The acting Dean of International Programmes at the University of Ghana has disclosed that some international partners of the University have vowed to withdraw their partnership with the University should Government pass the Public Universities Bill.
According to Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo, though the information has been relayed formally, the said international partners believe they cannot trust the decisions of changing governments in the running of the Universities.
“I mentioned that I am acting Dean for international programmes at the University of Ghana and I have heard informally from some of our international partners that if this law goes into force, they will discontinue their programmes with us because they cannot trust that there will be a bad government who will say there is a crisis or an emergency so we are shutting down the University. In 1983, 1984, the universities were closed down for the longest period you can imagine.
“So that interference is a possibility and donors and partners do not want to take a risk if they don’t work with Ghanaians they can work with South Africans and Nigerians. So if there is a potential or a perceived threat to the University’s freedom to do their research they will just withdraw,” she disclosed on Newsfile on Saturday.
According to Prof Adomako, the Public Universities bill when passed will curtail the academic freedom of Universities, leaving decisions relating to contents of syllables, courses to be taught in the university as well as researches allowed to be conducted by the Universities in the hands of whichever government will be in power.
“When we talk about academic freedom, we are not saying that we want to get up and just do anything. We’re talking about the freedom to think and do research on important issues. There has been a recent example in Cameroon where a lecturer was dismissed because he inserted an exam question that sought to look at some of the teacher laws in the country. A lecturer decides to ask a question in a political science exams so that students can think about these issues and he is dismissed for this.
The Francophone countries have the kind of system that this bill seem to be directing us to. And it means that the freedom to decide what to you put on your syllabus, which course you will teach, which program will be established, which exams you will set, which research you will do, who you engage research with are all in the hands of the Minister of Education, because the clause says and I read, “the ministry may give directives on matters of policy through the Ghana tertiary education commission…so the so-called tertiary education commission is working for the Minister. Currently I have a research agreement with a colleague at the University of Birmingham funded by the British academy , imagine that we want to examine corruption at the Ministry of Education, do you think we will get the support to get those research materials? she quizzed.
The professor of Gender Studies and African Studies insisted, “We are human, we should not set laws that allow human beings and governments to do what they want to do and especially not with education which is the pinnacle of how we get our societies to develop.”
The Public Universities Bill seeks to harmonize the finances, administration and governance structure of public universities and will give the government power to appoint the majority of members of the University Council when passed. The Council then has the power to appoint and fire public university officials.
Major education stakeholders in the country have however kicked against the passage of the bill because they believe it will serve the interest of Governments rather than Universities.
The Graduate Students’ Association of Ghana (GRASAG) which has been one of the major critics on the same show, maintained that the bill will threaten the stability of Universities in the country.
Samuel Sagoe, President of GRASAG posited, “Our concern now is that the Public Universities Bill threatens the stability of all universities. Whose interest is the government hoping to protect with this bill, is it the interest of the students, the lecturers, administrators or themselves. This only serves the interest of the government because it gives it total control over the universities and we are worried about that.”