By Adama Tine
The Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST) Badara Joof in an interview with Mamos Media on Thursday denied allegations leveled against him by the University of The Gambia Staff Association of manipulating the President of the university by installing people he can easily handle into the Governing Council of the UTG, and threatening to commence a sit-down strike by mid-September. He described the demands of the staff as baseless.
“It will not be fair to students especially when the reasons that they have forwarded are not based on any legal grounds and I think, if they go on strike, the Governing Council with the chancellor should take appropriate action within the law,” he said.
The staff demanded for the Governing Council to be recomposed, but Minister Joof, said there was an interim council and “we were planning to go to the National Assembly to have a new Act which will change the character of the Council, unfortunately it couldn’t go through.”
“We even issued a certificate of emergency and the Bill was supposed to be tabled, but the discussions on the new constitution took precedence. So we had to withdraw it,” Joof added. Therefore he said the Chancellor has the authority to appoint the council and the Chairman of the Governing Council.
Minister Joof said the President, who is the Chancellor and the appointing authority, has the absolute right to appoint anybody he wants, adding that is not under the authority of the UTG Staff Association. He added that the Governing Council has the power to appoint staff of the University including the Vice Chancellor and the Deputy Vice Chancellor.
Minister Joof questioned the authority of the staff of the University in terms of appointing members of the Governing Council which according to him is vested in the President. He also asked the legality of the demands of the staff.
“The Minister only nominates two people to the President and the President has the right to reject or accept the nomination. It is the President’s absolute prerogative to appoint the Governing Council and the Chairman,” he said.
On the claim by the staff that he recycled members of the previous Governing Council, Joof said he does not have the right to appoint members of the Governing Council, adding that it is not within his mandate to do so.
“I did not appoint any Governing Council. I am only allowed to make two nominations,” Minister Joof said.
He called on the staff association to know their limit as he advised them to focus on the welfare of the staff.
On the demands of the staff association for the Registrar of the University to relinquish his office since his fixed-term appointment has expired, Minister Joof said the association should write to the Governing Council, which is the body responsible for appointment and put their case before them.
He advised the UTG staff to deal with quality, and how to improve standards and not to be talking over things which are not within their mandate.
He said: “The most important person in the university is the student, and not to go to personal issues.”
On the Association’s demands for the Ministry to lift all bans, including travel bans currently imposed on UTG staff and its management, Minister Joof said they did that for a purpose which is to ensure money is spent on trips that add value to the institutions. He said the outgoing vice chancellor wanted to embark on a trip which in his opinion would not add value to the University and this was why the ban was made. The Minister added that the ban will be lifted if a new vice chancellor is installed.
Yerro Njie, Secretary General of the Faculty and Staff Association of the University of The Gambia, said the recent appointment of the new Governing Council was not done in line with the agreement they made with the UTG and Government. He said the agreement was signed on 3rd July 2021 which brought their previous sit-down strike to a halt.
Njie said they agreed that the interim Governing Council that was there should be dissolved and be replaced with a new Governing Council and a new Chairman be appointed in accordance with the Tertiary and Higher Education Act 2016.
Njie said they made it clear that any new chairman appointed by the President must be a reputable personality with high academic standard.
“That is to say, the Chairman must understand how universities are run, know the university cultures, and network and mobilize funds from the outside world,” he said.
Njie said the agreement was not honoured, adding that on Wednesday 8th August 2021, the Staff of the University organized an Extraordinary Congress and unanimously agreed that the signed agreement be respected in the constitution of a new Governing Council, among other agreements.