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General News of Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Cancellation of WAEC Lecture causes stir

The cancellation of the original lecture which formed part of activities marking the 21st Endowment Fund of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) scheduled for Monday has caused a stir among players in the educational sector.

The topic for the lecture: “The three-four-year pendulum: Towards a stable public policy on senior high school education in Ghana”, appears to have ruffled feathers, as the organisers said it had the potential to generate political controversy.

Prof. Kwesi Yankah, the President of the Central University, who was billed to speak on the topic, has described the action of WAEC as an “assault on intellectual freedom”.

WAEC Letter

The letter cancelling the lecture, dated March 10, 2016 and addressed to Prof. Yankah, stated in part: “We are minded to observe that it has the potential of generating political controversy, especially in an election year such as 2016.

“The council supports the exchange of scholarly ideas and works without any fetters. However, it recognises the tendency to be drawn into political debates which it strives to avoid in order to remain professional and not be distracted from executing its core mandate,” it said.

The letter, signed by the Deputy Registrar/Officer-in-Charge, E.K. Myers, went on: “We will, therefore, advise that your lecture be put on hold and saved for another occasion when the season is ripe…Please accept our sincerest apology for the late-hour change in plan.”

Rejection

But Prof. Yankah rejected the explanation that the topic had the potential to generate political controversy in the country, adding that he believed that WAEC was an autonomous institution and could not tell what might have forced it to put on hold the much publicised lecture at the 11th hour.

He said the decision by WAEC to cancel the lecture was an infringement on the intellectual rights of Ghanaians, describing it as “an assault on intellectual freedom, an assault on academic freedom and an assault on freedom of speech”.

He said the action of WAEC was an embarrassment to the country and to the council itself, explaining that such an action had never happened since the inception of the lecture 20 years ago.

Disrespect

Prof. Yankah said calling him by phone to tell him to change the topic five days to the lecture was “an insult” and a deliberate attempt to embarrass him because “you cannot thoroughly speak on a topic using five days to research” and wondered what respect WAEC had for him as a person and for academia.

He said as long as WAEC was headquartered in Ghana, it should operate under the laws of the country, which respected freedom of speech and intellectual freedom, stressing that WAEC ought to have known better.

“It is a very sad day for democracy. I think it is an embarrassment to them. Indeed, Ghanaians deserve the right to hear it and decide whether to take it or not. That is the beauty of democracy and that is what democracy is all about,” he stressed.

He said he was going to officially complain to the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences about the disrespect shown by WAEC to academia and warned that WAEC should not be surprised to face stiff resistance from academia.

Background

Giving a background, Prof. Yankah said in September 2015, WAEC wrote to invite him to be the speaker at the 21st WAEC Endowment Fund Lecture and in January this year he received another letter confirming his role as the main speaker at the lecture.

“Six weeks ago, they called me asking for the title of my lecture. I told them that I titled it, ‘The three-four-year pendulum: Towards a stable public policy on senior high school education in Ghana’. This is because I think this topic is a thorny issue that the country needs to deal with thoroughly.

“Until five days ago, calls started coming that they were uncomfortable with the topic and asked if I could change it,” he said, adding that it was a sad day and that was why he was in mourning cloth even as he was on his way to his office.

Asked if he would attend the lecture, he said he was not invited, adding that if he was wanted there, a letter would have been sent to him.

Head of National Office

The Head of the National Office of WAEC, the Very Rev Dr Samuel Ollennu, however, explained that it was never the intention of WAEC “to insult him or academia”, explaining that WAEC wanted him to change the topic but that he said the time was too short.

He explained that WAEC was an international autonomous body and could not be manipulated by any political organisation, pointing out that whether the duration of the SHS was three or four years was a government policy direction and that it was not for WAEC to determine which was the best, “So, we want to remain neutral,” and appealed to him to calm down.

Meanwhile the lecture came off yesterday on the topic, “Performance in Mathematics and Science: Breaking the jinx,” and was delivered by the Dean of the Faculty of Education, University of Ghana, Legon, Professor Jonathan A. Fletcher