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Your academic arrogance unacceptable – Pratt replies KNUST Lecturer

Over the week, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Chemistry at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Richard Tia, replied claims attributed to veteran journalist and Managing Editor of the Insight newspaper Kwesi Pratt against the university.

Kwesi Pratt lambasted KNUST for not being able to produce even a solar panel or provide any solution for the country’s energy problems, 50 years after its establishment.

“We have a University of Science and Technology which is more than 50 years but in the entire nation, we can’t construct a battery and solar panel…This is extremely disturbing…What happened to the Science and Technology?” Mr. Pratt said on Peace FM’s “Kokrokoo” show on Tuesday.

But the KNUST Lecturer, Richard Tia, who was unhappy with the claim wrote an article to counter, which went viral on social media and was granted some online media space. In the detailed article, the lecturer said:

“I am not sure I know what Mr. Kwesi Pratt wants to see to know that KNUST can make a solar cell. Is he expecting a factory on campus fabricating solar cells or he expects to see KNUST-branded solar cells in the market. I am afraid none of the two is the mandate of the university, and if I were its leader, we won’t do anything of the sort. Our job is to create the knowledge based on which the solar cell fabrication will be done, and then in partnership with investors, the patent holders set up companies to do their business.”

But Mr Kwesi Pratt will not allow the matter to rest. He has fired a rebuttal in an article he authored this morning:

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Mischievous or mere ignorant Dr Tia

Dr. Richard Tia shows very clearly that his intent is to be mischievous because he deliberately twists my comments and omits essential elements in a futile effort to be logical and / or consistent.

The point I made is that it is regrettable that after more than 50 years of the existence of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana continues to import solar panels from Germany and elsewhere. I also insisted that the blame does not lie with the students and academics at the University, but with the various governments we have had, which have refused to adequately provide for research at the university.

It is interesting that Dr. Tia admits that “(my comment) is a serious indictment of a university that was set up to, in the words of Kwame Nkrumah, lead the scientific and technological advancement of Ghana and Africa”. Given the important role that solar energy can play in the development of Ghana and Africa, isn’t it a huge pity that no matter what Dr. Tia claims the university has done, Ghana continues to import solar panels? One would have thought that the charge to promote the scientific and technological advancement of Ghana would be more meaningful if it led to the production of solar panels locally.

Dr. Tia writes “I am the first to admit that the university has probably not done enough to engage the public on an informed discourse on the mandate of the university and what it has done so far in the discharge of that mandate. But sometimes, there is so much an academic can do”. Wow! If the university which like all other universities was set up to promote public good, fails to inform the very public about what it has done to achieve its mandate, who takes the flack? Members of the public like me who comment on the apparent lack of achievement or the likes of Dr. Tia who have failed to give us the relevant information?

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He suggests that there is a disconnect between research and development and that the disconnect justifies the lack of development which finds expression in the non-production of solar panels in Ghana. Again is it not reasonable to expect that our universities would be interested in building the links between research and development. What is the point of research if it does not lead to concrete improvements in the way we do things?

I salute many academics who have worked so hard to bring about meaningful and positive change in the lives of the Ghanaian people.These academics would include Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana who has used his expert knowledge in law to negotiate several international agreements entered into by governments of Ghana, Professor Allotey whose contribution to the development of mathematics is phenomenal, Dr. Konotey Ahorlu, one of the world’s best research scientists who has contributed significantly to an understanding of the sickle cell disease, Professor Francis Nkrumah a research scientist at the Noguchi Memorial Institute and Dr. Yao Graham, a respected activist on issues regarding mining and trade .

Dr. Tia reveals his orientation and level of commitment to the national project when he writes “if the British are prepared to give me a million pounds sterling to do research on heterogeneous catalysis that is what I will do, whether it would benefit my country directly or not”. Need I comment?

Perhaps, Dr. Tia needs to be reminded that the university of Science and Technology was established with tax payer funds extracted from people, a large majority of whom “cannot define an atom”. The fact that we may not be able to define an atom does not exclude us from commenting on the work of public universities set up to promote our collective interest. Yes, we may not be able to split or define atoms but we are entitled to express concerns about the use of knowledge of atoms to create weapons of mass destruction. This academic arrogance is clearly unacceptable.

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Kwesi Pratt, Jnr. Accra.

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