Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee in Parliament, Dr Clement Apaak,

The Minority in Parliament has demanded the closure of public universities in the country as the strike action by University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) enters the sixth week.

Speaking to JoyNews, Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee, Dr Clement Apaak, noted that the continuous stay of students on the various campuses exposes them to several dangers.

He cited the first-year student at the University of Ghana, Legon, who got drowned in a campus-based pool during the fourth week of UTAG’s strike, to buttress his point.

According to Dr. Apaak, if the Labour Division of the Accra High Court hearing the case brought before it by the National Labour Commission (NLC), does not order UTAG to call off the strike on Tuesday, the universities must shut down.

“If the outcome of today’s hearing does not lead to a conclusion or resolution, then the Vice Chancellors of our universities should do the needful by letting the young men and women go home. What is the point of being in the university if you are not being taught, wasting resources.

Many of these young people are being exposed to risks we can’t even begin to imagine. Do you remember the story of a first-year student who drowned at the University of Ghana? What other dangers are these young men and women roaming around on our campuses literally doing nothing, exposed to?” he asked on Tuesday.

Interacting with Parliamentary correspondent, Kwesi Parker-Wilson, Dr. Apaak added that parents spent large sums of money to ensure their wards obtain accommodation, yet lectures have not begun.

“Observations have been made and it’s a very worrisome situation. We have had first-year students who have reported to school. It is past three weeks, they are yet to be matriculated, receive their course outlines. They don’t know their lecture halls, lecturers and don’t have their reading materials.”

“Yet their parents prepared them, financed their transportation and accommodation. For those who couldn’t get on-campus accommodation, their parents had to pay exorbitant prices to get them into private hostels and academic works have not been going on.”

Dr. Apaak insists government should be blamed for the strike action embarked by the university lecturers.

“This situation should be squarely placed on the doorstep of the Akufo-Addo and Bawumia led government. If Bawumia’s intervention last year which resulted in the University Teachers calling off their partial strike was something that was pursued in terms of the assurances and guarantees given, then UTAG shouldn’t be on strike today.”

“But UTAG has made it very clear that they feel underappreciated and their issues have not occupied the attention of government.”

He noted that government is the only body that can resolve the impasse.

Meanwhile, the Parliament’s Education Committee is scheduled to meet UTAG on Thursday. But Dr. Apaak is doubting the Committee’s capability to persuade the lecturers to return to post.

He explained that the Committee can only make recommendations.

“Whether or not the issue will be resolved by our intervention, I doubt. We can only recommend. We don’t carry the public purse. The public purse is carried by the Executive and it is the Executive UTAG has labelled as not taking them seriously.”

“We can meet, talk and recommend but don’t have the power of giving effect. Why is the President not intervening? We will do our best. I’ve been a part of UTAG. UTAG is not going to budge until something substantial is done.”