Parliament’s Education Committee has recommended that the house approves the controversial Public University Bill 2020 after 20 months in the house.
It was first brought before parliament in April, 2019 by the Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
The Bill which is meant to among other things, provide the procedure for financing public universities and administration and supervision of the activities of public universities and related matters according to the Education Minister has been met with strong criticisms from stakeholders in the education sector.
According to critics of the Bill, the proposed Bill which passed the second reading in Parliament today threatens academic freedom in the country and is not ‘constitutionally wholesome’.
The Bill was thus withdrawn from the house in November to allow adequate consultation from the various stakeholders.
Following the resumption of Parliament after the Election 2020 recess, the Bill was brought before parliament for the second reading, which it passed.
However speaking in parliament, Tuesday, Minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu said his side of the house will not support the approval of the bill until the many concerns raised over the past 20 months by stakeholders have been resolved.
“These are stakeholders are affected by the bill and therefore an assurance from the Minister for Education that they will be thoroughly engaged and a report of the engagement submitted to the house, other than that we are unable to support this bill.
“We want the legitimate concerns of the university lecturers, teachers, ex-students, those in the governance of public universities to be appropriately covered as we proceed further with this bill,” he said.
But Education Minister Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh insists there has been adequate consultation across board.
He said, “There has been a thorough consultation between us and the stakeholders which even necessitated the relaying of same due to the voluminous nature of their inputs compelled us to withdraw and relay same. So it is not about consultation because Parliament in its own way did advertise it for input.”
He however, expressed readiness to engage all concerned stakeholders to ensure that the bill is wholesome and approved in the shortest possible time.
Matthew Opoku Prempeh stated that he will “We will invite them, we will listen to them at the committee and by close of this weekend that meeting would have happened and we will duly bring our report.”
Meanwhile, Minority MP on Parliament’s Education Committee, Ben Ahiafor has criticized provisions in the Bill that allow for the president to appoint the Chancellor of universities.
According to him, Article 195(3) which prescribes that the Chancellor of a university will be appointed by the governing council contradicts the provision in the bill which now affords the president that mandate.
“If this provision is allowed to stay, it will be repugnant with article 195(3) of the 1992 constitution and will risk the opportunity of making this particular law only for it to be taken up and shot down just like what this house did in the case of the chieftaincy amendment bill,” he revealed.
But Dr. Opoku Prempeh defended the provision.
He stated that the Chancellor of universities is only a titular head and thus is not appointed by the governing council of the university. As such, the new provision will in no way repel Article 195 (3).