KNUST Professor Abdul Samed Muntaka is making the most of his educational opportunities and paving the way for others
KNUST Professor Abdul Samed Muntaka is making the most of his educational opportunities and paving the way for others.
When Abdul Samed Muntaka’s mother tried to enroll him in Aboabo Local Authority elementary school in Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti region of Ghana, the school told her that Muntaka (who was six years by then) could not start classes because he was too small and short – he couldn’t raise one of his arms over his head and touch his ear on the opposite side of his head.
“I was not only too short and small to start school on time, but I also had 40 siblings when my father ran out of money – the odds were really stacked against me to succeed,” said Muntaka.
Thirty-seven years later, and standing 5’8″ tall, Muntaka has defied the odds: he now leads Kwame Nkrumah’s University of Science and Technology Supply Chain Department and serves as a senior technical advisor for CARISCA.
“So many of my peers couldn’t touch their ears, so they were raised to learn a trade, and that was it. If my mother had not enrolled me in a private school and pushed me to succeed, I would not have had a lot of the opportunities I have had in life,” said Muntaka.
Muntaka’s father valued education, but he was usually too overwhelmed to help him follow through on his homework. However, his mother was a strong influence in his life. “My mom is a tigress, and even though she was illiterate, she did the legwork, walking to school to ask my teachers questions. She made sure that her children were doing their homework and succeeding.”
Even after finishing secondary school, Muntaka’s road to success was not straightforward, and he had several setbacks. He wanted to serve in the army, but his mother told him this was not an option because he could die, so he applied for and was denied entry into a computer science program. “I still hate computers to this day because I didn’t get in,” he said, “but I’m always trying to improve my skills because I know they’re important.”
Muntaka graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from KNUST before going on to get two master’s degrees in the United States: a master’s in public administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a master’s of science in urban affairs from Hunter College, both in New York.
When the job he had lined up at graduation fell through, he found a role teaching algebra and operations management science at KNUST. “I was lucky because KNUST was starting a supply chain department, and since they were understaffed, I had the opportunity to teach management science.”
Muntaka eventually enrolled in KNUST’s Ph.D. program in Logistics and Supply Chain Management to help build capacity in the department. “One of the things I’m most proud of is being the first person in my family, and in the area where I was born, to complete a Ph.D.”
Now, Muntaka is the most senior faculty in the department, and he has been the head of the supply chain department since 2018 and a member of KNUST’s governing council.
“The ‘if you can’t touch your ear policy’ was a way for the government to control costs and the number of people seeking to enter the schools. But, things have improved, almost two-thirds of the people in my area were illiterate when I was growing up, and now it’s only about 20 percent. I think the future is very bright; we have the opportunity to shape the future of education in Ghana. One of the biggest things I’m working on now is reducing cheating. We’ve created a group called “achieve it clean” to show students there are lines you can’t cross. Fortunately, politicians are beginning to agree with us, and they want to make positive changes.”
Muntaka and his colleagues are dedicated to establishing CARISCA as the leading knowledge hub for supply chain management research and education in Africa.
“We are committed to continuous improvement and learning from our partners at Arizona State University to make our curriculum and research better.”
“Looking back, I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am. Most children who don’t get to go to school don’t get second chances. I want to be sure that we lead the next generation of students in Ghana by giving everyone opportunities to succeed.”Abdul Muntaka