Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, has hailed the achievements of the university’s Annual New Year School and Conference over the past seven decades.
He said the Annual New Year School and Conference has for 72 years served as a barometer for gauging public for the promotion of good governance and socio-economic development.
Professor Owusu made these remarks at the opening of 72nd Annual New Year School and Conference at the University of Ghana, Legon in Accra.
The two-day event, which was opened by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is being organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education, a sub-department of the College of Education at the University of Ghana. The theme of the conference is “Building Ghana in the Face of Global Health Crises”.
Government makes an impact
The Vice-Chancellor described the theme for this year’s school as timely given the collateral consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak in all sectors of the economy.
Professor Owusu said it was worth recalling that the government had made significant efforts to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on vulnerable people and private sector growth.
The food relief, electricity and water tariff reliefs to consumers and the promise of stimulus package for small scale and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are some notable initiatives.
“Being the first major event on the university calendar, I always look forward to the Annual New Year School and Conference, which over the years has been a source of great pride to the university,” he said.
Plaudits for Noguchi
He argued that for the New Year School to survive from the colonial era through the various military and civilian dispensations to this present day shows its relevance in the national development agenda.
This year’s Annual New Year School and Conference was taking place at a peculiar time, Professor Owusu said, citing the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected nations across the globe.
In Ghana, several measures were implemented to curtail the spread of the dreaded virus, he recalled, notably a lockdown, social distancing protocols and lifestyle changes.
Professor Owusu said the closure of schools, colleges, and universities was necessary given the prevailing circumstances, and as the premier university in the country, it embraced the challenge and rolled out innovative strategies to ensure that teaching and learning continued, as students’ continued to stay at home.
“I am happy to report that we were able to complete the academic year without putting students at risk of infection,” he said.
The Vice-Chancellor gave special mention to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) of the University of Ghana, which has played a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 through testing.
He said scientists at the NMIMR and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) also at Legon had successfully sequenced the genome for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, obtaining important information in doing so about the genetic composition of viral strains in 15 of the confirmed cases in Ghana.
Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, the presidential co-ordinator of the Government of Ghana’s Coronavirus Response Programme and former deputy director general of the World Health Organization, delivered the keynote address.
In the past 20 years countries had invested heavily in preparing for terrorist attacks, he said, but made relatively little preparation for an attack of a virus. COVID-19 had proved to be more deadly, disruptive and costly, he added.
“No country is fully prepared, but at the same time no country is fully unprepared,” said Dr Asamoa-Baah. Preparedness is a process, and there is always room for improvement.
Mary Chinery-Hesse, the Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who chaired the function, urged participants to give special attention to women in their communique.