Former President John Mahama has asked the government to withdraw the Public Universities Bill saying in the event that it is passed despite opposition from the University Teachers Association and other stakeholders, he would have it repealed should he win the 2020 polls.
In a write-up, the flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress said: “What our universities need is partnership; a partnership that fosters academic freedom, enhances their efficiency and also invests in research and development. The KNUST-INCAS COVID-19 rapid test kit innovation is one such outcome that is begging for support”.
“Our academics and students need support to focus on their core mandates of creating and sharing knowledge, not a Public Universities Bill that seeks to control and undermine the independence of our intellectuals and other researchers in state-owned universities”.
“The Bill, as it stands, does not only risk undermining academic innovation and ingenuity; it will also jettison decades of scholarly excellence and adversely affect Ghana’s position as the preferred destination for international scholarly collaboration”, he said.
Mr Mahama said: “As has been stated already by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, University Teachers, some former Vice-Chancellors, individual academics in the universities among many other stakeholders, there is absolutely no need for the Public Universities Bill. It must be immediately withdrawn from parliament”.
In his view, “In its current form, it is unclear what problems or challenges in higher education the Bill seeks to resolve. What is certain, however, is that the Bill seeks to colonise public universities in the country, undermine academic freedom, stifle scholarly initiative, and subject research and researchers to needless and unproductive government control”.
“The government must listen to the concerns of key stakeholders and withdraw the Bill. I want to, however, assure the people of Ghana and the academic community that should government proceed and pass the Bill into an Act of Parliament, I will not hesitate to initiate steps for its immediate repeal, as a matter of priority, if God willing I assume office as President in January 2021”, Mr Mahama promised.
“Let me also renew the commitments I made during my meeting with the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) in Kumasi that as President, I will work with our universities to develop a comprehensive policy framework that promotes high-quality research and rewards scholarly excellence. Let’s respect the academic autonomy of the universities”, he urged.
On Saturday, the University of Ghana branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), said it has started impeachment proceedings against its national president Prof Charles Ofosu Marfo, for not being in sync with the group’s opposition to the Public University Bill 2020 which is currently before parliament.
In its second resolution signed by Dr Samuel Kojo Kwofie, Vice-President; and Dr Bethel Kwansa-Bentum, Secretary, the UG arm of UTAG said at its emergency meeting held on Thursday, 11 June 2020, the group “resolved to initiate impeachment proceedings against the national president of UTAG for consistently misrepresenting and sidelining UG-UTAG’s position on the Public Universities Bill in his public engagements”.
“UG-UTAG has observed that the demeanour and public utterances of the national president suggest that he is not committed to carrying out the mandate of the public universities, which is, advocating the withdrawal or rejection of the PUB by the Executive or Parliament, respectively”, the resolution noted, adding: “Per Article XXIV Clause 1 and Article XXV Clause 1 of the UTAG national constitution, we have initiated impeachment proceedings against the national president. We believe he is not serving the interest of UTAG members in this PUB matter”.
In its first resolution signed by Dr Samuel Nilirmi Nkumbaan, President; and Dr Bethel Kwansa-Bentum, Secretary, after its emergency meeting held on Thursday, 11 June 2020 via Zoom, UG-UTAG said: “Relying on Article IV (3) of the local constitution”, it “resolved as follows: that it dissociates itself from the position of the national officers of UTAG that the Public Universities Bill 2020 (PUB) be passed into law subject to the recommendations of UTAG”.
UG-UTAG said its initial position, “reflected in the memorandum submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education and which called for the rejection the PUB on grounds of its unconstitutionality, impracticability and the likelihood that the application of the PUB will create more problems that it intends to resolve, remains unchanged”.
It said “the proposed bill does not seek to address any gap in the existing laws governing public universities”, adding: “Instead, the bill will allow unnecessary government interference in the affairs of public universities”.