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Reflections: The Significance of a National Forensic Science Week in Ghana

Authors: Yahaya Sumara Sulley, Isaac Oboakoh, Lydia Quansah

Department of Forensic Sciences, Faculty of Biosciences, University for Development Studies, Tamale – Ghana

September 18th -24th of every year is earmarked as a day to celebrate the importance of forensic science to the criminal justice system in countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom. It’s an occasion to honour academic initiatives, forensic experts, and academic research across the spectrum of forensic sciences. Officially this week is not recognized in Ghana but considering the pros, its designation could lead to the discussion of some key issues toward the growth of the forensic science discipline and justice delivery.

Ghana finds itself as one of the countries on the African continent that accepts forensic science practices in their adversarial system. Even though infrastructure-wise, the country falls short compared to advanced countries, it seems to be ahead of its peers within the West African Subregion in terms of forensic science capacity. For instance, in Ghana, four public universities, notably Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology offer postgraduate forensic science programs while the University of Cape Coast, University for Development Studies, and C.K. Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences, offer undergraduate programs. Also, the Ghana Police Service operates a forensic science laboratory, which is considered the first of its kind in the West African Sub-region. Forensic science procedures have been applied in solving notable cases, which include the Takoradi kidnapped girls, the June 3rd disaster, and a few others that have gained media publicity in recent times.

Reflections

Forensic Science and Science Communication

Is it time to ensure a balance in the narrative of science communication to include forensic sciences? Have we considered reprioritizing the position of justice dispensation in the discussions concerning science, technology and innovation in Ghana? Have we considered the impact of the arts in communicating forensic sciences to benefit the uneducated population and people with particular disabilities?

Forensic Science Education and Research

Is it time to include aspects of forensic science in the educational curriculum from basic school to higher-level education in Ghana? Do we need more undergraduate, postgraduate and professional programs in forensic sciences? Is it time for the responsible sectors of the government of Ghana and relevant institutions such as the scholarship secretariat and university faculties to provide or nominate qualified and eligible candidates for scholarships to pursue forensic sciences just like it has been done for other fields like medicine? Is it time to evaluate the impact of already existing forensic science programs in Ghana? What is the research contribution of the already existing forensic science departments in Ghana? What are their challenges and successes and the way forward? Lastly, do we recognize the significance of forensic science research in the country’s development?

Forensic Science and the Job Market

What is the state of employment in the forensic science industry? Apart from academia and the security services, are other industries seeing the relevance of employing forensic scientists? What other job avenues can young graduates with qualifications in forensic sciences venture into in an economy that has limited room for their employment?

Forensic Professional Bodies

Do we have registered bodies with a focus on forensic science in Ghana? What has been their impact so far? Do our forensic science professional bodies exist to advance the forensic science profession in the country? Do they exist to support the interests of people working in the field of forensic science? Lastly, we can assess whether they exist to serve the public good by facilitating innovation, communication, and connection between the discipline and the next generation of professionals or not while we make positive strides towards the growth of the discipline in Ghana.

Justice Delivery

How far does Ghana want to go with crime solving? Are there other alternatives to avoid case backlogs? Is it time to call on the government to invest in the infrastructure level of the forensic science industry in Ghana? Do we need a forensic science centre of excellence in Ghana for the training and solving of issues of forensic need?

Perspectives

Yahaya Sumara Sulley: “The hope and opportunities that forensic science brings seem to be very unpopular in Ghana. It appears that every positive endeavour is a priority in a third-world country like Ghana but it is very important for us to rerank and reprioritize the competing priorities. There is no doubt that in every society, health, education and access to opportunities are the drivers of equity but let us also focus on the rudiments of fundamental human rights, freedom and justice and the rule of law. Taking this subject from a sustainable development point of view, we can achieve sustainable development by prioritizing SDG 16 (emphasizing peace, justice and strong institutions) with forensic science to achieve all other SDGs”.

Lydia Quansah: “Considering how far Ghana wants to go in justice dispensation, crime solving and reconstruction of events that provide the truth about historical perspectives, forensic science education needs to be upheld with high esteem. There is a need for governments, private entities, and relevant stakeholders to collaborate on forensic research and development projects to communicate the gospel of forensic science. Through the ministry of information, the creation of TV commercials and social media illustrations that communicate basic principles of forensic science and the hope it brings to the people is not a bad idea at all”.

Yahaya Sumara Sulley: “Even though it is not officially designated, the importance of having a National Forensic Science Week celebration cannot be overlooked in a country like Ghana, which wants to reap the benefits of forensic sciences. Presently in Ghana, research shows that there is a poor level of public education and awareness concerning forensic science. I believe that if we are tackling this issue step by step, we have to prioritize the communication of forensic science first. We have to focus on common ground and use science communication as a tool to achieve our objective. Popularizing the Forensic Science Week celebration to appreciate forensic science practice in Ghana could be a means of creating more public awareness about the discipline through seminars, conferences, and public gatherings which have been structured to discuss the state and future of forensic science in Ghana. Other activities such as forensic institutional outreach, organizational outreach, and media outreach could also be embarked on to preach the gospel of forensic science in society”.

Isaac Oboakoh: “As it stands, the opportunity cost of not having a synergistic approach to improving forensic science communication in Ghanaian societies comes back to harm our societies in so many ways. It is therefore very important that citizens of Ghana get access to indiscriminate forensic science education and practice. We believe that Ghana stands a better chance of experiencing a forensic science revolution sooner as compared to its peers within the continent. As we anticipate this era, it is prudent that we reflect on some of the key issues that surround the growth of the forensic science discipline in Ghana”.

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