President defends Public University Bill …It will not undermine academic freedom

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has dismissed allegations that the Public Universities Bill which will soon be presented to Parliament will undermine the academic freedom of public universities.

He said the bill demonstrated the cardinal importance of the principle of academic freedom of the universities and described the allegations as flimsy, mischievous and disingenuous.

The Public Universities Bill has received criticisms from some stakeholders in the tertiary education sector, including the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof Ernest Aryeetey, who is now the Secretary General of the African Research Universities Alliance.

According to Prof Aryeetey, the bill, when passed, would take away every facet of academic freedom, explaining that the definition of academic freedom as provided in the bill was too narrow, as it focused only on freedom of speech of lecturers.

A former Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Tertiary Education, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has also described the bill as a “a desperate authoritarian agenda to assail the pillars of insulation and thereby blatantly interfere with the management of our higher institutions of learning, in flagrant violation of Article 21 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana”.

However, President Akufo-Addo, in an address at the 11th Congregation ceremony of the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) in Accra yesterday, dismissed claims that the bill would stifle academic freedom of the universities.

Having gone through the consultations stage ready to be laid before Parliament, he said the bill would, amongst other things, bring all the public universities under a common law and, thereby, make the administration of the public universities less cumbersome and more efficient.

The President reiterated the commitment of his government to ensure that the youth gained access not only to senior high school education but higher education.

“Government is not sparing any efforts to make education in Ghana of the best quality, and fit for the needs of the 21st century.”

“From September this year, all students in our public senior high schools will be covered by the Free SHS policy. We are making sure that poverty is no longer an excuse for any Ghanaian child not to reach their full potential, and I am happy that it is under my time as President of the Republic that this feat has been chalked,” he said

On the new standards-based curriculum set to be rolled out from kindergarten to Primary 6 in primary schools, the President indicated that the new curriculum would focus on making children confident, innovative, digitally-literate, well-rounded, patriotic citizens.

President Akufo-Addo said his administration was constructing 21 state-of-the-art Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) centres across the country.

In addition, he said 10 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) centres were being built around the country to provide support for the introduction of STEM into basic schools.

President Akufo-Addo expressed the government’s commitment to support collaborative programmes between tertiary universities and industry to increase opportunities for practical training and internship.

“We shall promote curriculum development to meet the skills and human resource demands of industry, create opportunities for work and study, and make training in entrepreneurship a cardinal component of the school system,” President Akufo-Addo said.

By Yaw Kyei                                   

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