The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has accused the government of deliberately delaying the reopening of the university.
The government had directed that the university, which was closed down following violent demonstration by students on October 22, this year, be reopened today but disagreements between the government and the unions represented on the governing council is threatening the reopening.
While the government is insisting that the unions should replace their representatives on the council, the unions are averse to the directive.
At a news conference in Kumasi yesterday, UTAG accused the government of creating the wrong impression in the minds of the public that it was the unions that were delaying the reconstitution of the council by refusing to change their representatives.
An Executive Member of the local UTAG, Dr Otchere Addai Mensah, reiterated the unions’ position to retain their representatives on the council, saying that decision was non-negotiable.
He said the government had no business asking them to change their representatives.
Dr Mensah denied reports that the unions had agreed with the government to change their representatives on the council.
“We state clearly one more time that at our meeting with a government’s delegation to resolve the impasse at the Ministry of Education on Monday, October 29, 2018, UTAG did not agree that it or the other unions or associations will change their representatives on the council as part of the resolution process. This allegation by government, therefore, does not only constitute an untruth, but it also appears mischievous,” he said.
“We categorically state without any iota of apology that by the very Act and Statutes of KNUST, the representation of the unions/associations on the council is not up for discussion with government,” he added.
Present at the news conference to lend their support to the local chapter were the National President of UTAG, Dr Eric Opoku Mensah, and the National Secretary, Dr Samuel Bert Boadi-Kusi.
Dr Mensah explained that “the representatives of UTAG, TEWU, Alumni and Convocation (both professorial and non-professorial) have been duly elected through a laid down process to represent their respective constituencies on council for a defined term, and just as Ghanaians vote a government into power for a fixed term and wait patiently to vote it out of office at the end of the term, should the electorate find it incompetent, so also do the unions/associations regarding their representatives on the council as contained in Provision (g) of KNUST Act 80, 7 (1).”
He said the government had no business meddling in the representation of UTAG or any other union or association on the university council.
“This is what government is refusing to understand and appreciate and, consequently, has created an erroneous impression that it can pick and choose who can represent UTAG or any of the unions or associations on the council,” he stressed.
“The Act and Statutes clearly state that responsibility lies within the ambit of UTAG and the other unions and associations but not government.
Therefore, government’s demand that the unions and associations change their representatives is tantamount to meddling in the affairs of the unions and associations, which is unlawful and will set a bad precedent if allowed,” he argued.
Dr Mensah also accused the government of wrongly holding the council accountable for the disturbances without assessing the root cause of the issues just because the government needed an excuse to dissolve the council.
That action, he contended, amounted to “giving a dog a bad name just to hang it.”
Dr Mensah said the current posture of the government demanding the changing of the representatives of the unions as precondition for the reconstitution of the council “is highly against the spirit of the mutual agreement between government and UTAG that devolved the resolution of the impasse to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Chancellor of the University.”
He reiterated that the representation of UTAG and the other unions and associations on the council of KNUST “is not up for discussion with government.”
According to him, UTAG was ready to restore all withdrawn services as soon as the governing council was duly inaugurated.
As of the time of going to press, the union and management were locked up in a crunch meeting with Otumfuo Osei Tutu II at the Manhyia Palace, trying to find a solution to the impasse.