The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has withdrawn one of the two most important services it renders to Ghana since 2nd August 2021. It is important to note that the core mandate of Lecturers in our Universities is Teaching and Research.
Fortunately, Lecturers receive some support from the Government of Ghana through a Book and Research allowance annually. However, the Book and Research allowance payment schedule for the 2020/2021 academic year is yet to be determined. Sadly, this is the breakdown of the two components of the Book and Research allowance of UTAG, Book allowance is USD 1500 only, and the Research allowance is GHS 1500 only.
The article processing charge for publishing one research article in a quality journal ranges from USD 800-USD 3200.
Evidence shows that GHS 1500 as a research allowance is woefully inadequate if the Government of Ghana desires to support and promote high-quality research for an impactful development of Ghana and to pave the way for Ghana’s public Universities to compete favourably with Universities in the global arena. Despite the meagre research allowance from Government, members of UTAG have chalked successes in the worldwide arena by competing favourably with foreign counterparts to win International research grants ranging from USD5m to USD15m.
These grants have supported high-quality research, provided the state of the art laboratory equipment and up to date resources for research. Further, these International research grants have reduced the unemployment situation in this country and relieved the burden of postgraduate students through funded postgraduate programmes where the academic facility user fees, health insurance, accommodation are paid from these International research grants.
Also, a monthly stipend ranging from USD300 -USD 500 is given to postgraduate students from these grants!
The Government of Ghana is yet to start a local research grants scheme to support teaching and research in public Universities. Currently, members of UTAG depend largely on very competitive International research grant calls to remain relevant in research.
As part of risk assessment in such research grant applications, we are expected to state how we would ensure that labour and strife shall not significantly affect the research timelines stated in the application. Thus, times have changed.
The UTAG that went on strike for 12 months is not the same as the UTAG of today. UTAG is aware of the negative implications of industrial strikes on our success rates for these International research grant calls. However, the indications are there to show that UTAG is pushed so hard to the wall.
Dear Government of Ghana, I wish to suggest that you reconsider the approach to the UTAG strike.
I am of the view that the use of court is not good enough. Instead, why not communicate the schedule to pay the Book and Research allowance for 2020/2021, start the payment immediately and reassure members of UTAG of your support and willingness to deal with the conditions of services of UTAG with the seriousness it deserves by meeting the leadership of UTAG to continue the business on the negotiation of UTAG’s conditions of service?
I believe that the best thing to do is to deal with this matter softly and quietly to avoid any negative consequences in the International research grants applications of members of UTAG. Therefore,I wish to urge the National Labour Commission to withdraw this matter from court to pave the way for a speedy and better resolution of the issues at hand.
Let us note that the highly competitive International research grants are needed to support Government efforts in the advancement of public Universities in Ghana and contribute to absorbing the shocks of unemployment in support of the positive agenda of the Government of Ghana!