Written By Araba Yankson - Students, parents, faculties and some Ghanaians are probably experiencing stress about the ongoing development at the University of Education Winneba (UEW). The university has four campuses, the College of Technical Education, Kumasi, the College of Agriculture Education, Mampong and the College of Languages, Ajumako.
The attacks and misrepresentations by a section of the media are focused not on the substantive issue of the conflict but on the persons of the Vice Chancellor (VC), Professor Mawutor Avoke, and two other individuals in the administration of the university.
And, the misrepresentation of the facts has understandably made the public furious.
I would also be angry if I were told that only three persons were the cause of the problems at the UEW. Many of us listening to the debates unfolding from some radio stations and social commentators are likely to join the bandwagon of the member of Parliament (MP) and applaud him for a great job done. Far from it!
UTAG steps in
To fight the misinformation and add a critical voice to the issues, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) declared a strike in order to educate the public on the core issues impacting the university. It was one of the shortest strikes in our nation's history!
The propaganda machinery of the government went into an overdrive, with sections of the public and some media houses throwing the judgement book at UTAG for going against a previously issued court order.
Was the action of UTAG in any way close to violating a court order? Absolutely not! But for those of us who appear to believe in Joseph Goebbels form of twisting the fact, yes, UTAG’s action was a heresy.
But let's review the facts, cross our “Ts” and place a title on the letter ‘I’.
UTAG, in a press release I assessed, explained that the recently inaugurated Governing Council of the UEW did not seem to be interested in resolving the issue and the apathy from the Ministry of Education was not helping solve the issues as well.
I reviewed that UTAG never suggested they embarked on some strike action against a previously issued court order. Maybe, UTAG was too academic in their education and citizens would rather lean on anecdotal evidence from some sections of the media to form their opinion.
Why the strike?
The reasons UTAG stood up for its members, I believe, was the attempt by some special interest groups or individuals to use the court process to undermine governance in our university.
UTAG understood clearly that if an individual MP could succeed in breaking up the structure of a university and force a government to reconstitute another university council comprising lobbyists and special interest individuals, then a case precedent would have been set in our legal history and another MP in future could use it to dismember other universities.
This, I think, is UTAG’s fear and this must be of concern to all Ghanaians.
In all things considered, I will assume that Ghanaians are being denied the facts of the case. Until date, we are yet to read of any audit report suggesting any malfeasance on the part of the VC and the other officials or is it just enough for a court or an MP to base their case on anecdotal evidence?
Role of minister of state
What is the role of the sector minister in solving the issue? He appears to be uninvolved and uninterested in the conflict. Perhaps, he is also with the school of thought that the issues are before the court. But for his experiences in previous university administrations, one would have thought he would be all set to help solve the conflict.
Or, perhaps, he has found himself between the rock and a hard place — what he knows from experience as a former university administrator and his role now as a government-appointed minister.
It is, indeed, a very difficult position to find oneself in. But even in situations of ethical dilemma probably being faced by the sector minister, consultations with colleagues and other experts in the field could help him review and solve the conflict.
I am afraid that in the absence of any action-oriented interventions from the government, then propagandist Joseph Goebbels’ favourite weapon of misinformation will triumph at the expense of the facts and special interest groups, paving the way for government lobbyists to take over universities just as they took over public toilets and the tollbooths across the nation.
The writer is a legal practitioner in Cape Coast.