Ghana’s former Ambassador to India, Sam Pee Yalley has rubbished the Ministry of Education’s draft bill for Public Universities to provide the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities and principles of managing them.
Mr Pee Yalley who was speaking on Inside Politics on Radio XYZ on Wednesday passionately kicked against passing the bill into law since it will be a recipe for chaos in the public universities.
He contended that if the bill is passed into law there is no way the institutions will be academically independent to be able to serve the purpose for which they were created.
“The government wants to have total control over the universities…This is bad and does not make sense,” he said and explained that some clauses in the bill will give the government access to manupilate admission processes to its advantage.
He said apart from the stifling academic freedom in the public universities, the government wanted to have a centralised admissions process which will give the government the opportunity to determine who gets admission into the institutions or not.
“With that admission process, they [the government] can deny you admission because of reasons known best to them,” he said as he pointed that the bill sought to help those in power.
Citing the protests at Kwame Nkrumah university of science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Education, Winneba, Mr Pee Yalley said when the government takes total control of the schools, there will be more misunderstandings in the public universities because “government will want a thing done to favour it against what the lecturers may want.”
The draft Bill when passed into law will provide “the legal status of Public universities, the procedure for financing Public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of Public universities and related matters,” according to the Ministry of Education.
The bill has met stiff opposition by academics and some civil society organisations who argue that the bill will mess the smooth administration of the universities.
Apart from the University Teachers Association that has opposed the bill, Political Science lecturer at the University of Ghana (UG), Prof Ransford Edward Gyampo, says the bill when passed will hinder the progress of university staff on the academic ladder.
Prof Gyampo observed that after reading through the bill he realised “…the government is seeking to reduce the composition of the Public University Councils from the average of 15 to 9. With this number, the government wants to appoint more people than other constituents,” the head of European Studies at the University of Ghana added.
He also believes such a law will make lecturers and university administrators “bootlickers” in order to advance on the academic ladder, adding “The Minister of Education can give directives as to how the school should be ran [when the Bill becomes law]”
Clauses 5 and 12, the contentious clauses in the 48-clause bill stipulate among others that the governing body of a Public University is a Council which shall consist of the following nine members appointed by the President:
(a) a chairperson nominated by the President;
(b) the Vice-Chancellor;
(c) four persons nominated by the President, one of whom shall be a woman;
(d) one representative of the registered Unions in the university on rotational basis
(e) one representative of the University convocation elected by the convocation;
(h) one representative of the students of the University, nominated by the
Students’ Union; and
(j) one representative from the National Council for Tertiary Education who shall be a non-voting member.
It also states that the chairperson and other members of the Council shall be appointed by the President in accordance with article 70 of the Constitution.
The President may dissolve and reconstitute the council in cases of emergencies or appoint an interim council to operate for a stated period, according to the draft bill.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh has dismissed reports that government is seeking to stifle the academic freedom of the public universities.
“The President has given his word to all Vice Chancellors, when they met him and assured him that the common admission platform will be ready to use in the 2021 academic year,” he said in an interview with online news portal, abcnews.
He continued, “the Vice Chancellors paid a courtesy call on the President and the President stated emphatically that he as a president and his government has nothing to do with stifling academic freedom. In fact, this draft bill is the first bill in this country to try and define what we mean by academic freedom using examples of how other nations have developed it. If it has to be improved, we are hoping for that but the government will not and must not and does not intend in any way to stifle academic freedom.”