AfricaLive: Kindly tell our readers a bit about your institution and its role in creating the next generation of professionals that Ghana needs to prosper.
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: Our vision which also sums up our identity is to become a distinguished Christian institution known for excellence in teaching, impact and community development. Our teaching mechanism is through research-led education with a bid to solve the problems of our community. We also want to bridge the gap between what is taught in schools and what various stakeholders in the industry need. We are training graduates to become first-class problem solvers in the communities they hail from. As others are referred to as “University A”, we want to be known as “University A-plus” because of our research-led approach.
Our identity is summed up by three pillars; producing morally and ethically upright graduates, producing academically and intellectually sound graduates and producing people with the ability to solve problems. We have a special emphasis on the last pillar by having problem-solving academies that feature tutors, professors and other competent people. Our institution also strives to create a problem-solving environment.
AfricaLive: How must the higher education sector in Africa adapt to catalyse a new era of pan-African growth?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: We have to ensure that we stay update to not only the needs but the new developments out there. It is also imperative for us to look into the future to see how best we can prepare. I took some time to look at our graduate programmes and compared them to those in international markets. I also took some time to analyse the skill level and work ethic in various markets compared to ours. My analysis has me convinced me that we must fix our issues by redoing our whole education system. We must turn to problem-solving oriented education so that we can service the needs of all stakeholders in our societies.
Graduates shouldn’t have to seek additional skills so that they can be useful to the job market. Precious productive years are lost when graduates have to be retrained because universities didn’t do a good enough job. The way around this is to ensure that the time spent by students in the university is worthwhile and that they are ready to offer value immediately after graduation. Our institution, therefore, invites business leaders and other industry captains to give input on what we teach, while also advising on the mode of delivery. Collaboration will also help universities get better. If schools from different parts of the continent communicate, then skills can be shared and our students can all benefit.
AfricaLive: What are some of the goals you are looking to accomplish while at the helm of Pentecost University?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: Having started my schooling in Ghana and then travelling to the UK for more schooling, I have had time to reflect on the gaps. I aim to transform the way we do education as a continent with this institution being a shining example. I am, therefore, building a group of academics who will focus on problem-solving. We want to build an effective research environment that will consist of active research groups. I also want to reposition our students to make them active participants in the lives of potential employers. Our students can start out as assistants, research associates, trainees, programmers and other relevant positions. We want them to have industry experience by the time they graduate. Upon graduation, our students will be in a position to either occupy positions of work or start their own initiatives. I aim to establish a dynamic Pentecost University solution enabling unit. Here we will be looking at an end-to-end well-integrated system which will include all supporting staff even the non-academic ones taking part.
AfricaLive: How is the higher education sector preparing young Africans for the future and how can institutions such as yours remain relevant in the face of the fourth industrial revolution?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: I believe we are on the path to a very complex future. We are currently working on a project known as the Future of All Things. Here we are looking at technologies like robotics which seek to take over repetitive tasks that traditional education has prepared people for. We must look at how to enhance our existing systems with advanced IT. To stay relevant, we must also look at how we can fit our other activities into advanced IT so that we have useful interconnections. Human capital development must be our main focus so that we get into critical thinking.
AfricaLive: What conversations do you seek to drive with the industry to ensure a vibrant ecosystem where skills and resources are properly transferred?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: We have lined up a conference early next year known as Manufacturing Africa. The conference will bring together industrialists, academics and all other stakeholders so that we can adequately prepare for the future. Our plan is to make sure new technologies are not a threat to us but rather a great opportunity. Discussions around technology have been happening in Ghana already, but big decisions will be made at the conference. It won’t just be a talk show but rather a brainstorming opportunity so that we figure out what technologies we can prioritise and implement to meet our production goals.
AfricaLive: What should the future of research and development look like in Ghana and the rest of Africa?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: I am already impressed with the efforts made all over the country by colleague academics. I see great advancements in areas like health which is amazing. We, however, must work on the utilisation of advanced digital technologies to promote effectiveness and increase efficiency. Boosting our research will not only help us in the present but also provide the data we need for future decision making. Research in manufacturing can be of great importance because we can help existing manufacturers improve their activities by helping them boost production while reducing time.
Building factories as has been touted by many, will not help us much if we don’t build the technologies that help create the machines in the factory. Research will help us build the small industries that can feed the big factories. Until we have sub-industries that can help us make and repair machines, our factories will still have gaps.
AfricaLive: If you were to invite industry leaders, government officials and other stakeholders to a roundtable meeting, what main issue would you raise to spur the development of your country and the whole continent?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: I would need insight from various stakeholders on what problems they encounter in their areas of activity that they would expect tertiary education to address. It is important to know this because I have noticed that education in Africa is not directly tied to politics, government and industry. I would, therefore, challenge them to forward their problems so that we can go back to them with solutions.
AfricaLive: What main message would you like to share about your institution?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: Our institution is a big part of the solution because we must look at education to solve our problems. Policymakers and government must perceive institutions like ours as solution providers so that they can always strive to do right by us.
AfricaLive: What are you looking to do concerning internationalisation?
Prof Kwabena Agyapong: I recently signed an MOU with one of the higher education institutions in Nigeria that will see students from there coming over. We seek to expand our footprint all over the region and the continent. Collaboration is also a key part of our internationalisation strategy because we have kept touch with institutions such as Coventry University in the UK as well as institutions in the US and India.