By Yvonne Elikplim Harlley-Kanyi
Volta region has once been acknowledged as major contributor to the economy of Ghana through the availability of its human resource resulting from the academic excellence of the people of the region.
However, the region appears to have lost its pride, academic performance having taken a complete nosedive in the recent past. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, for example, the region recorded 48.8 per cent, 43.9 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, in the Basic Education Certificate Examination-- a performance which is not different from that at the Senior High School level.
In 2012, the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) established the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) in the Volta region. But many were those who remained unconvinced that the establishment of a University in the region could play any role in helping the region regain its position as the region with the best brains.
However, the formal inauguration of the University On November 16, 2012 by His Excellency the Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, was described by Prof. Kofi Anyidoho, Interim Council Chairman, as the out-dooring of a special baby of privilege and promise, holding the key to the dreams of countless generations of young people of the region and the country.
That statement is now beginning to sound like a prophecy with the three-year-old University gradually bringing international recognition to the region.
The University's very first academic achievement was the winning of a national quiz competition-- "What Do You Know" --organized to mark the 10th anniversary celebration of the National Health Students Association of Ghana at the studios of Ghana Television, late 2014.
UHAS qualified alongside the University of Cape Coast (UCC), College of Health, Kintampo and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to the grand finale and, just like the David and Goliath "heavyweight" clash, displayed what Volta region was known for and "stole" the victory from the old and well-established universities.
Again in 2014, UHAS emerged winners in a quiz competition involving five other older tertiary institutions-- the University of Ghana, KNUST, UCC, College of Health, Kintampo and the Premier School of Medical Laboratory Technology, which was organized by the Federation of Ghana Medical Laboratory Science Students' Associations. UHAS also placed second out of 32 institutions that took part in the fourth edition of TV Africa's 'Knowing Africa' competition in 2013, when the University was just a year old.
That victory brought some nostalgic feeling among education watchers in the region who recounted how citizens of the region had always held enviable positions of first or second in national academic contests in past decades.
Perhaps, the greatest news at the moment is how the University is playing a lead role in the Ebola Vaccine Trial in the country. The University was selected out of the many, which applied for the medical trial, thus placing UHAS among top-class universities such as the University of Oxford which are engaged in research and medical trials to help solve challenges in the world.
Unconfirmed reports say the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and the UHAS of Ghana are the most written-about and discussed in international science magazines in recent times with reference to Ebola Vaccine Trial.
Home grown innovation
Auspiciously, the University is not only focusing on achieving national and international academic laurels, but is also implementing well-thought-through innovations to enhance teaching and learning, which innovations include compulsory vocational training where students spend eight weeks of the long vacation for internship in health facilities to subject theoretical lessons to practical realities.
Quite recently, the School of Nursing and Midwifery has also undertaken community outreaches which also saved lives at Klefe and Adaklu-Helekpe in the Ho and Adaklu districts, respectively, where students had a practical feel of their profession.
Another great innovation of UHAS is the "strengthened foundation" in Mathematics and Science--a scheme that allows level 100 students to spend three semesters in the School of Basic and Biomedical Sciences, with well-grounded lessons in Mathematics and the Sciences to fine-tune students for the herculean task ahead.
One cannot also talk about UHAS without commenting on its ultra-modern infrastructure at Sokode-Lokoe, near Ho, which has given the Volta regional capital a kind of facelift which can favourably compete with those in developed countries.
The facility, which has been completed and ready for commissioning, has a unique architecture with sporting areas at students' hostels, an in-built water reservoir and solar panels for streetlights.
The main campus, which houses the School of Allied and Health Sciences and the School of Basic Biomedicals, has seven laboratories, libraries, an ICT centre, classroom and administration blocks, cafeteria and auditorium.
The School of Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery will, however, remain at the old campus in the yard of the Volta Regional Hospital, which is expected to be upgraded soon into a Teaching Hospital.
Meanwhile, the School of Public Health and Administrative Block at the Hohoe campus is under construction, the ground floor having been constructed and pillars are being erected.
The University plans to expand beyond Ho and Hohoe to other campuses in the northern and southern parts of the region to bring health education to the doorstep of the people.
Presently, Ho and Hohoe are direct the beneficiaries of the establishment of UHAS, with the indigenes and others taking advantage of opportunities presented by the establishment of the University.
Students' accommodation and eating places are arguably the fastest businesses around campuses of the University, competing with banks, microfinance entities, boutiques and multimedia firms for space and Ho, no doubt, is becoming economically-viable and academically-attractive and one could only wish that UHAS provides the opportunity for the region to regain its lost academic glory.
It is important to note, however, that critical to the realization of this wish and hope of the region regaining its lost pride is the importance attached to basic and secondary education--for without a strong foundation, one can hardly climb the educational ladder. In other words, UHAS can hardly be useful if the caliber of those gaining admission into is substandard.