NEGLECTED AND ROTTEN: The Sad Story of Legon’s Computer Science Department

At the basement of the Regional Institute of Population Studies (RIPS) at the University of Ghana, Legon, a lecture is ongoing in a dimly lit and poorly ventilated room. The students who study here are from the Computer Science Department.

In this room, only one bulb is functioning, but poor lighting is not the main concern of anyone who enters this room. The basement of this block has sewage problems, according to sources here, and the wooden floor of this improvised lecture hall and other such rooms used by the Computer Science Department cannot keep the stench at bay.

This lecture room here is also very warm because the air conditioner here has not been powered for nearly one year. It carries a scary warning to whoever may be tempted to switch it on:

“Danger! Danger!! Please note!! This A/C sparks seriously whenever it is powered on. Please!! Please!! Do not make the attempt to power it on. Thank you. BY DCS Order. June 13,2014. 9:00am.”

It is almost one year since this warning notice was written but the air conditioner is yet to be repaired. This represents only one area of the abject neglect the Computer Science Department of the University of Ghana suffers as I move from one part of the department to the other.

In one block at the Chemistry Department, over 100 students are crammed into a room that is supposed to take 48 students. This lecture room is named The China Computer Laboratory because the plaque at the entrance says it was refurbished and “donated to the University of Ghana by the Government of the People’s Republic of China” in December 2001.

Overcrowded lecture room at the Chemistry Block
After 14 years, the facility is still the only computer “laboratory” of this department but it is not a laboratory. There is no single computer or any equipment for practical or laboratory studies here. Beyond equipment, the room is not conducive for learning.

The two air conditioners here are dysfunctional and the heat is unbearable. The chairs here are badly broken but students are compelled to use them.

“As we say here in Ghana here, we just have to manage,” one student said.

But space is not the only headache of students who came to Ghana’s premier university to study computer science. The department doesn’t have computers or any  of the complex equipment for the programme.

“Some of us have our personal laptops but we don’t even have a stable internet,” one student said.

“As part of our fees, we pay for laboratory but we have no lab,” another student told me.

“For my course, I paid GHc7,090, almost GHc7,100, but I don’t have a lab,” a frustrated graduate student said. “I still have to do things like I did in my undergrad level. I did my undergrad here; [we have] very good lecturers, but hardware lab, nothing. Everything here has to be imaginary. We need the lab and equipment to be able to see what our lecturers are talking about,” she said.

The department has no building of its own and students and lecturers say they are perching in three departments. They say the conditions in which they study are about the worst in the university.

The Basement of RIPS building where the Computer Science Department is housed

The Computer Science Department currently operates from the RIPS, the Chemistry and the Statistics Departments. Joy News has learnt the Statistics Department has served notice of eviction to the Computer Science Department.

The Computer Science Department of the University of Ghana has existed since 1976. With close to 1,000 students, the department currently runs two undergraduate programmes, a Master of Science programme, and the newly introduced PhD programme has one candidate. Despite the enormity of work involved in running the many the courses, the department has only eight permanent lecturers and two retired lecturers, who are on contract. Joy News sources say excessive bureaucracy in the administration and rigid policies make it difficult to attract lecturers to the department.

Joy News can also report that the challenges affecting the department are not new. A damning report written by the Accreditation Panel of the National Accreditation Board in 2005 and intercepted by Joy News in the course of this report indicates that not much attention has being paid to the woes of the Computer Department in the past. 

The report, authored by Prof. Clement Somuah, Dr. (Mrs.) Adenike O. Osofisan and Dr. James Ben Hayfron-Acquah, raised critical issues about the poor nature of the department’s library, the high student-teacher ratio, low capacity of staff members and inadequate (and in some cases) lack of essential equipment for teaching and learning.

Ill-equipped Library of the Computer Science Department

“Working computers in the two laboratories are not adequate for the student population of 1000 for Computer Science,” the 2005 report stated. “The ratio of 30 students to 1 computer is too high. This situation will result in students not getting sufficient practical work.”

Ten years later, the situation has worsened because the computer laboratory is without a computer.

The provost of the College of Basic and Applied Science, Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu has admitted there are challenges with the department but he says steps will be taken to address them.

“These are challenges that I accept. They are things that I know we will work hard to get around,” he told me.

He said the University of Ghana spent about GHc2 million cedis on science equipment in the last academic year and is planning to increase the figure to GHc5million cedis in order to equip the science laboratories for effective teaching and learning.

For students of this department who spoke to Joy News, however, until something substantive is done about their plight, they will not attach any seriousness to the promises and assurance.

Broken down AC at the China Computer Laboratory
Information to Joy News indicates that the budgetary allocation to the Computer Science Department from the University is too little solve the challenges confronting the department. In 2014 the department received  GHc11,764. as its budgetary allocation from the Academic Facility User Fees while in 2015, the department was given GHc12,745. This amount is less than the fees of only two postgraduate studies.

“What can we do with this amount with all these problems around ?” a worried source asked.

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