Why John Mahama is bent on reversing the Public Universities Bill

John Dramani Mahama, former President of Ghana

Former President, John Dramani Mahama has made known his intentions to reverse the Public Universities Bill (should Government pass the bill) when he is voted into power. The decision of the former president was informed by the public outcry that met the announcement of the bill.

Before we look at the reasons backing the former president’s statements, it is relevant to note that, the  Government upon introducing the Public Universities Bill stated that the Bill it’s to provide the procedure for the establishment of Public Universities,  will give the principles of management for public universities, the legal status of public universities, the procedure for financing public universities and administration as well as the supervision of the activities of public universities, among other related matters.

The bill which is yet to be passed by the government (and might be passed since the Majority Caucus in parliament will vote in favour of the Bill to be passed) has received oppositions from some stakeholders and players in the academic sector. They argue that the move would be an attack on academic freedom and a means through which the government of the day can manipulate public universities in the country.

Notable among those who spoke against the bill is the former Deputy Minister of Education, Samuel Okudzeto. He said that the Bill, if passed into law, could become “a crude attack on the sacred principles of academic freedom”. He called on government to “withdraw and abandon this repulsive and contemptuous policy” as this cannot be a sound policy path for a democrat.

According to the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), the Bill seeks to harmonize the administration and governance and accountability structures of Public Universities, a move they explained would make the administration of public universities cumbersome since all public universities have their respective goals and objectives. They also said, should the Bill be passed into law in its current form, it will create more problems for the running of the universities than they seek to resolve.

Also, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Science (GAAS) voiced their displeasure against the Bill calling it “dangerous and uncalled for” and “a recipe for total chaos in our tertiary educational system”.

Professor Ernest Aryeetey, a former vice – chancellor of the University of Ghana touching on the issue said, the Bill when passed “will destroy everything universities are meant to represent”. Universities don’t just train people and confer degrees on them but rather, universities are to generate knowledge useful for social and economic development” He said. The words of Prof. Aryeetey were corroborated by Professor Ransford Yaw Gyampo, a political science lecturer at the University of Ghana who has vowed to resist any attempt to deny Public universities the academic freedom they deserve should the Bill be passed as he describes the Bill as “bogus”.

It is for these reasons that the former president John Mahama said that the Bill is not in favor of the people, there will be a threat to academic freedom as situated by the above professors and stakeholders of the Universities and for that matter, if he [John Mahama] is elected into power, will reverse the bill.

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