but I believe the answer to these entire questions is simple.

  10. i dont think anybody is pretending to be a scientist. the conditions in the country does not allow one to show love for the profession. all started as a result of lack of direction from our leaders. i wont blame them much because of their background. Kwame Nkrumah knew the essence of science in nation building, that why he deliberately a university solely for science and technology.what has become of it now.a social science university. the truth is we cannot wait for a lover of science before things are done right. for me, i think its about time we take the bull by the horns. if the government is not prepared to provide aprpropriate working conditions for our scientist to show their worth, then i think we should ne prepared to throw them out.after all we pay them.