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Opinions of Monday, 11 July 2016

Columnist: Raphael Kumah Abolasom

Do not dismember UDS campuses for political gains, Mr President

“Blend the academic world with that of the community in order to provide constructive interaction between the two for the total development of Northern Ghana, in particular, and the country as a whole” -PNDC Law 279, Section 279.

This is the bed rock and foundation on which the government of Ghana established the University for Development Studies. I very much believe that every University or institution is established for a specific purpose and its uniqueness makes it stands out among its peers.

The fact that UDS has four (4) campuses, Eight (8) Faculties, a Business School, one Medical School, one Graduate School, one Institute and three (3) centres alone makes it unique. It also runs a community-technical interface programme. This is a combination of the academic and community-based field practical work known as the Third Trimester Field Practical Programme (TTFPP).

What does the University for Development Studies Stands for? UDS, by its mandate and constituency has a pro-poor focus. This is reflected in its methodology of teaching, research and outreach services. The specific emphasis on practically-oriented, research and field-based training is aimed at contributing towards poverty reduction in order to accelerate national development.

I stand to be corrected, it is the only University in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa that engages in the Third Trimester Field Practical Program and trust me these reports from the researches we conducted and continue to conduct have been very helpful to NGO’s and other government agencies.

This exercise is a pretty tedious one where students have to go and live in the communities for about 7-8 weeks researching whilst taking care of themselves with virtually no financial support from government.

It is so sad a thing, for the President to think of dismembering the UDS campuses, making them autonomous using an executive instrument. Ordinarily, one would expect that as an institution established by an act of Parliament, it should require another parliamentary approval to carry out any amendment since time isn’t an issue in this case. Why the rush to make each campus autonomous through the use of an executive power or instrument?

I am not and will never be against the establishment of Universities for the Upper Regions. The problem I have regarding this whole issue is for the President Mahama led NDC government to defile and adulterate these very ideals and foundation on which UDS was established, just to score a political point.

This is reckless and extremely unnecessary. We should not allow the NDC or any subsequent governments to crush our only pride and light of the North. A lot of pioneers worked so hard to get this institution to where it is today, we shouldn’t let those sacrifices and efforts go in vain. This is the only University we’ve got and it’s made us who we are today.

If the President is so seriously bent on establishing Universities for the Upper regions as he wants us to believe, then what stops him from establishing them from the scratch? Or He wants to convert say Wa campus and comes back to tell us he has established a new University just as those same claims were made for University of Energy and Natural resources in Sunyani?

For instance, KNUST is a Public University located in Kumasi and University of Education, another public institution has one of its campuses located in Kumasi. Same could be done so we can have fresh new Universities in the Upper Regions whilst having the UDS satellite campuses in those same regions as well; after all too much meat does not spoil the soup. Just like health, education is one sector we need to distance partisan politics from as much as we can.

Gone are those days, when we were in senor high school and everybody wanted to go to KNUST, Legon or UCC; that is not the case today! Almost everyone detested UDS and for such an institution to grow, thrive through thick and thin and become as enviable as it is now, the University that gave some of us the opportunities, livelihood and making us who we are today and you want to burn it down, just to fulfil a campaign promise or score a political goal, it’s quite pathetic.

Lest we forget, the moment this autonomy thing happens, the ideals and very foundation of UDS will go down as well; it will never be the same again; never! What we stood for will be lost. Like every other institution, already UDS has its own problems and for it to be crushed and be presented with ‘fresh additional problems’ will be tantamount to rapid retrogression or a switch to the self-destruct mode.

This could take us another twenty or more years to build again. University of Education Winneba has satellite campuses, University of Ghana apart from the Legon campus also has the Accra-City campus, and Methodist University is also multi- Campus in nature so why can’t UDS keep its multi-campus status?

I’m in no way trying to malign anybody or group of persons, but if there are lessons for us, as a people from this part of the Country to learn, regarding institutions that are meant to serve a pro-poor focused Northern Ghana, then we should take a lesson from the happenings at SADA and that, building up something that has been broken is no easy a thing.

Again, the man who gave us this unique university is an Ewe man, Flt. Lt J.J Rawlings and here we are today struggling to prevent its “extermination” under the watch of our fellow Northern Brother, John Mahama’s leadership. For how long will continue to exploit ourselves? This shouldn’t be about the NPP or the NDC, nor should it be a thing of tribal factions. This should be about UDS.

One would argue, that some prominent chiefs are equally in support of the conversion so the President alone should not take the blame; that I very much agree with. But, I would like our President to know that as a leader, you do not do everything you people want you to do; rather you do what is good for them and obviously the UDS conversion is not a good thing to do.

Even though it is regrettable to admit, that over the years, both staff and students alike have to travel from their various campuses to get documents and other related matters approved at the Central administration in Tamale, yet I don’t see this as a tangible reason to buttress its autonomy.

I rather see this as an administrative challenge and with technological inputs this situation could be a thing of the past. Technologies have now made it possible to electronically sign or approve documents or details wherever we may find ourselves. Video conferencing has also been helpful in this regard. We should rather explore these options than to fall for a conversion of these campuses.

Granted that this conversion goes on, what will happen to all the certificates (degrees) awarded to my colleagues who graduated from the other satellite campuses? How then will both Ghanaian and foreign institutions authenticate or verify these certificates should you want to further your education? Don’t forget the names, UDS-Navrongo, or UDS-Wa or UDS-Nyankpala will be replaced with their respective new names.

Tracing the centre (school) for your education then becomes problematic and you have to go looking for attestation and certification of relevant documents before they could even trust your degree. With time your certificate (degree) then becomes inferior. So sad a thing, isn’t it?

Come to think of it, a “Committee of Experts” was tasked to look into this conversion issue, thus if the campuses are equipped enough to be autonomous. What are the findings of the committee? I’m very sure, that these findings aren’t positive enough to recommend each of these satellite Campuses to achieve an autonomous status.

I equally do not think this is the wisdom and vision with which the founder, Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings got this prestigious University established. Why must we politicise everything in this country? His Excellency President Mahama should leave UDS alone!

Universities are autonomous institutions, and in as much as I have not sighted any official statement from the University’s management or the Alumni Association indicating their stands on the matter, I don’t think they willingly will support the conversion of the UDS Campuses.

Be it as it may, I hold the belief, that it’s our shared and collective responsibility in making sure that our Alma matter doesn’t get crushed or murdered on the political alter!

Arise Developers!!!

Former SRC President UDS, Tamale. Email: ralphkumah4u@gmail.com

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