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Opinions of Monday, 26 September 2016

Columnist: Dr. Prosper Yao Tsikata and Dr. A. Kobla Dotse

Rejoinder: UTAG’s press statement – childish and ridiculous!!!!

By Dr. Prosper Yao Tsikata and Dr. A. Kobla Dotse

The recent press statement by the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) regarding the issues of accreditation, promotion of university lecturers in Ghana, and the publication of academic work by university lecturers does not only smack of a compromised position of UTAG Executive Council, but it also reveals how some labor unions can be hijacked by their leaders and be used to advance positions that are at variance with the ethos of the organizations they represent.

For a professional Association which is supposed to be the citadel of knowledge and critical thinking, one would have expected that UTAG’s press statement would be based on a critical analysis of the issues raised in the researched article and subsequent rejoinders, based upon which they would have drawn valid conclusions, in support of the article or against the article.

But that was not the case; the press statement was a partisan misnomer from an academic Association.

It is troubling for us to read the National President of UTAG, Dr. Harry L. K. Agbanu’s pathetic support for unscrupulous members of UTAG, the compromised NAB and the corrupt administration of UPSA.

We are particularly surprised that Dr. Agbanu did not mention anything about the various university teachers who are alleged to have acquired and or purchased doctorate degrees from unaccredited universities such as the SMC and University of Nicaragua and using such questionable credentials to pollute the minds of our innocent students.

At least, the President of UTAG should rather have expressed concern about the revelations in the research article and inform the general Ghanaian public that they, as university teachers in Ghana, will investigate the allegations and if found to be true, bring the perpetrators to book.

Dr. Agbanu’s concern should have been to make sure that fraudulent doctorate degree holders do not find their way into the education system in Ghana. That is what is expected from a great leader with good organizational skills and competencies. We are sure that Dr. Agbanu and his section of the UTAG are aware of the attributes and requirements of a professional teacher.

This would definitely include academic honesty, law-abiding, integrity, and sincerity, among others. If Dr. Agbanu’s section of the UTAG cannot police itself and ensure that its members possess the right doctorate degree from accredited institutions, published in credible academic journals to earn their promotions, based on the contributions they make to knowledge, then it is also a failed institution just as the ones under discussion.

We are aware that the leadership of UTAG are being influenced by individuals and authorities involved in the fraudulent acts reported in our investigative report. Why would UTAG only issue this pathetic partisan press statement after Joshua Alabi bussed them to a secret location to deliberate on issues currently under debate?

Is UTAG not an independent association even though Joshua Alabi and some of the corrupt professors are members? Has UTAG consulted its membership across the university campuses in Ghana before issuing such an outrageous press statement?

Just like the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) and the UPSA Student Representative Council (SRC), one wonders why the UTAG and other stakeholders have all been silent all along on this serious and disgraceful national issue.

From the previous press statements issued by the Alabi-led administration, it became clearer to us that the Alabi-led administration lacks understanding of some of the issues at stake. We did not know that such lack of knowledge is so pervasive that it penetrates even the top echelons of what is supposed to be an erudite union of scholars.

No wonder the Vice Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba, Prof. Mawutor Avorke, strongly underscored the fact that about 61 percent of lecturers in Ghanaian tertiary institutions are unqualified to be teaching in these institutions.

Even though we have been careful not to be considered as individuals who are up against the so-called “enviable” records of the Alabi-led administration at UPSA, it is clear that some of such assertions can be informed by the lack of knowledge regarding academic processes, standards, and outcomes.

Thus, as this discourse drags on, and the Minister responsible for education in Ghana continues to pay deaf ears to the issues involved, we will continue to dig further and further to educate the general public, including even academics and students who may lack understanding of these issues.

At this juncture, we would like to turn the searchlight on (Dr.) John K. Mawutor, Vice-Dean of Graduate Studies, UPSA, who is also a graduate of the SMC, regarding his publications that must have earned him the position of a Vice-Dean as pertains in the academy. Dr. Mawutor displays 13 published papers on his profile.

Out of the 13 papers, one does not have to look very hard to discover that seven of them are published by journals with questionable reputation. Some of these journals are:

International Journal of Education (based in Bangladesh and hosted by Deepark Kuma Biswas and published by Contemporary Research Center, “falsely trading on the good name of Australia.” Accessible at:

https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/04/16/fake-peer-review-more-documentation/), Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development, and Research Journal of Accounting and Finance (these two journals are published by International Institute for Science, Technology and Education, which is listed as a predatory publisher with questionable review processes. Please follow the following links to conduct your own evaluation:

https://sites.google.com/site/fakeresearchjournalpublishers/home http://www.scamadviser.com/check-website/iiste.org).

Readers can now follow the link to the public profile of the Vice-Dean of Graduate Studies, UPSA, to conduct their own analysis (Link available at: http://upsa.edu.gh/history.php?page=10#openModal10).

Now, these are the questions:

I. What do we do with a Vice-Dean who has used publications that have failed the litmus test of a rigorous review process to earn promotion into an important office of Vice-Dean of Graduate studies?

II. With over 70 percent of these papers in journals with questionable reputations, are these the sort of publications the Ghanaian taxpayer is funding through research allowances for lecturers? Let us be reminded that (Dr.) Mawutor is not alone. We are quite certain that by now many academics in our noble institutions have begun examining the background of journals they publish their work with, so that their academic toils do not go to waste.

We would like to point out here that instead of the Alabi-led administration and its Council apologizing to the Ghanaian public, accepting their lack of knowledge on how the academic processes have been compromised or corrupted by all kinds of journals and institutions that are unqualified to publish even opinion pieces, let alone academic articles, the Alabi-led administration and its Council are using manipulative processes to dare us to continue to expose things that we should be discussing behind closed doors to determine how these issues could be handled in ways to save the entire academic enterprise at UPSA.

It is our goal that by the time this discourse is over, the practice where the taxpayer is funding dubious accolades will be reduced to the barest minimum if not eradicated completely.

As we discuss publications, we would once again appeal to the Alabi-led administration to publish the so-called 60 academic articles published by its Vice-Chancellor in waiting, so we can help Alabi and his Governing Council to identify some of the papers that have been published with predatory journals, hijacked journals, and predatory standalone journals with misleading metrics.

It is unfortunate that the Alabi-led administration, its Council, and, now, UTAG, are all of the erroneous impression that anything foreign is authentic. In fact, we are aware they are not alone. It is a serious struggle that confront many developing countries, particularly Sub-Saharan African countries, where our cultural values undermine the asking of critical questions.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, when people ask critical questions, we tend to label them as oppositional, green-eyed monsters, and as people who do not wish us well and must be assailed.

Let it be known to University Councils across the African continent that some of these questionable journals even list the names of renowned professors as editors and reviewers of their journals, but in fact these renowned professors are not even aware that their names have been listed in such dubious roles.

Our university professors, administrative officers at the registrar’s offices, and university council members must all be trained to spot these issues quickly and deal with them before they become acceptable practices that will continue to dilute and undermine the quality of education in Africa and the developing world generally.

It would interest the reading public to learn that because of this unpopular action by some members of UTAG and its leaders, the association now has a divided front. We are appealing to the level-headed members of UTAG to come out to strongly condemn and disassociate themselves from these self-interest-and-Alabi-serving individuals.

And it gets more interesting. It would interest readers to learn that the so-called Vice Chancellor of SMC, Dr. Ted Sun, is an external evaluator for promotions at UPSA! Currently as we write, Dr. Sun is in Ghana making his rounds trying to do damage control and to continue to promote SMC products to unsuspecting UPSA lecturers, senior lecturers and associate professors.

We are yet to confirm deep throat rumor sources that Dr. Sun has also infiltrated the NAB. However, we hope the public will remember the conflict of interest issues we highlighted involving Prof. Paul Buatsi, who is an NAB Board member and at the same time the country representative of SMC in Ghana.

As alluded to by a friend some time ago, people who published articles in online sources such as ghanaweb.com, myjoyonline.com, etc., should have been promoted to the rank of a professor long ago. This statement only tells you the level of ignorance as to how things operate in academia. There is therefore the need to keep educating the general public via the media to appreciate the dark side of the academy.

Readers can now interrogate the profile of Dr. Henry L. K. Agbanu (Please follow his profile here: http://www.ug.edu.gh/religions/staff/harry-lawson-kwaku-agbanu). Clearly, it took Dr. Henry L. K. Agbanu from 1999 to 2011 to obtain his PhD.

We wish to leave it with Dr. Agbanu’s colleagues at UTAG and the general public to find out how Dr. Agbanu could convince himself that someone in Ghana, UPSA for that matter, could obtain an MPhil, two doctoral degrees, an Associate Professorship, Professorship and be elected by a Council to the high office of the Vice Chancellor of a public university under 6 years. This individual must be the African version of Albert Einstein!

To conclude, we would like to point out to Dr. Agbanu and his executives that evidence abounds that NAB, UPSA, and even Dr. Agbanu’s section of the UTAG have failed to conduct their duties diligently, especially beyond the known conventions of verification.

In this case, public spirited individuals, including us, have the right to question the professional aptitude of the individuals who lead the institutions under discussion. We have no misgivings if the executives of UTAG, in cahoots with the Alabi-led administration, choose to display their lack of knowledge regarding the issues under discussion.

We will, however, not allow the hijacked executives of UTAG to impose their erroneous “opinions” (as stated in their second point) on the generality of Ghanaians.

Authors: Dr. Prosper Yao Tsikata Assistant Professor of Communication, Valdosta State University and Dr. A. Kobla Dotse, Director, Chemical Research and Development