The African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA) is a membership-organization of scholars, practitioners, and activists of the African continent and her diaspora. The association’s vision is to promote Africa’s own specific contributions to the advancement of knowledge about the peoples and cultures of Africa and the Diaspora. The fruition of this vision is directly linked to the freedom that scholars on the continent and in the diaspora enjoy to pursue research of interest to them.
Currently, the introduction of a Public Universities Bill (PUB) by the government of Ghana (https://parliament.gh/epanel/docs/bills/Public University Bill.pdf ) “seeks to provide for the establishment of a public university bill and also spell out the governance structure, finance, administration and regulation of the activities of a public university in a structured, harmonious and co- ordinated manner”. This bill, according to the government, is to better regulate the operations of public universities. However, the African Studies Association of Africa shares the position of bodies such as the Ghana Studies Association (GSA http://ghanastudies.org/ ) the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG - Factsheet on PUB), The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS - https://citinewsroom.com/2020/05/ghana-academy-of-arts-and-sciences-rejects-public-universities-bill/ ), and the Center for Democratic Development (CDD - https://www.cddgh.org/cdd-ghana-public-universities-bill/ ) that the Public Universities Bill is not only a threat to academic freedom in Ghana, with its impact on research, but also a threat to academic freedom on the continent as we work in partnership, and also other African governments could follow the steps of Ghana, in enacting such laws. We are opposed to the bill because it is 1) unconstitutional; 2) cannot fix the problems with public universities in Ghana it purports to seek to fix; and 3) would create more problems than it seeks to solve.
Specifically, the bill proposes changes that are dangerous for the development of tertiary education in Ghana, namely, inter alia:
- To bring University Councils under the control of the Executive by handing majority representation to the Executive arm of government, in contravention of the constitution of the Republic of Ghana;
- To diminish the autonomy and capacity of public universities to respond to changing research priorities, funding opportunities, and student and faculty needs in dynamic national and global contexts by ceding decisions on this to the Executive arm of government;
- To give the Sector Minister undue influence over the day-to-day management of the universities.
This bill, if passed into law, will send Ghana back several decades and negatively affect students, scholars, researchers, and international collaboration.
Please see here for a fact sheet on the bill. Download the PUB Factsheet and a petition on the bill: http://ghanastudies.com/announcements/petition-against-public-university-bill/
Years ago, the exile and imprisonment of writers and scholars such as Wole Soyinka, Nawal El Saadawi, Abraham Peters, Dennis Brutus, Bessie Head, Nuruddin Farah, Dorris Lessings, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ayi Kwei Armah, and Sarah Mkhonza, among others, have always rung warning bells about the potential of governments to stifle the freedoms that academics and writers on the continent enjoy. These alarms seem to have been ignored as recent events in an Anglophone University in Cameroon, leading to the dismissal of a lecturer over an examination question perceived to be politically incorrect, show. During that same period, a similar question by another lecturer in a Francophone university in Cameroon was ignored, leading many to suspect the use of political considerations to judge lecturers in various universities based on unspecified standards.
Ghana has been a beacon of democracy in Africa and beyond and is looked upon as one of the leaders of Pan-Africanist education in Africa. As an association of researchers, with its headquarters in Ghana, the bill will not only affect research by our members in Ghana, but also impede partnerships with scholars around the globe and the ability of public universities to host future international conferences in Ghana, due to the inability of these universities to ensure academic freedom at these conferences. In the wisdom of intellectual ancestors of the African continent, one of the tenets of the Kampala declaration on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility, which was carved in the face of some government’s efforts to curtail academic freedoms, is that, “institutions of higher learning shall be autonomous of the State or any other public authority in conducting their affairs, including the administration, and setting up their academic, teaching research and other related programs.” (https://www.codesria.org/spip.php?article350&lang=en). These intellectual ancestors also found it prudent to include in the Kampala declaration that “the state shall desist from exercising censorship over the works of the intellectual community”.
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