The two-day workshop seeks to engage leaders of University Teachers Associations within the Sub-region in discussions on effective ways to address the challenges relating to issues of academic freedom within their respective institutions.
The findings of a comparative study on Africa and Europe undertaken by Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana and other Researchers, on the perceived academic freedom challenges faced by leaders of University Teachers Associations would also be disseminated among participants for further discussions.
Professor Samuel Offei, the Pro-Vice Chancellor in Charge of Academic and Student Affairs of the University of Ghana, commended the University of Ghana’s School of Law and the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR Network), for their collaborative efforts in attracting a wider participation from countries, including Ghana, Benin, Niger, The Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.
He acknowledged that the workshop was an important watershed for the Sub-region to put thoughts together to protect the freedom of academia from external interference.
He said although globally, various laws existed to safeguard academic freedom and other human rights of academia, these facilities had often led to confrontations with governments and other political heads in various countries, particularly those in political crises.
This, he said, was because the leadership of the Teachers Associations have been protesting against attempts by external forces such as governments and the industrial sector to influence or impose their choices of academic and research programmes, and dictate the tenure of employment of lectures, as well as interfere in the admission of students.
Prof Offei said Ghana has had its fair share of these challenges from history when civilian governments and Military Heads exerted their suppressive powers on the universities, leading to the termination of the appointments of some lecturers who were perceived to be too ‘loud’ and opposed to their views.
He said some countries in Africa have also recorded forms of intimidation, imprisonment of lecturers and leaders of University Teachers Associations have been recorded, especially those in political crises and war.
He said academic freedom cuts across and also affects students whose rights are often violated by some lecturers who would not entertain any opposing views from students.
He urged participants to come up with workable solutions to address the challenges in order to ensure academic quality and freedom.
Dr Appiagyei-Atua said there was the need to probe further to see if the existing laws on academic freedom were being fully implemented by countries across the world to guarantee the quality of higher education.
He said a communiqué would be issued at the end of the workshop to suggest strategies and ways to addressing the challenges of academic freedom.
He said: “We will also set up an international desk would in Ghana to coordinate the activities of the various teacher Associations to form a unified to address the challenge,” and expressed the hope that the workshop would lead to strengthened networking among participants.
Mr Jesse Levine, a Senior Advocacy Officer with the Scholars At Risk Network, said the Organisation had over the years pursued programmes to safeguard the rights of individual lecturers who face various threats and arrests across the globe and also work to improve higher education, as well as spearhead advocacy on the need for governments to respect existing laws on academic freedom for universities.
He said building awareness among academia, State, society and students was crucial as most victims often failed to notice it when their rights were violated and called on stakeholders to support the efforts being made by SAR in addressing the challenges of academic freedom of universities across the globe.