The University Teachers Association (UTAG), has legitimized strikes in Ghana. Yes, they have. They struck on August 1, and in less than 12 hours, their arrears since 2012 were paid.
So next time why would any labour union sit down and wait, hoping that talks and promises would yield any results? Where did government get the money it could not get all this while?
Come to think of it, the amount, which made the lecturers strike recently for almost a month, is peanuts. The GH¢29million is about the same amount paid to one individual every month as management fees under the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA).
By this swift response, government is telling other aggrieved labour unions the kind of language it understands, one that would move it to take action. But the inactions and failed promises have not only created mistrust between the government and labour groups. It has also rendered the government impotent in its dealing with the labour unions.
After getting their pound of flesh, one would have thought UTAG would call off its day-old strike. But that was not what UTAG President, Dr Anthony Simons, told Evans Mensah on Joy FM’s Newsnight yesterday. He said something that stung me like scorpion: the lecturers would not resume work because of their outstanding research and book allowance.
Which books? What research? Did I not attend university in Ghana?
I completed my programmes of study not long ago and still remember the frustrations of my colleagues and me anytime we wanted any materials on Ghana. In both my first degree and master’s programmes, we depended on foreign books and researches. What the lecturers often advise us to do is that we read and put it in the local context. Why don’t they write? Why have their predecessors not written?
If you’re a Ghanaian studying in a Ghanaian university or polytechnic, what you read will not be different from what an a American is reading in an American University. From school, they are expected to use their knowledge to solve the problems of their societies. And they can do so because what they study is relevant to their society. But how can one use American solutions for Ghanaian problems?
I studied Communication Studies for my first and master’s degrees and do not remember reading any book authored by a Ghanaian, excerpt a few research papers. And these are more difficult to find than bearded men in Burma Camp prior to the creation of the Special Forces.
The worst part is during one’s research work. The topic must be relevant to your country, but you’re almost always not going to do anything if you are to rely on literature from Ghana.
The journalism books in the library of the Ghana Institute of Journalism are written by Europeans and Americans. The principles may be the same, but the socio-cultural setting of those journalism books are relevant to them and sometimes do not apply here. It is therefore no wonder that some academics condemn the works of my good friend, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, and fail to understand him when he says his kind of journalism is the product of his society.
It is important to empower university and polytechnic teachers to research and write. But the closest many of them ever come to research is to supervise student dissertations. Majority of them do not research and those who do it are not interested in providing literature for students.
Some use their research skills to conduct researches for organizations such as the World Bank, UN Agencies and powerful multinational companies and civil society groups. They do that for a fee and that is their private income. They do that mostly during contact hours. Is this why they should continuously receive research and book allowance?
Those who don’t conduct research for a fee are compelled to do so and publish so that they will gain promotion. And when they do this kind of research, they publish them in journals that their students never get to read.
For the poor student, you are given books that are researched and written by foreign authors to photocopy. That is why photocopying is the most lucrative business on every university or polytechnic campus.
The most annoying part is when some lecturers go to the extent of forcing students to buy plagiarized material materials. And this is very common in polytechnics. They copy other people’s works into handouts and sell the same material each year to students are exorbitant prices. On the handout, they write “compiled by” instead of “written by” if they had written it themselves. Yet without any sense of shame, they list every single qualification they have: BA in Guinea Fowl Rearing, MA in Beela Trapping, PHD in … you name it. Students must buy these handouts or they are failed.
That is the reality in many tertiary institutions in the country.
To whom much is given, much should be expected. Some university teachers do not deserve their salaries let alone the research and book allowance. Paying such allowances to all university teachers will amount to willfully causing financial loss to the state.
There are a few diligent ones who still uphold the nobility of the teaching profession. The government should as a matter of urgency scrap the research and book allowance it pays to university and polytechnic teachers.
That money should be paid into a book and research fund. In this way, the hardworking teachers who are committed to research should apply anytime they want to conduct researches or write books that are relevant to their fields. A monitoring mechanism should be put in place to track who takes the grant and ensure that they deliver.
In this way, the researcher will get enough money to research and write so that my children and grand children will not have to read about the history of Journalism in Ghana by American authors when all we can boast about is Professor Emeritus of this or that.
To Dr Anthony Simons and his team of UTAG members, I know this piece will be very disgusting to read. But if you will swallow your pride and go back to the classroom, you will be doing a great deal of good to your conscience.
About 95% of you cannot justify why you should be paid research and book allowance. Don’t ask me to source of my percentage, because if you took time to research on this subject you would leave the impoverished national purse alone after getting your arrears.
One should not be paid research allowance just because he or she is a lecturer. They should be paid because they conduct research.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a Senior Broadcast Journalist at Joy FM.
The views expressed in this article are his own thoughts and do not reflect those of the station or myjoyonline.com.
Writer’s Email address: [email protected]