I suspect I have to declare an interest.
I am an alumna of the University of Ghana.
I enjoyed the years that I spent there and many of the friends I made then have remained my friends all my life.
Having said that, I should also say that I am not a great one for “the good old days”.
I take the view that people tend to have an exaggerated recollection of times past and would want everybody to believe that things were much better in the past, when in fact, in many ways life has improved a lot from what we used to have.
My university has just reached its 71st year of existence, and the Alumni Association organised a 70th Anniversary Homecoming Weekend.
So, we have had the opportunity to reminiscence and recall what things were like when we were there and compare it to the present times.
I am not quite sure how realistic the comparison can be.
The way it was
When I was there, the entire student population was about 3,000.
Today the current student population is said to be about 37,940.
I think there were 15 or so of us reading my Honours degree course in my year, these days there are more than a thousand students in one class.
I remember Professor Duncan’s tutorials with seven or nine of us. Apparently, these days there are no tutorials.
The university gave up long ago on high tables and formal dinners where you were introduced to how to cope with sophisticated table setting and wines.
I find that the Botanical Gardens are now used as prayer camps where students go to pray to make lecturers give them high grades. During my time, we certainly had more interesting uses for the Gardens.
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is an alumnus of the university and I suspect he would insist, it is mentioned as well that he is an alumnus of the premier Hall, Legon Hall.
He said in launching the Homecoming Weekend that a university is only as good as its products, its graduates and what they do out in the world.
Well, three of the five presidents of the Fourth Republic are graduates of the University of Ghana.
I wonder what we should read into that.
I don’t have the figures but I suspect that something like 80 per cent or more of the senior civil servants since independence attended the University of Ghana. I wonder what we should read into that.
As President Akufo-Addo asked at the 90th anniversary celebrations of Achimota School, if you say your school was instituted to train people to rule and indeed, you proudly list your alumni as constituting the great and good of the Ghana ruling class, would you want to be held accountable for the state of Ghana?
I wonder how much responsibility the University of Ghana would accept for how things are in the country?
Former students, lecturers, the Law Faculty in particular have all had a lot of influence in the administration of Ghana throughout the years.
Lecturers from the Law Faculty in particular, the Political Science and Economics departments have always been in and out of governments and they are quick to provide comments and opinions on everything and anything.
I was intrigued by the reported outburst of a current famous alumnus, Senyo Hosi, that the university is not producing graduates capable of thinking and being innovative.
He suggested the problem might stem from the lecturers themselves not doing much thinking.
The head of the Institute of Statistical and Social and Economic Research, ISSER, Professor Peter Quartey, rose to the bait. He omitted to point out that they produced Senyo, who obviously got an education and not just a degree.
I am interested in Prof Quartey’s reported reply: “Senyo, we are thinking.
We think,” “We are thinking, except that the large numbers sometimes don’t help.
That’s number one.
Two, we also have a crop of students who do not read.”
That is the bravest thing I have heard anybody say for a long time.
May I add my voice and suggest, the problem of not reading is not limited to the University of Ghana, but to all the universities, Senior High Schools, Junior High Schools, Primary Schools and most important, most homes. We are not reading, that is the problem.
Behind the fancy names
As the Bank of Ghana continues to wrestle with the mess in the financial sector, one cannot help but be impressed with the imaginative range of names of the financial institutions that are in the eye of the storm.
Obviously “First” is very popular. When you set up a bank or savings and loans company or any financial institution in which you are going to try and convince people to entrust their monies with you, it seems important to convince everybody that you are number one, the “first”. Thus we have First Ghana, First Allied, First Trust, First African.
We must, of course, have Adom; everything in this country is by His Grace; everything happens because of His Adom; nothing to do with hard work, or competence, integrity, perseverance, it is simply by His Adom. It would have been surprising if we did not have an Adom Savings and Loans entity among the companies.
If you are looking for a financial institution, you would want it to be an ideal one and to have sterling qualities.
Nobody puts money in anything but the best or most suitable that could possibly be.
When you call your company sterling Financial Services or Ideal Finance, you are announcing that this is sound, upright, and as straightforward as can be.
I understand some people spent a lot of money on the marketing people to find a suitable name that would be attractive and reassuring to the public and make them bring their money.
We had all been brought up to believe in the importance of names and brands.
Now, here we are staring at the reality that a name might be just a cover for a load of rubbish.
But spare a thought for the Women’s World Banking Savings and Loans Company Limited.
It is what it says it is, or maybe I should say it was what it said it was.
It did not pretend to be anything else.
I recall that this was one of the projects of the legendary Esther Ocloo.
She was forever trying to find ways to encourage entrepreneurship among young people and women especially.
I am really sad that it has gone under.
There should be some space for an entity that caters for Women’s Banking, Savings and Loans.
By: Elizabeth Ohene