Public universities bill and the unfounded controversies

NAPO Beard Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh

Wed, 10 Apr 2019 Source: Dawda Eric

The minister of Education has submitted a bill in a draft form to the various public universities to make an input before it is finally laid on the floor of the house for approval. The bill which has landed the MOE and some professors in tango are purposely to consolidate the Act of parliament which officially gave birth to the various public universities in Ghana. It is also to ensure uniformity so that, all the public universities would be a creature of one Act of parliament.

I have painstakingly gone through the bill and I have also heard the concerns of some respected men and woman of the academia. It appears they all have a problem with the bill. They are of the considered view that, this draft universities bill is a threat to academic freedom. One thing they have failed to do is that nowhere and I mean nowhere have they been able to advance their argument.

They are singing one song with the same chorus. Professor Ransford Gyampo of University of Ghana on his facebook wall openly expressed his dissatisfaction and made it clear that the bill is an affront to the academia. A former VC of UG, Prof.Ernest Aryeetey has also added his voice.

I still find it precarious to agree with them. Their position is rather an affront to intellectual discourse and I will elucidate it further for discerning minds to appreciate it. Sometimes when respected people who are supposed to raise the bar when it comes to intellectual engagement are rather those, lowering the bar, you wonder what they seek to gain.

As we speak, they have not been able to present any cogent argument to back their claim that, this bill seeks to undermine academic autonomy. One thing I am expecting them to do is a presentation of memoranda to the minister of Education detailing why in their opinion, the entire bill is a threat to academic autonomy as they have already suggested.

What is quite curious is that the bill has been with them for some time now. Instead of them to put together a serious argument to advance their course, they are only being sentimental. Were they not in this country when Martin Alamisi Amidu almost ended up writing a book in an attempt to punch holes in certain provisions of the special prosecutor Bill? Why can't they take a cue from this and do the needful than overly being emotional on such a serious and critical matter?

The very aspect of the special prosecutor bill Hon. Martin Amidu was not happy with as contained in his argument was actually expunged at the end of the day. My respected professors should kindly learn from what Martin Amidu did as responsible citizens of Ghana.

If my respected professors had read the bill very well, they wouldn't have posited that, the entire universities bill 2018 is a threat to academic freedom without any serious justification. It is instructive to note further, that, in the new bill, the number of representatives on a governing council of a university has been slashed to nine For good reasons. This will help in cutting down sitting allowances to give the universities some financial relief.

I have also heard people say that the attempt by government to have majority on the governing councils of the various public universities in Ghana is wrong. One thing is clear, the government of Ghana still reminds the major stakeholder in our public universities. What is wrong with someone who is a major stakeholder in the affairs of a university to have majority representatives on the very council whose work is to formulate policies?

Again the new bill confers on the government the powers to dissolve the governing council during emergency situations. This provision has an inherent caveat and that is" in absence of emergency siituations, the government of the day can't dissolve any governing council. It also means that, when the urgent need arises in emergency situations like what we witnessed in KNUST, the government can activate section 3(5) of the bill as of discretion pursuant to article 296 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana to dissolve it in the interim.

My respected professors should kindly raise the bar for proper intellectual engagement. Some of them are being unnecessarily sentimental and petty. They should come clear and point out the very aspect of the bill that impeaches their "autonomy".

Dawda Eric(Equity

Citizen Vigilance for Justice

9th April,2019


Columnist: Dawda Eric