Dissolution of KNUST council...Chancellor to set up new body Friday

BY: Severious Kale Dery
Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu ll
Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu ll

The government has requested the Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu ll, to lead the next steps in constituting the University Council, in accordance with the university’s statute and relevant laws.

At a press briefing at the Ministry of Education after a crunch meeting with the leadership of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) in Accra yesterday, the Minister of Information designate, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the Governing Council was expected to be reconstituted by Friday, November 2, 2018 to take over from the Interim Governing Council.

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In attendance were the National President of UTAG, Dr Eric Opoku Mensah; the leadership of the association; the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, and the Deputy Minister in charge of General Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum.
“The government has subsequently engaged with UTAG and updated the association accordingly,” Mr Nkrumah announced.

He said UTAG had undertaken to restore services and cooperate in resolution efforts and encouraged other stakeholders to join the efforts.

“In accordance with the earlier directive by the President of the Republic, the university is expected to reopen by November 8, 2018 for normal academic work to resume,” Mr Nkrumah further announced.


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Intervention by government

He explained that the government’s decision to set up an interim governing council and the directive by the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) to the vice-chancellor to hand over temporarily to the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Rita Akosua Dickson, were part of emergency and interim measures.

“These measures were immediately necessary to restore order, while preparing for the reopening of the university,” Mr Nkrumah said.
He said the Governing Council of the KNUST was dissolved because “the government holds it ultimately responsible for the failure to adequately manage internal matters of the university, leading to a breakdown of law and order. The interim measures were necessary to protect lives and property”.

UTAG happy with development

In a brief statement, Dr Mensah said UTAG was happy with the development so far, “and we are happy with the government deciding to meet with UTAG to deliberate on this crucial matter”.

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He described the meeting as “very fruitful” and expressed satisfaction that the two sides had come to a consensus at the end of a long deliberation.

“And, therefore, we support the information as contained in the release by the government and read by the Information Minister and are going to stand by it to make sure that law and order is restored on the KNUST campus and our dear students return for us to do what we love to do best,” Dr Mensah said.

He said he was hopeful that all arrangements being put in place to make sure that the Governing Council was constituted and the vice-chancellor restored would work according to the timetable to ensure that the university would come back to normal life.

Background

The KNUST was closed down indefinitely on Monday, October 22, following a violent demonstration by the students on the university campus in Kumasi.

The Ashanti Regional Security Council (REGSEC), which took the decision at an emergency meeting with the university authorities, also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the university campus with immediate effect.

The students of KNUST, who went on a peaceful demonstration against the ‘tyrannical’ style of the university administration, turned violent, leading to the massive destruction of public and individual properties.

The demonstration was also intended to express grave concern over the use of force by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kwasi Obiri Danso, to cow them into submission.

Before the demonstration, 11 students of the University Hall (Katanga) who had participated in the usual entertainment programme (otherwise called moral session) of the hall on Friday, October 19 were allegedly brutalised and arrested by the university’s internal security men and handed over to the KNUST Police Station, where they were detained.

Moral sessions are processions of students, usually on campus, amid singing and dancing, and are very common with the all-male halls of residence.

Dissolution

Following the events that led to the massive and violent demonstration by the students, the government dissolved the Governing Council of the university.

In its place, it inaugurated a seven-member interim council to run the affairs of the university for the next three months.

The government also directed that the university should be reopened within 14 days to enable academic work to continue.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Education in Accra, the Interim Council was chaired by Nana Effah Apenteng, the Paramount Chief of the Bompata Traditional Area.

Other members were Prof. Mrs Rita Akosua Dickson, Dr Edward Baffoe-Bonnie, Ms Hilda Haggar Ampadu, Prof. Joshua Ayarkwa, Mrs Abena Antwi and Mr Kelvin Sah.

VC’s fate

The fate of the vice-chancellor, as to whether or not he would have to continue with his work, was to be determined by the Interim Council, the statement said.

The students of KNUST have been agitating for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kwasi Obiri-Danso, saying that he was imposing autocratic decisions on them.

Reacting to the government’s decision to dissolve the Governing Council, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) said the exclusion of the Vice-Chancellor from the Interim Council was a “smokescreen” aimed at removing Prof. Obiri-Danso.

According to the President of UTAG, Dr Mensah, the action by the government of dissolving the council was most disappointing.

Minority

In a related development, the Minority in Parliament had urged the government to reverse its decision to dissolve the Interim Management Council (IMC) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and reconstitute the old council.

It said the dissolution of the KNUST council following the demonstration by students was unconstitutional and an invasion of the academic freedom of the university.

At a press conference in Accra yesterday, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, accused the government of victimising the Vice Chancellor of the KNUST, Professor Kwesi Obiri-Danso, on political grounds.

Occupy Ghana

Occupy Ghana, a pressure group, had also registered its strong aversion to attempts by the authorities to replace the duly-constituted Governing Council of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), describing the action as an illegality.

It condemned the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) “that seeks to recognise a so-called Interim Council and further direct the Vice-Chancellor to step aside.”

Grounds for objection

Giving reasons for its position, Occupy Ghana, in its statement signed by Mr Kwaku D. Segbefia, a member of the group, said under the original formulation of the KNUST Act, 1961 (Act 80) and the amendments in PNDCL 240, the government was the appointing authority of the KNUST Council, with the President as the Chancellor.

“However, as a result of the coming into force of Article 68(1)(b) of the Constitution, and Parliament accepting and passing into law, the comprehensive review and consolidation of Ghana law by the Statute Law Revision Commissioner (the “Crabbe Reforms”) changes occurred in the KNUST Act, among several others.

“Key among these changes, based on the Constitution and also meant to enhance the right to academic freedom, was that the President was no longer the Chancellor of that university or any other university in Ghana,” the statement said.

“It added that at the KNUST, it was the Chancellor, not the government, who was responsible for appointment of the chair of the Governing Council.

“It is the Council that appoints the Vice Chancellor, and may remove that person in the exercise of its implied power under Article 297 of the Constitution. Neither the government nor any of its agencies, including the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) may usurp any of those powers vested by law in those other persons,” it said.