The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has stressed that the directive by government to delay the re-opening of tertiary institutions is targeted at diverting attention on the association’s strike.
The Association reminded authorities it does not take directives from the government.
University teachers in the country announced an indefinite strike over non-payment of their book and research allowance recently.
Subsequently, their negotiations with the government about the allowance fell on the rocks.
Speaking to Joy News Friday, UTAG president, Ofori Bekoe said the government was strategically using the Ebola scare as scapegoat for the institutions to postpone the re-opening date for the 2014/2015 academic year.
Deputy Minister In-charge of Tertiary Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa hinted Tuesday that, measures were being taken to thoroughly screen foreign students from Ebola stricken countries like Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Therefore, re-opening of all the tertiary institutions in the country, he noted would be postponed as the Inter-ministerial taskforce makes arrangements for the necessary screening mechanisms and health readiness processes ahead of re-opening.
But Dr. Bekoe expressed shock at the directive, especially when two of the country’s Universities had already announced a delay in their re-opening of the 2014/2015 academic calendar due largely to the strike by UTAG.
The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Cape Coast had both announced delays in their re-opening dates.
According to the UTAG president, the institutions as autonomous bodies, do not take directives from the government, noting that each University decided on when to re-open its academic year. “That’s why there is no uniformity in the re-opening dates,” he said.
“Since when did the Ministry begin directing universities as to when to re-open. Why did the Ministry not make such arrangements long before the two of the universities announced delay in re-opening”, he questioned.
He argued that “They knew very well that coming August, Universities or tertiary institutions were going to re-open. So why didn’t they make that arrangement until now that two of the Universities came out openly to announce that because of the strike, they are postponing their re-opening.”
Further emphasizing that “When we begin to take directives such as these from government eventually, it would be interfering with academic freedom of the universities and when that happens, the whole country is going to suffer for that.”
“When government begins to direct things that go on in the university, which is supposed to be independent, autonomous and be the place that knowledge is created and disseminated; we’re going to have serious problems in this country,” he added.
He also debunked assertions that the government had consulted the Universities regarding plans to delay re-opening.
According to him, “it is not true because I am aware that my university for instance; University of Education – Winneba, the academic board is meeting today to decide on that issue whether to re-open or to postpone the re-opening.”