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General News of Friday, 18 December 2020

Source: 3news.com

Prof Atuguba objects Napo’s ‘misinformation and disinformation’ on Public Universities Bill

Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh

Associate Professor and Dean of School of Law at the University of Ghana, Professor Raymond Atuguba, has described as ‘misinformation and disinformation’ assertions by the Minister of Education, Dr Mattew Opoku Prempeh in a recent media interview on the controversial Public Universities Bill (PUB).

The law professor has been very critical of the infamous bill which has now been suspended after it had been read for the second time on the floor of parliament.

In his critique, he described the bill as being ‘glaringly and patently unconstitutional’ and called on colleague members of University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) to find ways of stopping it before it is passed.

The bill was subsequently suspended and key stakeholders assured that further consultations would be done. In a media interview, the Minister for Education seem to have suggested the bill would be passed before the 7th Parliament rises on January 6, 2021.

This, Professor Atuguba describes as suspicious and desperate.

“It simply means that the Minister for Education, who is a Member of Parliament, and additionally directly in charge of moving the Bill in Parliament, intends to work towards passing the PUB IN THE DYING DAYS OF THIS PARLIAMENT (I think there is something in this PUB we still have not seen. Passing it is as precious as the blood of a crocodile to some)”, he wrote.

He said claims made by the Education Minister in that media interview are not accurate for which reason he took time to respond to them as follows;

“My last set of comments are on the misinformation and disinformation that laced the entire interview.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that our analyses of the PUB was based on an earlier draft of the Bill. Our analyses was based on the version of the Bill that was read in Parliament at the Second Reading; the same version that was provided to our UTAG Executive by the Minister.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that the Bill provides for 15 members of Council and has limited or minority presidential appointees. The Bill provides for 16 members of Council, including 1 Chairperson appointed by the President, 5 other members appointed by the President and 3 members indirectly appointed by the President under Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution. This makes a total of 9 presidential appointees and 7 other appointees. The quorum for Council meetings is still set at 8 members.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that UTAG raised an issue relating to the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor. The issue UTAG raised related to the appointment of the Chancellor. The PUB purports to vest the power to appoint the Chancellors of all public universities in the President (Clause 16(1)), a power that is unconstitutional as offending against Article 195(3) of the 1992 Constitution.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that the way in which the PUB seeks to constrain the management of a public university has nothing to do with Academic Freedom. Yes, you heard that right.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that the law says nothing about the admission policies and powers of public universities. The PUB establishes a centralized admissions process, regulated and controlled by the Minister, as provided in Clause 53(a) of the Bill.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that a government, once it passes a policy and approves it in Cabinet (in this case the Tertiary Education Policy), may go ahead to legislate that policy. Surely, a government may not seek to legislate a policy that is unconstitutional in several respects, as is the case with the PUB.

It is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that the PUB guarantees Academic Freedom. As I noted in my previous email, the PUB provisions on Academic Freedom contain claw-back clauses, and it would be better if the Bill did not mention it at all, so that Academic Freedom continues to be regulated by the general law, which is more progressive.

Finally, it is not true, as the Minister for Education sought to portray, that the COLLEGES OF EDUCATION ACT, 2012 (ACT 847) and the TECHNICAL UNIVERSITIES ACT, 2016 (Act 922), passed by previous governments, on the one hand, and the PUB, that is sought to be passed by the current government, on the other hand, are comparable, and so anyone who has an issue with the PUB, unless they are hypocritical, must also have issues with the other laws. The two sets of law are as far apart as day is from night:

The Colleges of Education and the Technical Universities Acts were blessings to colleges of education and polytechnics in Ghana, as they unequivocally elevated them to far higher statuses, with attendant increases in resources, amongst many other advantages. The PUB does the opposite and seeks to suppress and repress the growth of public universities.

The Colleges of Education and the Technical Universities Acts were not aimed at accumulating powers in the Minister for Education for the regulation and micromanagement of those universities. The PUB does. Whilst the PUB vests the power to create universities literally in one man, the Minister, the Technical Universities Act, for example, provides in Section 2 for an application process initiative by the polytechnic itself and specifies requirements to be met before a polytechnic may become a university. Not so with the PUB; there is no application process; there are no basic requirements to be met; and technically, a Minister of Education can table a one line L.I. for the village school near his father’s house to become a university, and proceed to name it after his boyhood friend.

The Colleges of Education and the Technical Universities Acts did not name any of the universities after anyone. Those Acts retained the original base names of all the universities. The PUB has a preponderance of names of personalities belonging to just one of the 3 or 4 political traditions in this country.

So, colleagues, UTAG, the fight is not over. As I explained yesterday, a Bill can be passed by Parliament super-fast. We need to continue to be vigilant.”

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