Our current Auditor-General is on a crusade to ‘cleanse’ the public payroll system against the retirement age which currently stands at 60 years for most public sector workers, and 65 years for academics in public universities. I suspect very strongly the Government supports this initiative, and this is what has resulted in the new directive from the Ministry of Education instructing all academics above the legally stipulated age for retirement to be taken off government payroll system.
My interactions with personalities in the academic community shows huge disagreement with this directive. I want to assume the reasons for this agitation is not because of unpreparedness associated with retirement, nor the respect associated with being a senior member in an academic department, but rather the dreaded feeling of going stale after so many years of hard work in the academia, especially after attaining professorial status. As a young academic, I am inclined to agree with this new directive for the reasons explained below:
Making room for new stock
Personally, I know lots of young Ghanaians who have undergone doctoral studies in various subject areas and can make a meaningful contribution to the continued health and vibrancy of our academic departments. However, entry into the academic for these young professionals are limited and choked by the old academics at the top who remain on the government payroll. In this case, any concerns on timely secession of faculty is flawed because there are indeed young academics like us who can learn from our old professors and make a meaningful impact in education and research. Personally, this decision by the Ministry of Education is long overdue, and every attempt should be made to enforce it to the letter.
Engaging retired professors in grant writing
Funding plays an essential role in academic research. Even more important, chances of obtaining a grant are higher when ones credentials as an academic are deeply ingrained in the literature, not to talk about the years of experience in grant/proposal writing one gains especially by retirement age. While we look for opportunities to engage our emeritus professors, it is paramount that we encourage mentorship and collaboration between old and young academics in grant writing on revolutionary research ideas that stand the chance of contributing to our social interests. This way, our old academics stand a chance of gaining some source of income, perhaps even higher than the salaries they are now legally required to abandon.
Research outputs of academics
Any seasoned Ghanaian academic with enough publication experience will agree that fake or what is mostly referred to as predatory journals has done so much harm in our strive to attain academic excellence. Indeed, I know of many academics such as myself who have had to pull down publications from CVs because findings showed journals published with were fake. This also brings to question the authenticity of publications put out by academics as a basis for promotion from one academic progression to the other-If we are to agree that the Ghanaian research community is dominated by fake journals, how authentic are the academic promotions that derive from submission of academic publications both now and in the past? (Definitely a discussion for another day)
Of importance to our discussion-can our old professors not collaborate even much closer with young academics to make up for the huge gap in innovative research findings stemming from our huge subscription to predatory journals? The name of the game here is mentorship and such suggestions are good for keeping our emeritus professors involved in real ways.
To conclude, it is important that we do not allow any unpreparedness for retirement age conflict with our strive to maintain intellectual balance in our academic departments. Our retired professors can be engaged most especially in teaching and research through the most innovative ways outlined here and even more. The agitations, therefore, are indeed needless!
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