An ardent critic of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy, has faulted the President on his recent comment on the new Public Universities’ Bill.
The one-time presidential aspirant of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) noted that Akufo-Addo’s remarks on the universities’ bill lacked tact and diplomacy.
Dr Kennedy, who is seen as a black sheep in the Elephant’s family because of his stance on issues affecting the NPP, in an article indicated that the president’s unfortunate comment had provoked a renewed pledge by the president of University Teachers’ Association of Ghana (UTAG) and others to fight the bill.
The New Public Universities Bill has been rejected by some professors and former vice chancellors, stating that the bill was an attempt by government to control the universities.
They also believe that the bill will take away academic freedom.
But speaking at the 11th congregation of the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) in Accra last week, President Akufo-Addo who was not happy with the claims said, “the flimsy allegations being perpetrated that the bill undermines academic freedom are deliberate mischief-making and disingenuous.”
However, the outspoken NPP member said although the government must be commended for initiating the bill which seeks to reform “our higher education system, it must be done with proper and broader consultations.”
He was not happy that the debate on the bill was being side-tracked by accusations and counter-accusations due to a flawed process.
Dr Kennedy said he was expecting the Minister for Tertiary Education, Professor Kwasi Yankah, to have made clear which stakeholders had been consulted when the first rumblings of misgivings from UTAG surfaced.
“One would have expected that stakeholders like the University Councils and Vice-Chancellors, UTAG and NUGS would be consulted even before the initial draft,” he stated.
But he was disappointed that President Akufo-Addo weighed in without his usual tact and diplomacy.
The President’s comments, the NPP man indicated, would tend to diminish his “admirable exhortation to all of us to be citizens.”
The President’s comments and the reaction in some quarters are unfortunate,” he stressed.
Giving reasons why the bill was crucial, Dr Kennedy said: Africa produces 10 million graduates a year with half of them unemployed a year after graduation while the youth cross the Sahara and the Mediterranean in search of greener pastures and die in their thousands.
He added that, the fact that University of Ghana (UG) could contract a loan through a process shrouded in mystery with a gargantuan interest makes the bill important.
For instance, he recalled how the auditor general took the UG to task for lacking proper regulations and procedures in financial decision-making.
“So, those who claim that universities have a right to chart their own course, including the erudite Prof. Gyampoh, are, to put it gently, mistaken. Universities, even private universities, must be guided by the broader interests of society,” he said.
However, Dr Kennedy said no government could completely capture the varied interests of all stakeholders.
“We must be careful that, in reforming public universities, we do not make them indistinguishable from one another. We must be careful not to make KNUST nothing more than Kumasi-Legon! They must not become glorified Senior High Schools,” he cautioned.
Story: Atta KWAKU BOADI
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