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Withdraw Public Universities Bill now – Mahama to Gov’t

The flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama, has asked the government to withdraw the Public Universities Bill which is currently before Parliament.

“Government must listen to the concerns of key stakeholders and withdraw the Public Universities Bill,” Mahama urged in a statement.

If government refuses to adhere to his call and goes ahead to pass the Bill into law, John Mahama says he will repeal it in case he wins the 2020 polls.

“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,” he said.

The NDC’s flagbearer insists that “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.”

About the Public Universities Bill

According to the framers of the Public Universities Bill, it seeks to harmonize the finances, administration and governance structure of public universities.

The Bill, when passed, will give the government power to appoint the majority of members of the University Council.

The Council then has the power to appoint and fire public university officials.

The Bill also gives the President the power to dissolve the University Council which will now have the power to appoint a chancellor.

It also gives effect to the University Council to control the finances of the university and determine the allocation of funds.

In addition, there is a proposal to rename four public universities after various personalities.

Other calls for the withdrawal of the Bill

The draft Bill has so far attracted wide public criticisms from many people including former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah.

The Dean of the University of Ghana School of Law (UGSL), Professor Raymond Atuguba has also called for the withdrawal of same, saying its country’s laws.

The Minority in Parliament has kicked against it with the Ranking Member on the Education Committee of the House, Peter Nortsu saying the draft in its current form undermines the authority of universities.

A former Deputy Education Minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa in an article also said the Bill, if allowed to pass, could become “a crude attack on the sacred principles of academic freedom”.

In the most recent development, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) has also rejected the government’s proposed Public Universities Bill, claiming that the Bill accords the government and its agencies too much power to meddle in the affairs of public university administration and also serve as grounds for the sabotage of schools by the government.

Below is the full post from Mahama:

Withdraw Public Universities Bill- JM

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

John Dramani Mahama
Cantonments- Accra
Sunday, June 14, 2020

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