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The pro-vice chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon (UG), Prof Kwesi Yankah has observed that political informants have infiltrated university campuses in numbers that undermine academic freedom in the country.

“The pervasiveness of political informants across universities in this country has assumed freighting proportions; this is made evident by the speed with which political related information on campus gets to the city centre and power house,” he told students of the university in a lecture last Friday.

The lecture, which was initiated by the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) of the University of Ghana, was on the topic: “Academic Freedom, Myths, Realities and Boundaries. Characteristically, Prof. Yankah held his audience spell-bound with his presentation of what academic freedom was, the misconception by students and historical details of academic freedom under successive governments. He said some of the political informants were not even students, but took advantage of the universities’ relatively open-door policy to infiltrate the ranks and eavesdrop on discourse. “Until students and lecturers feel safe to discuss political issues in open and closed forums, without fear or censure; until they no longer look over their shoulders when expressing opinions, one can only say there is not yet Uhuru”, he added. He said within the context of academic freedom, freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members was essential in the university’s core mission of providing the ideal climate for the free excise of the intellect.

He resulted in the freedom to teach, learn and communicate ideas without censure, harassment or prosecution. “It is founded n the conviction that scholars attain their ultimate fulfillment if they have unrestricted liberty to question received wisdom, and also advance controversial and even unpopular opinions, without fear of censure”, he pointed out. Prof. Yankah said academic freedom promoted intellectual diversity and help achieve a university’s primary goal, which is the pursuit of truth.

In a detailed analysis of successive governments and how academic freedoms had fared, Prof. Yankah demonstrated that liberal democratic governments of Prof. K. A Busia and Dr. Hilla Limman, though short-lived, witnessed no serious infractions to academic freedoms.

However, regimes of Dr. Kwame Nkruamh, General I.K Acheampong and ex-President Jerry Rawlings, were characterized by tension on campus, the frequent closure of universities with at least eight closures during the tenure of ex-President Rawlings, the brain drain of academic professionals, censorship or university publications, the imposition of political programmes like Nkrumaism and generally the erosion of what the concept of an academic as a professional stood for. That was because professionals, faced with failing economic circumstances, spent less time in intellectual effort and more time trying to make ends meet, while others simply threw in the towel and became politicians.

Prof. Yankah mentioned the failure to confer doctoral honours on ex-President Rawlings by the University for Development Studies (UDS) in March 2005, as an incident that marred the eight year tenure of ex-President J. A. Kufuor and asked that it should be rectified to reinforce the concept of the university's institutional autonomy. He was hopeful that under the tenure of President John Evans Atta Mills, academic freedom would grow, reminding students that the freedoms they now enjoyed were won through pain, harassment and sometimes disgrace. “The academic freedom we enjoy is indeed precious heritage left for us by our predecessors and I urge the student body, faculty, university community and indeed the good people of Ghana not to speedily sacrifice it.”
Source: Daily Graphic

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