The right to demonstrate or raise our voices against any decision, especially in the public sphere, is protected by the Fourth Republican Constitution.
Article 21 Clause 1 of the Constitution states: “All persons shall have the right to -
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;
(c) freedom of assembly, including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations;
(e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national or international, for the protection of their interest...”
From the foregoing, workers’ unions have the right to demonstrate their disagreement with any decision by the authorities as part of their democratic right.
On Monday, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) decided to withdraw its services in solidarity with the decision of its members at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW).
The High Court in Winneba had, on July 14, 2017, ordered the Vice-Chancellor of the UEW, Professor Mawutor Avoke, 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 directive.
The UTAG statement calling for the strike described the court directive as “an attack on academic freedom and thus affects all public universities in Ghana”.
Our Constitution upholds freedom of thought, conscience and belief and, for this reason, UTAG was free to describe the decision of the court as “an attack on academic freedom”.
But did the court attempt to attack the conscience and beliefs of the UEW?
A competent court of jurisdiction cannot be accused of attacking academic freedom, for, after all, litigants have the right to pursue their rights up to the apex court if they disagree with the decisions of the lower courts.
That is why some members of the public have questioned the reasoning behind the declaration of the strike by UTAG, especially when the case is still ongoing in the court.
The Daily Graphic cannot understand the rationale behind the decision to call the strike when the grievance procedures have not been exhausted and especially when the rank and file of UTAG have not been informed.
No doubt lecturers of public universities across the country decided to turn their backs on UTAG yesterday and stayed in the lecture halls to teach.
In fact, they described the strike as illegal and urged UTAG to eat humble pie by calling it off.
The Daily Graphic will support any legitimate action to seek redress for people’s grievances in our society. But we cannot throw our weight behind illegitimate actions that tend to create the impression of a breakdown in law and order in our society.
We appeal to the leadership of UTAG to publicly denounce its illegal strike and apologise to its members and the public for its ill-conceived action.
The UEW plays a very crucial role in the formation of the character of our youth and empowering them with skills for the job market and other fields where critical labour is needed to turn the fortunes of the economy around.
The Daily Graphic, thus, calls on UTAG to support its constituents at the UEW to resolve the outstanding issues, so that the vice-chancellor and the finance officer can be allowed to perform their legitimate duties for the university to run smoothly.