I have resisted every available temptation to publish anything on the ongoing battle for the soul of the University of Education, Winneba. My view has been that the issue could have been handled behind closed doors.
But I am wrong. I should have written about this issue several months back. I should have held press conferences, I should have mobilized the alumni (since the leadership of our alumni seem to have gone to sleep), to pile pressure, to save the certificates of those who have passed through the university.
I have, personally, on a number of occasions, attempted to seek audience with the principal officers of the university, to initiate discussions, in order to avoid arriving at where we are at the moment. As an alumnus of the university, as a Journalist, and as someone who could be described as a leading member of the communities in which the university is located, I hold a sacred obligation to ensure that the integrity of the university is not impugned.
So I wanted to make sure that my contribution to the debate was informed by both sides. But the university declined every single request for me to get their side of the story. They have always hidden under the cloak of the autonomy of the university.
I have done my own independent investigations, and I have gleaned concrete evidence, and I am convinced that the University of Education is going through one of the most painful rape of a kind. The resources of the university are pouring into the pockets of a few who think that the autonomous status that was given to the institution was meant as spoils of war, for themselves.
If you shed off your partisan feathers, you will see that the University of Education is sinking. It has taken me several months of deep reflections to arrive at my conclusions. I have interviewed several staff, several present and past students, contractors, the only crop of people I did not have the opportunity to interview have been the top management of the university, since they declined my offer to do so.
I have been at the High Court twice this week. Honorable Alexander Afenyo-Markin, standing as a lawyer for a former Assembly member, Supi Kofi Kwayera, he has gone to court to enforce Article 41 of Ghana’s Constitution, which compels citizens “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property”.
As I sat through the High Court judgment, and as I listened to the Judge navigate the arguments advanced by the two sides, I had no doubt that there is now a cabal of cankerworms in the university who are in a hurry to run the university down before they flee with their pensions.
The authorities of the University of Education do not seem to care an inch about their own students, they don’t seem to care about their own staff, not even the very lecturers who deliver the core mandate of the institution, they care less about the alumni, they care only about the power they hold, and how that helps them to loot.
You may not immediately understand the situation. Visit any of the campuses of the university. You will see ordinary persons with no previous business experience, who now hold the power to award contracts, and who are now suddenly building huge hotels and hostels, and several other heavy-laden investments around the country, and you have these things happening at the time when the university’s contracts are being awarded in such questionable circumstances, you have these happening at the time when several high value contracts running into several millions of Ghana Cedis are being awarded to companies with no track records, you would then have been an irresponsible citizen if you knew of these questionable deals and yet kept quiet.
I dare say that Alex Afenyo-Markin has made a selfless show of a true son of the land. This is what leadership is about. You take steps to correct the wrong when you believe crimes are being committed. The University of Education is a public institution. Its autonomy is in the maintenance of its own integrity; we did not assume that we are creating an autonomous institution for a few charlatans to loot, no way!
In the past the KNUST has had its own share of an integrity wash down. The University of Ghana had to, at one point in time, rid itself of Professor Asenso-Okyere, one of the most powerful Vice-Chancellors we have had in Ghana. What was his crime? Nothing!
Professor Asenso-Okyere’s son, Kwadwo Tabiri Asenso-Okyere, who was then a student of the same university, was alleged to have found a way of obtaining undeserved examination results. The University Council, determined to ensure the protection of the university’s integrity and the credibility of the certificates awarded by the institution, took a brutal stand, insisting that Professor Asenso-Okyere took ultimate responsibility for the crimes of his son. Today, that action has saved the certificates of several thousands of students who have passed through that university.
In my view, I don’t think the current court processes is enough to save the university; the university needs a complete overhaul. I make a call for a full forensic audit and investigations into the running of its affairs.
Unfortunately, the leadership of UTAG seems to be either misleading themselves or are allowing their individual kick-backing interests to get in the way of their larger membership. Dr. Agbenu, the National President of UTAG, was the first to hold a press conference to threaten UTAG-led nationwide strike action if the case against the principal officers of the university was not withdrawn. Dr Bekoe, UTAG UEW President, this week applied for UTAG UEW to be joined as co-defenders of the ongoing case.
There are some senior officials who came to the university with nearly nothing, but who, after only a few years, are now the proud owners of millions and millions worth of riches. Look around you, count the high rising hostels, hotels, and other accommodation facilities, they own all of those. Go to their hometowns; ask of them and their possessions. What is it that is now making you their conduit of defense?
If some senior officials of the university unilaterally award highly inflated contracts running into several millions of Ghana Cedis, and then come to the office, later, to ask low ranking staff to prepare documents to cover such bedroom contracts, and backdate same, completely ignoring the procurement laws and its processes, then it is not for the entire membership of UTAG to come and clean the mess for those who became rich as a result. They should bear their cross alone, and if any individual member of UTAG benefitted personally from such loot, let us not allow those individual beneficiaries to create the impression that it is the entire membership who are under attack.
Students are suffering. They pay for services they do not receive. Lecturers are frustrated. Those who live in the university’s bungalows should be able to tell us the cutthroat monthly deductions from their salaries, the poor state of the bungalows they live in. There are lecturers who fetch water from outside of their houses every single day, to satisfy their water needs, because water never runs from their taps.
There are lecturers who panic when it rains, because they live in profusely leaking university bungalows. Some live in reptile and mosquito infested bungalows. There are lecturers who don’t have offices, some don’t even have functional desks to sit on to do the very work that they have been employed to do. There are lecturers whose promotions are being held for no reason. These are issues that are tough enough for UTAG to be concerned with. These are the issues that should make UTAG ask questions, of how the resources of the university are being applied.
The purging of the University of Education, of the thieves within, will save the available money for the resolution of such staff welfare and academic issues.
And who told you that the continuous existence of an illegal university council is in the interest of the students? Why are we behaving as if everyone else is stupid except those who are in leadership?
As an old student whose certificate could have been affected, I have studied the happenings so far and I have come to a conclusion that the ongoing litigation is the best thing in protecting the degrees and the certificates students are receiving from the university and that is why I am throwing my full weight behind Alex Afenyo-Markin to go the full length at getting justice for the students and for the staff of the university.
A fight against corrupt university officials is not an attack on academic freedom. In my view, the failure to fight against corrupt university officials is rather a tacit endorsement of an attack on the freedoms of the academia.
James Kofi Annan