University Students In Limbo – As POTAG Suspends Strike
Prof Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, Minister of Education
Public university students in Ghana are in dilemma regarding when their lecturers would call off their industrial action, as their counterparts from the polytechnics would soon go back following the decision by Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) to call off their strike on Tuesday.
The government agreed with POTAG to pay up the more than one-year arrears of the lecturers’ Book and Research Allowance. University lecturers are also entitled to the allowance.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) insists the government should come clean on whether after paying up the arrears, it would still maintain the allowance or scrap it and implement a new arrangement for a common research fund.
According to Dr. Samuel Ofori Bekoe, National President of UTAG, members of the association would not renege on their stance to prevail on government to continue paying the Book and Research Allowance to lecturers.
For him, members of the association are professionals who are committed to their work and know the tools needed for the job; and ‘will not allow people who do not know anything about tertiary education to dictate to them’.
Explaining the reasons why the government had been reluctant in paying up the allowance, the Deputy Minister of Education in-charge of Tertiary Institutions, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said instead of paying the allowance individually to the lecturers, government would rather channel it into a common research fund that the lecturers could apply from.
The lecturers were peeved with this suggestion, leading to a long-drawn impasse between government and POTAG members.
The disturbing impasse and industrial action compelled Haruna Iddrisu, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, to call an emergency meeting with the leadership of POTAG on Monday when the government finally succumbed to pressure from the angry polytechnic teachers and agreed to pay the arrears on POTAG’s Book and Research Allowance for the 2013/2014 academic year.
On Tuesday, the leaders of the association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government to return to the classroom.
On Tuesday, the aggrieved POTAG members, who have been on a three-month strike since May 2014, called off their industrial action.
‘The Polytechnic Teachers’ Association of Ghana (POTAG) wishes to inform its entire membership, the Polytechnic Students and all stakeholders, that it has suspended with immediate effect, its nationwide strike action which withdrew all academic-related services as a result of Government’s non-readiness to pay our Book and Research Allowance for the 2013/2014 academic year,’ said a statement released on Tuesday and signed by the association’s General Secretary, Ibrahim Adamu.
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran
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