Students of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) disrupted academic work on the North Campus of the university on Tuesday following a protest against the dismissal of some lecturers by the governing council of the university.
The students also demanded the removal of the Vice-Chancellor (V-C), Rev. Prof. Anthony Afful-Broni, accusing him of running the institution with an iron fist.
Last year the UEW witnessed a power struggle which ended with the removal of the immediate past V-C, Prof. Mawutor Avoke.
Apart from the demonstration, which was against the dismissal of the President of the UEW branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Dr Frimpong Kaakyire Duku and the Principal of the College of Languages at Ajumako, Prof. Ephraim Nsor, there is a raging turf war between the Member of Parliament (MP) for Efutu, Mr Alexander Kwamena Afenyo-Markin, and some alumni of the university, on the one hand, and the V-C, on the other.
The demonstrating students said the dismissal of the senior members of the university was improper and, therefore, demanded their immediate reinstatement.
Wearing red armbands and headgear, the students used stones and tables to block the main road on the campus.
Not even the arrival of the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Prof Kwesi Yankah, on the campus could calm them down.
Chanting war songs, they massed up at the forecourt of the administration block, saying that they would not allow the alleged victimisation and injustice against lecturers to stay.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards they carried read: “Bring back our lecturers”, “Stop destroying UEW’s image”, “We need peace in UEW”, “Sack Vice-Chancellor”, “V-C is destroying UEW” and “Stop victimising lecturers”.
The demonstration, which started about 7 a.m., brought academic activities on the North Campus to a halt, as the students refused to attend lectures.
Some of the demonstrating students entered some of the lecture halls to convince some of their mates who were studying to join the peaceful demonstration.
It took the intervention of personnel from the Ghana Police Service to restore calm and make for the free movement of vehicles on the campus.
Part of the letter dismissing Dr Duku read: “The Disciplinary Board set up at the instance of the Vice-Chancellor to further investigate your conduct in respect of a court action you initiated, together with six other staff who were asked to step aside, established that you did not exhaust the internal structures of the university before proceeding to court.”
It said Dr Duku used institutional time to go to court without seeking official permission, as well as initiated legal action against the university, his employer; the chairman of the governing council, the V-C and the registrar to make the university and the governing council unpopular in the eyes of the university community, as well as the public.
“Your actions constitute misconduct and insubordination which have brought the name of the university into disrepute. You have thus contravened Schedule G2(b) and (d) of the University of Education, Winneba disciplinary rules.
“You, therefore, become subject to discipline under UEW statutes. Your actions amounted to grave misconduct. Based on the findings of the investigation committee and the disciplinary board at the instance of the Vice-Chancellor, you contravened schedule G2(B) and (d) of the UEW disciplinary rules. You are, therefore, subject to discipline under Statute 36 of the UEW Statutes.
“After discussing the report of the disciplinary board at its meeting held on March 7, 2019, the governing council summarily dismissed you from the service of the university with immediate effect,” the letter said.
Prof. Yankah directs
Addressing the media after a three-hour meeting with the university authorities, Prof. Yankah expressed disappointment at the development at the UEW and gave the governing council a three-week ultimatum to resolve the impasse to restore peace and harmony on the campus.
According to him, occasional misunderstandings in the university did not promote good academic work and that it was important that management took immediate steps to ensure a congenial learning environment on the campus.
Making reference to what recently happened at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), which led to the destruction of properties worth millions of Ghana cedis, he called on the management to prevent rioting by students, which often led to the destruction of government properties.
He noted that the objective of the meeting was to listen to the sequel of events that led to the dismissal of the lecturers to prevent the situation from deteriorating, noting that “my immediate interest is to ensure that the governing council takes the immediate steps to ensure that peace and tranquillity returned to campus in the shortest possible time”.
Commenting on the dismissal of the lecturers, he said the government could not give orders to the governing council, since the body was a trustee for the government in the administration of the university.
Alleged financial malfeasance
On the other side of the rumpus at the university, some stakeholders have petitioned the Auditor General over the alleged involvement of the V-C and the finance officer in the spending of GHc5,769,395 as honorarium, reports Timothy Gobah.
The petition, copied to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and signed by Messrs Dawda Eric and Eric Dumenu Akatsi, alumni of the UEW, said the V-C and the finance officer spent GHc5,769,395.08 within six weeks as honorarium.
“It is against this backdrop that these officers are dragged before you to look into their conduct as authorisers of the very amount we are complaining about. We respectfully consider their conduct in line of the above as inimical and injurious to the University of Education, Winneba.
“It is in our considered opinion that the said item of expenditure borders on clear mismanagement and unlawful abuse of public funds which will not inure to the benefit of the citizens of the Republic of Ghana whose taxes are used to run the affairs of the university. Bearing in mind the difficulty the institution faces, particularly on infrastructure, such an amount could have been spent on capital expenditure to augment academic enrolment,” it said.
Meanwhile, Mr Afenyo-Markin, who was counsel for Rev. Prof. Afful-Broni in the legal tussle over the leadership of the university, in a Facebook post accused the V-C of hiring a lecturer called Alhassan Bawa to attack him (Afenyo-Markin).
“I wonder why Afful-Broni is refusing to write the article himself. The V-C is digging his own trap pit in which he (Afful-Broni) will fall,” he wrote.
Mr Afenyo-Markin said Rev. Prof. Afful-Broni, in his cassock and without shame, viciously attacked the image of Prof. Avoke, adding that “but time has exposed all the lies”.
“As the inevitable awaits him, he is now using Bawa and a busy-body independent candidate to neutralise me through character assassination,” he posted on his Facebook page.