The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has directed its members nationwide to withdraw their teaching services from today in solidarity with their counterparts at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW).
“It is our firm belief that the issue at the UEW is an attack on academic freedom and thus affects all public universities in Ghana,” it said in a statement signed by its National President, Dr Harry K. Agbanu.
According to the VCG, it respected the constitutional right of UTAG to embark on the industrial action but was concerned about the ramifications the action would have on the academic calendar.
It said the meeting would also find out if there were alternative means to resolve the issue.
In its statement, UTAG gave a one-week ultimatum to all stakeholders to resolve the issue, indicating that the situation after the ultimatum would inform NEC’s decision to review its position at the upcoming UTAG Congress to be held on September 22, 2017.
The High Court in Winneba had, on July 14, 2017, ordered the Vice-Chancellor of the UEW, Professor Mawutor Avokeh, and the Finance Officer to step aside until a case brought against them before the court that the two were operating under the institution’s defunct governing council was resolved.
The UEW branch of UTAG has been on strike since July 2017 after the court’s directives.
The UTAG statement described the court directive as “an attack on academic freedom, and thus affects all public universities in Ghana.”
It, however, appealed to all its members to “diligently perform all other duties placed on them by their appointments”.
New council and Education Ministry accused
It accused the recently inaugurated Governing Council of the UEW of not showing interest in the issue, neither had it shown any seriousness in resolving it.
“The posturing of the Council Chairman has rather made matters worse by writing to the university lawyer to withdraw the whole appeal process by the university from the Appeals Court and the stay of execution of the injunction order issued by the High Court,” it said
The statement described the stance of the new Governing Council as a clear case of ill intention in pursuit of sabotaging the substantive vice-chancellor.
It went ahead to say that the imposition of an acting vice-chancellor on the UEW by the High Court, as against the UEW’s act and statutes, was an act considered as an element of attack on academic freedom.
“The lack of interest exhibited by the Ministry of Education in the matter; it may interest the public to know that there has not been any representation from the ministry since the court processes started, although it is listed as the second respondent,” it said.
The statement said the unconcerned posturing of the ministry was further worsened by the decision of the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education not to facilitate a meeting with some personalities in an attempt to resolve the issue amicably.
“This idea was initiated by UTAG and communicated to the minister following the President’s call on the UEW Council to resolve the UEW impasse amicably,” it said.
The statement said the decision by UTAG was underpinned by its resolve to, at all times, protect and preserve the sanctity of academic freedom and the sanity of the working environment of its members on all its constituent campuses.
The High Court in Winneba, on July 14, 2017, ordered Prof. Avokeh to step aside until the case brought against him was determined.
The order also affected the institution’s Finance Officer.
The order was made in a case brought before the court by Supi Kofi Kwayera who insisted that the vice-chancellor and the finance officer were operating under the institution’s defunct governing council.
The plaintiff held that the council’s mandate had expired in November 2013, but the Education Ministry failed to constitute a new governing council for the university and rather allowed and permitted the defunct council, which had no mandate whatsoever, to continue the functions of a properly constituted council, as if same had been properly constituted.
That, Supi Kwayera insisted, was unlawful, hence the legal action against the UEW.
However, before the substantive claims were looked into, the university, through its counsel, applied to the court to dismiss the suit on the three counts, but the application was dismissed.
The UEW branch of UTAG, as a respondent, subsequently applied to join the application.
The branch subsequently declared a strike to protest against the court’s ruling.