UTAG strike: Students stranded, NUGS backs action

The strike by the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) for better conditions of service yesterday began across various campuses, leaving students especially freshmen in a state of uncertainty.

Those who reported to campus over the weekend are torn between either staying on campus orgoing back home; those yet to arrive are not sure if they should wait for an update on the strike before making a decision, while some are unconcerned and enjoying the moment.

Additionally, there was mixed reaction to the action as some of the students were in support of the action and others dreaded the impact of the decision on academic work.

Checks by the Ghanaian Times at the University of Ghana (UG); Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ); University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS); University of Cape Coast (UCC) and Simon DiedongDombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies (SDD-UBIDS, formerly University of Development Studies) revealed that the lecturers were observing the strike.

At the GIJ campus, for instance, it was observed that students were loitering, whilst lecturers were found missing in action. The hopes of the first year students to start their tertiary lives with orientation were dashed as lecturers in charge of some of the sessions did not show up.

A final year student of GIJ, JamaldeenWiayuka, told the Ghanaian Times that  it was frustrating for him as he had travelled all the way from the Northern part of the country  for school “just to come and be idling around without attending lectures, causing me to waste resources.”

Derrick Deti, a level 300 student, said the strike was a major problem since the action was indefinite which will drastically affect the weeks stipulated for studies.

“The normal academic calendar should be 13 but it’s been reduced to 9, out of this the strike will also cause a reduction but the same volume of things we have covered at school,” he said.

The situation was not different at UG, except that many students were seen moving to and fro in search of accommodation which has been a major challenge facing students since they returned to school.

Some students were also in their halls of residence and hostels participating in the online orientation being organised by the university.

A level 300 student, Francis Ayawuli, said the action would worsen the already “weak” educational system.

“Already the education system is weak and degrading but the strike is necessary in order to meet UTAG’s demands,” he stressed.

A final year student, Charles Dzaku, expressed fears the strike would cause a delay in teaching and learning and the inability to complete course work before graduation.

At the UCC, Moses Agbodzalu, a student said as a result ofthe last strike the school was unable to complete the academic calendar, saying “We were not able to complete our previous academic calendarand it’s still hanging. So I think a similar thing will still replicate.”

At UHAS, Albright Appiah- Owusu said this action would mount pressure on students academically as lecturers would not expect students to complete the topics on their own within a short time in order to write interim assessments and quizzes.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Ghana Student (NUGS) has thrown its weight behind  UTAG, explaining that it was time the government took the concerns of UTAG members seriously and immediately addressed them to ensure a smooth academic year for students.

Speaking in an interview on Accra based Joynews, the General Secretary of NUGS, MrJulius Kwame Anthony, said it was best for the government to address UTAG’s concerns at the beginning of the academic year to prevent academic work from being disrupted.

“As we speak students are just resuming for registration, so it’s best the government solves that before we start teaching components of the academic year; that is why we are saying the government should take UTAG seriously and deal with the issues decisively,” he said.

In a related development, the secretary of the UG branch of UTAG, Prof RansfordGyampo, has called for honesty in resolution of the matter.

In an interview with an Accra based radio station monitored by the Ghanaian Times, he said despite signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the government, members of the association had still not received their outstanding payments which should have been paid by the end of 2021.

It would be recalled that UTAG embarked on a two-week action in August, 2021, and petitioned the government to re-establish the conditions of service agreed upon in 2012 and restore members to the 2013 Interim Market Premium (IMP) of 114 per cent of Basic Salary in the interim.

They also urged the government to formulate guidelines to implement the appropriate recommendations to address the conditions of service of the university teacher.

After the strike was called off, a MoU signed by the government and UTAG in which “both parties agree that there is a need to get back to the negotiating table from the week beginning Monday, August 23, 2021.”

BY JESSEL L. THERSON-COFIE & CONNIELOVE M. DZODZEGBE

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