I vehemently beg to differ with Prof. John Owusu Gyapong, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), that the most savvy and appropriate response to the Government’s decision to dissolve the Governing Council of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is for the membership of all 10 branches of the University Teachers’ Association of Ghana (UTAG) to declare an indefinite industrial action or strike, “until the Government does the right thing,” which simply means that the UTAG leaders would rather have the Government declare the resolution of the KNUST impasse in favor of the University’s faculty at all costs, irrespective of which side of the matter is wrongheaded or at fault (See “KNUST Saga: Vice-Chancellors Ghana Unhappy with Government’s ‘Rush’[sic] Decision” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 10/26/18).
The striking KNUST faculty members are also falsely and vacuously claiming that UTAG is not represented on the 7-member Interim-Management Council (IMC) appointed by the Government to resolve the problems that culminated in the student disturbances on the KNUST campus last week, during the course of which public property estimated to be worth several million cedis was destroyed. So far, the newly instituted Interim-Management Committee, which is headed by Nana Effah Gyan-Apenteng, Paramount Chief of Asante-Akyem Bompata, a career diplomat and a first-grade pupil of this writer’s maternal grandfather, the Rev. TH Sintim, of Akyem-Asiakwa and Akyem-Begoro, has indicated that any students found, after thorough investigations, to have participated in the wanton destruction of University property will be “surcharged” with the same.
The IMC has yet to indicate whether any patent acts of criminality will be afforded judicial prosecution. But what is even more significant to point out here is that the newly named IMC of KNUST, which has been given a 3-month terms of reference by the Akufo-Addo Government, has the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of KNUST as one of its members. A couple, or so, lecturers and professors are also represented on the IMC, although no representative from the University Teachers’ Association of Ghana, in strict keeping with Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution, is represented on the IMC. Now, what the disgruntled UTAG membership could do will be to constructively dialogue with the Government in order to have representation on the IMC, instead of rather childishly resorting to the use of an industrial action to seek redress, thereby causing unnecessary disruption of academic culture on the KNUST campus.
From my understanding of what the Constitution has to say on this particular matter, while the KNUST Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is mandated to be represented on the University’s Governing Council, no such privilege is categorically mandated by the Constitution in the case of UTAG. So what UTAG can do, instead of cholerically resorting to an industrial action, is to fight for representation on the Governing Council. Experts on this aspect of the Constitution tell us that UTAG has never been recognized to be institutionally integral to the identity and administrative existence of any public college or university in the country.
Prof. Gyapong, of the University of Health and Allied Sciences, also mischievously skews the issues at stake rather one-sidedly when he asserts that it was allegations of student maltreatment by campus security guards that precipitated the student disturbances or rumpus that resulted in the wanton destruction of taxpayer-underwritten property on the KNUST campus. In reality, we are reliably informed that topmost among student grievances was the introduction of corporal punishment by some KNUST faculty members. UTAG needs to come clean on the fact of whether, indeed, it was or was not aware of this barbaric and obsolescent practice; and also the fact of whether it had, in fact, put in place any constructive measures to address such institutional incongruity or anomaly before it can legitimately decide to embark on any industrial action.
Of course, the Government also has every right to withhold the salaries and perks of any University faculty members who embark on an industrial action and may adamantly refuse to pay back the same until missed work time has been fully made up. The Government also has a legal right to promptly replace recalcitrant faculty in order to ensure the uninterrupted administration of our public schools and colleges.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York