KNUST students leaving campus as UTAG strike continues
Substantial number of students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) are leaving the campus in frustration, as members of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) continue with their strike.
This comes in the wake of stalled negotiations between the striking teachers and the government to resolve the impasse, regarding the restoration of the conditions of service agreed upon in 2012.
The teachers have since January 10, 2022, embarked on an industrial action to demand for better conditions of service – a development, which has halted teaching and learning in the state-owned universities since their reopening in the early part of this year.
According to the teachers, “they are willing to return to the classroom if the government in the interim considers a 114 per cent base pay and interim market premium for them as they await the labour market survey to regularize the amount.”
They want the government to restore the conditions of service agreed upon in 2012, which sought to peg the basic plus market premium of a lecturer at US$2,084.42.
The aggrieved teachers have complained that the current arrangement has reduced members’ basic premiums to $997.84.
With no solution in sight, following a series of meetings between UTAG and the government to resolve the issue, many students on the KNUST have been compelled to go back home.
When the Ghana News Agency (GNA) visited the campus, in Kumasi on Friday, February 11, most of the Halls of Residence had been deserted, and the usual hustle and bustle associated with campus life was missing.
“It is our wish that the UTAG members and government work assiduously to find a lasting solution to the issue in order to pave way for smooth academic work devoid of distractions,” Miss Delali Forgive Setugah, an Executive Member of the KNUST Students’ Representative Council (SRC), told the GNA, in an interview.
According to her, the students had already suffered enough, especially in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19, which disrupted the academic calendar for almost two years.
“Most students cannot come to terms with what is happening now, and have become increasingly frustrated, thereby, forcing them to go back home,” Miss Setugah lamented.
She drew attention of the authorities to the fact that university education was universal, therefore, any setbacks in the academic calendar, “does not augur well for Ghanaian students.”
Meanwhile, an education think tank, the Africa Education Watch, in a statement, has advocated the close down of all the public universities until the UTAG strike is called off.
“In view of the increasing socio-economic cost of staying on campus with no academic activity, the absence of academic direction for freshmen on campus, and the apparent lack of an imminent negotiated settlement of the impasse, it will be in the interest of students and their families for the schools to be closed down,” the statement emphasized.
It indicated that “the students’ continuous stay on campus without academic activity has economic and social consequences on them and their families back home, as they continue to incur expenditure they otherwise would not have incurred if they were at home.”
Commenting on the issue, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, the Minister of Education, said the government was working around the clock to resolve the issues of conditions of service to get the UTAG members back to the classroom.
“I will do everything possible to ensure we come to an amicable conclusion of the issue. This will bring joy on the faces of students who are waiting eagerly to go back to the lecture halls and begin academic activities,” he said.
The Minister gave the assurance when he met recently with the Vice-Chancellors of Ghanaian public universities to discuss the impasse between the government and UTAG.
A High Court in Accra (Labour Division) on February 3, 2022, urged the leadership of the National Labour Commission (NLC) and UTAG to settle the industrial action impasse out of court.
The court, presided over by Justice Frank Rockson Aboadwe, gave the NLC and UTAG up to February 10, 2022, to report back.
UTAG, on Monday, January 10, 2022, embarked on industrial action over “worsening” conditions of service, but the NLC after hearing the members’ case on Thursday, January 13, ruled that the strike be called off because it was illegal and did not follow due process.