The 72nd New Year School Opens

H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

The 72nd Annual New Year School and Conference has opened at the University of Ghana. The opening ceremony, which took place at the Great Hall, was presided over by the Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Mrs. Mary Chinery Hesse.

This year’s two-day event, scheduled for January 19 and 20, under the theme “Building Ghana in the Face of Global Health Crises” was organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education (SCDE), the College of Education, and the University of Ghana.

In her introductory remarks, the Chancellor noted that the fact that the New Year School has been abiding for 72 years is testimony that Ghanaians have appreciated the platform it offers to participants from all walks of life to seriously deliberate and express their opinion on issues of relevance to national development. She indicated that the theme for this year’s New Year School and Conference was appropriate since the corona virus pandemic has completely changed the world; hence, confronting the imperatives it has inflicted on humanity, including rethinking the management of health systems to confront any future pandemics, calls for a total reset of the button affecting all aspects of life.

The Chancellor expressed the hope that the outcome of the New Year School deliberations will give some guidance as to how Africa’s economies so adversely affected by the pandemic might be reenergized. She hoped that the New Year School will not forget to include a gender lens in their deliberations, so that the special concerns of women are addressed.

Mrs. Mary Chinery Hesse

In brief remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, said that in its 72 years of existence, the annual New Year School and Conference has served as a barometer for gauging public opinion on good governance and socio-economic development in Ghana; and it has also provided an avenue for the University to shed its ivory tower image and actively engage with the general public.

He used the occasion to highlight the significant contributions that various units of the University of Ghana have made towards the national case management of COVID-19. These units include the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), which continues to play a role as Ghana’s biggest COVID-19 testing Centre.” The rest are the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS), School of Public Health (SPH), School of Pharmacy, Department of Psychology and the Careers and Counselling Unit. The University’s Emergency Response Team also joined forces with the National Contact Tracing Team to manage the response to the pandemic.

 Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu

According Prof. Oduro Owusu, scientists at the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) in collaboration with colleagues at NMIMR have successfully sequenced the SARS-COV-2 genome from samples of the initial 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ghana. This achievement enables scientists to track mutations, potential evolution of the virus, and provides opportunities for tracing sources of community infections.

Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Presidential Coordinator of the Government of Ghana’s Corona Virus Response Programme and Former Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation, warned that COVID-19 will not be the last global public health crisis. Dr. Asamoa-Baah reiterated that public health crises on this scale often cascade into other

Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah

crises and require a complex, sophisticated, multi-sectorial, societal, and governmental approach. He noted that the key to ensuring that the country continues to grow as a people even in the face of a global health crisis is preparedness in all key sectors of life. He ended by saying that every crisis is also an opportunity; he therefore urged Ghanaians and the world at large to put every crisis to good use.

H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who was the Guest of Honour, applauded the organizers for the theme chosen since it resonates with the current situation in the country. According to the President, the pandemic has taught us to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. The pandemic, according to the President, has led to a downward revision of GDP from 6.8% to 0.9%. He noted that the government was working towards reversing the adverse impact the pandemic has had on the country’s economy. He added that the establishment of a National Unemployment Insurance Scheme to provide support to workers that were laid off has been set up. One of the proactive decisions taken by government to fight the pandemic is the ₵100 billion Ghana Obantanpa Programme which secures bright prospects for the near future.

The President disclosed that Covid-19 has presented Ghana with the opportunity to resolve long standing problems in the health sector. He was delighted that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is now being produced locally. This he said has proven to the world and to Ghanaians that a Ghana Beyond Aid is attainable. Pursuant to this, steps are being taken to resolve the infrastructural deficit in the health sector. The President ended by declaring the 72nd Annual New Year School duly opened.

In attendance were members of the University Council, College Advisory Boards, Government Officials, Parliamentarians, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Religious and Traditional Leaders, Alumni and friends of the University.

There were musical performances by the University of Ghana Dance Ensemble and the Ghana Police Band.

The 72nd Annual New Year School and Conference was also partly supported by Graphic Communications Group. Topics under the theme include Public Health Infrastructure for Preventive Health Care Services During Pandemics; Resilient, Self-Sufficient Economy to withstand Global Health Crisis; Coordinating the Business of Government during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Ghana’s Development; ICTs for the Provision of Quality Education and Lifelong Learning; Sustainable Food Production System; and Resilient Agricultural Practices.