This year’s New Year School opens at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana today and will run for only two days, the Coordinator of the New Year School and Conference, Mr Godfred Akpanya, has said.
He explained that the university almost cancelled the 72-year-old annual event, which had always run for over a week, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview in Accra yesterday ahead of the event, Mr Akpanya explained that the decision to run the school for just two days was to avoid bringing together the huge number of participants at one venue.
The New Year School, with presentations and conferences, is a flagship programme of the School of Continuing and Distance Education of the College of Education of the University of Ghana.
It is normally attended by experts from particular fields under discussion, high-profile personalities, academicians, representatives from the various local assemblies and the business community, as well as a cross-section of the public.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is expected to open this year’s school, which is on the theme: “Building Ghana in the face of global health crises”.
Topics to be discussed include: “Public health infrastructure for preventive healthcare service during pandemics”, “Resilient self-sufficient economy to withstand global health crises”, “ICT for the provision of inclusive quality education and life-long learning”, and “Sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices”.
Mr Akpanya explained that with the university in session, it meant that the event would draw a lot more people, and that was why the decision was taken to have it for two days “to at least satisfy our constituents who have, over the years, never missed it”.
He explained that even though the school would be for two days, “it has a tall list of activities and the speakers have been carefully selected to handle the topics”.
Mr Akpanya said at the end of the second day, the participants would have so much to go back home with, giving the assurance that “participants will get, even more, considering the topics, the speakers and the panellists”.
He explained that the organisers almost resorted to using a virtual platform for the school until the President, in one of his addresses to the nation, gave the green light for the organisation of conferences.
Mr Akpanya, who has been the New Year School ‘Prefect’ for over a decade now, underscored the importance and relevance of the theme and the various topics lined up for discussion to help the country to withstand the COVID-19 and other pandemics.
Touching on funding for the school, he said: “We are cash-trapped; we do not have funds, and even when we get sponsorship because the university is operating a one-stop account system, any money that comes into the university goes to one source and accessing that money is another problem.”
He said the New Year School had, on a number of occasions, tried to have a separate account because corporate institutions were willing to support the school, “but because of the university policy, that too is a challenge”.
Mr Akpanya observed that the policy of the university was one of the major challenges, explaining that the school was a non-academic one that helped in shaping policy direction.
Mr Akpanya expressed regret that after 72 years of the school that had made important contributions to the general development of the country, it still did not have a secretariat and a vehicle for operations.
He said a secretariat for the New Year School was crucial to ensure that all the speeches, the papers presented and the communiqués were preserved for posterity.
“As of now, the school is hiding behind the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Education, where we have staff who are not motivated in any way,” he explained, adding that those workers had to add the work they did for the school to their normal schedules.