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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Columnist: Alhassan Salifu Bawah

Clear cases of attacks on 'academic freedom'; has UTAG dozed off?

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I thought of taking my foot off the accelerator (gas), and allow the current management of the University of Education Winneba (UEW), the breathing space to settle down, just like my 'father', the almighty Martin Amidu, switching from automatic burst of fire (which was the case during the Mahama Administration) with his 'AK 47', to intermittent burst, after the NPP took power on 7th January 2017.

However, definitions advanced by UTAG, to some terminologies, warrants that, my right foot, keeps the accelerator pressed down, for a while.

The President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo, in his speech delivered at the 2nd session of the 21st congregation of UEW, on Saturday the 29th of July, 2017, directed the newly reconstituted governing council of UEW, to take steps to seal all financial loopholes at UEW.
A President, directing a public university governing council, as to what to do?
Per UTAG definition of attack on academic freedom, this is a clear case of an attack on academic freedom.

According to UTAG, politicians and the Ghanaian public at large, have no say in the administration of public universities.

Government should pay the salaries of the staff of public universities, provide the necessary infrastructure, and go to sleep and allow wanton dissipation of public funds at these public universities. For anyone to question how public funds are expended at these public universities, amounts to an attack on academic freedom and a clear interference by politicians, in the opinion of UTAG!

The reconstituted governing council, in the words of the Chairman of the council, also ratified all degrees, diplomas and certificates issued by UEW from 1st September 2013, to the end of 2016.
Furthermore, the Chairman of the council, stated that, the council was in the process of ratifying all appointments, promotions, etc., of staff undertaken by the defunct council. The Chairman stated emphatically that, no staff appointed by the defunct council, will loose their job.

Has UTAG forgotten that, the governing council is a creature of statute (Act 672)? This Act was enacted in 2004 by Parliament (politicians), so why is UTAG not labelling all the above actions by the council as political interference, and attacks on academic freedom?

Currently, there is a directive to all public universities to comply with the provisions of the Fees and Charges (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 (Act 793), and Amendment Instrument 2016 (L.I. 2228), by laying all their proposed fees and charges for the 2017/18 academic year, before Parliament for approval.
Due to the likelihood of the academic year commencing before Parliament approves the fees and charges, the Chairman of the National Council For Tertiary Education (NCTE), has directed all public tertiary institutions, to allow their students to pay the fees charged for the 2016/17 academic year. The NCTE is a creature of statute (Act 454). This Act was passed by Parliament (politicians) in 1993, and signed by President Rawlings into law. The NCTE is put together by the government. Therefore, per the shallow definition of academic freedom by UTAG, is the directive of the Chairman of the NCTE not tantamount to interference by politicians in the administration of public universities, and subsequently, an attack on academic freedom?

The vacant positions of Deans, Vice Deans, Directors, etc., have been advertised on the UEW website. It is only rational that, those lecturers on strike, will not be applying.

It is hoped that, UTAG executives will provide clarifications on the above issues per their press releases, interviews and what have you!

Alhassan Salifu Bawah
(son of a peasant farmer)