The Ministry of Education says former President John Dramani Mahama call for the withdrawal of the Public Universities Bill, 2020, without assigning any cogent reason is a clear demonstration of how desperate the former leader is in his attempt to seek for re-election.
The former Ghanaian Leader on Sunday, June 14, 2020, wrote on his website, www.johnmahama.org, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Public Universities Bill, 2020, from Parliament since there is no need for its introduction.
“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 mandate 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 went further to state 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”.
However, the Ministry of Education in a swift response in a statement signed by the Press Secretary to the Minister, Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, said even though Mr. Mahama is entitled to speak on any matter, his write up clearly shows that he is ill-informed about the subject matter.
“Ex-President Mahama is entitled to speak on any matter but must first be educated and informed. It is wholly unacceptable for a person of his stature to pander to partisan politicking on such an important issue without ascertaining the facts simply because it is an election year. This smacks of desperation. Ghanaians are yearning for clear, innovative alternatives from the political parties, not mere promises of reviews and abolition/repeals”, the statement in part read.
According to the statement, in May 2018, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, in consultation with the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTE), commissioned a team of experts with a mandate to, among others, ‘produce a reference document pooling together various isolated policies in use, and institutional best practices that will position institutions to better discharge their mandate’. This follows earlier discussions in 2017 between the Minister for Education and Vice Chancellors Ghana (VCG) on government’s policy intentions.
Subsequent to that, a draft policy document produced was shared with stakeholders and a validation workshop held from 10-12 January 2019 in Koforidua with the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and NCTE attending the workshop.
The revised policy document, the statement added, was approved by cabinet and subsequently Parliament on May 9, 2019, as the Tertiary Education Policy.
“This policy was launched in June 2019 at the Law School auditorium in University of Ghana. This and others formed the basis of the Public Universities Bill currently before Parliament. The Ministry would like to put it on record that it has extensively engaged stakeholders on this matter, having invited, and received, memoranda from the various public universities and other stakeholders. The Honourable Minister has on several occasions met the leadership of UTAG to discuss their concerns about various aspects of the bill and some progress has been made. UTAG has also had the opportunity to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education to voice its concerns, which have been taken into account”, the statement noted.
It added “Government does not accept the view that the bill, when passed into law, will stifle academic freedom and undermine research and innovation. Did the passage of Technical University Act signed into law by John Mahama stifle academic freedom or stifle individual technical university autonomy? In addition to the restoration of the Book and Research Allowance, abolished by the NDC government, this has recently approved a 200% increase in the research allowance, from the GH₵500 introduced under His Excellency President John Agyekum Kufuor, to GH₵1,500. Further to this, government has laid before Parliament, the Ghana Research Fund, whose purpose, when enacted into law, is to establish a Ghana Research Fund to provide for funds and to support research in tertiary and research institutions”.