President of the Legon Chapter of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Dr. Harry Agbanu, has criticised the new directive by the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) ordering all public universities to remove from the public payroll, all lecturers and academic staff above 65 years.
“That is an ill-advised directive,” Dr. Agbanu said on Class91.3FM’s 12Live news programme on Friday, 19 October 2018.
The directive is being motivated by concerns raised by Auditor-General Daniel Yao Demelevo in relation to post-retirement contracts, which, he said, put a strain on the coffers of the state.
A letter to that effect signed by the Executive Secretary of the NCTE, Professor Mohammed Salifu, ordered the universities to keep only post-retirement academic staff who are on contract and aged between 60 and 65 years on the GoG payroll, effective 31 October 2018.
The same letter titled: Post-Retirement Contracts in Public Universities, said any universities needing to retain staff who are over 65 years must re-assign such person as “consultants” and pay them from their Internally-Generated Funds.
In the opinion of Dr. Agbanu, it cannot be “that university lecturers will support that policy decision by the government”.
He said they have made several attempts to engage the Public Services Commission (PSC) on the matter since the directive will leave the universities worse off if implemented.
However, Dr. Agbanu said the PSC “blatantly refused and I would have thought that the government [and] the Ministry of Education would have come in to do something but they were quiet”.
He said the implementation of the policy will result in some departments in public universities shutting down and suspending certain programmes while small universities “crumble completely”.
He explained that: “The quality of people they need, they cannot easily find in the market and it is not anybody at all who has gone to the university who is qualified to teach at the university. The basic qualification is s Ph.D., and how many people do we have with Ph.D.? Even if the person has a Ph.D., it does not automatically mean that the person can teach in the university. So, it is a very difficult situation and already the few who are teaching are overworking and overburdened. We are doing more than we are supposed to be doing”.
Dr. Agbanu said the population of students in the universities is increasing without a corresponding number of lecturers, and the “experienced ones who mentor and train, you are asking them to be booted out and comparing the universities to the public service; we don’t do that anywhere”.
He added that in advanced countries, such lecturers teach for as long as their health can permit them.
Dr. Agbanu revealed that universities across the world are recognised based on the “number of professors you have, your research output and other factors, but in Ghana, we don’t know what we are even talking about”.
He admitted that the Auditor-General is doing his job by suggesting the policy but was quick to add that “the universities cannot be treated as the public service or the civil service”, as the operations of tertiary institutions are structurally different from the public service.