Gov’t Pushing Political Public Universities Bill Through the Backdoor

The Akufo Addo administration has sneakily smuggled into Parliament, the outrageous Public Universities Bill, 2019 to be passed before the Ghanaian Parliament is dissolved in the next few days to make way for the new Parliamentarians coming in 2021.

Several university bodies and stakeholders had opposed the bill sponsored by the Akufo Addo administration, which has been accused of attempting to use the new legislation to politicise public university education in Ghana.

The bill will allow the board of universities to consist of 60% political appointees instead of the current 30%. Critics have warned that if the bill is allowed to be passed, university admission will be passed on students’ political leaning, rather than merit.

Following the massive outcry against the bill, the Akufo Addo administration had feigned withdrawing the bill, only to sneak it in a few days ago and set for its last round of readings this week before it is passed into law.

“…Contrary to the President’s promise (on Oman FM) to take a second look at the 60% executive dominance on the University Councils, the new version which is currently heading for 2nd Reading Tomorrow still has 9 members out of the 15 member University Council still coming from the government (60%),” warns Kofi Asare, the Executive Director of Africa Education Watch, an education advocacy organisation.

“The next few days will prove decisive for tertiary education, especially where the UTAG National front has been significantly weakened by the politicians. Tell your MP to vote against the Public Universities Bill before it turns Public Universities into another GES,” Mr. Asare alerted on his Facebook page.

The proposed bill-the Public Universities Bill, 2019, among others is seeking to reduce the representation of academic stakeholders in the governing councils of universities and replace them with government appointee. 

Also, the bill wants to give the President of the Republic of Ghana the power to appoint Chancellors for Universities, instead of the usual practice of chancellors being elected by autonomous university bodies.

Academic experts, student bodies and individual universities have described the bill as a totalitarian move to cripple university education in Ghana.

“The National Union Of Ghana Students has learnt with shock the retrogressive decision by the government to place all public universities directly under its authority through a recently drafted bill awaiting parliamentary procedures to become law. We consider this a threat to academic freedom because Government has no business in having outright control over public universities,” the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) said recently in a statement.

NUGs believes that the recent confusion in universities such as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Education Winneba (UEW) were all politically induced. 

“First of all, it is not clear what purpose the law intends to serve. Since the individual Acts establishing these schools coupled with their statutes are laws enough for smooth administration of these institutions. The draft bill in its current state is at best an apology as it is riddled with inconsistencies, and provisions that do not conform to the principle of constitutionalism,” NUG noted.

A similar statement issued by the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta Region (UHAS) has utterly condemned the government’s move to 

use the controversial bill to “Harmonise” all public universities 

“The basic premise of a harmonised Public Universities Act is wrong as it seeks to make all public universities look the same…Universities cannot be treated with a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” a statement signed by UHAS Registrar Dr. C.S Kpeglo warned.

NUGS has condemned “in no uncertain terms” the plan by the Akufo Addo government to push such a controversial bill through parliament. 

“The largest students’ movement in Ghana wishes to finally call on politicians to halt politicizing the future of the thousands of Ghanaian students whose future is hinged on their policies and decisions. Ghanaian students deserve better than their insatiable quest to score cheap political points,” NUGs warned.

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