POTAG Prez Caught In Political Games

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….As Members Question His Loyalty To Association

Credible information picked-up from the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) suggest that its President, James Dugrah, is playing New Patriotic Party (NPP) politics with the process of resolving the impasse between them and the Ministry of Education.

According to the information, anytime government calls a meeting to discuss the payment of book and research allowances, the President of the Association appears evasive in his dealings with the officials tasked to resolve the matter.

The POTAG strike has been on for the past 100-days and students, parents and some polytechnic lecturers are getting increasingly worried at the refusal of James Dugrah in having the strike called off, while smiling to the bank every month to withdraw his monthly salary.

The Herald is reliably informed that anytime government shows commitment to the issues that has sent Polytechnic teachers on strike for the past 100 days; the President comes to the meeting claiming he is not ready, but going to the arbitration table of the National Labour Commission (NLC).

However, members of the group told The Herald that ever since members withdrew their services, Mr. Dugrah has been running the affairs of the Association as if it his property. Members are saying he takes decisions, without informing the council of the Association.

They are shocked at his new decision to return to the High Court to have the matter of the book and research allowance dealt with, instead of the ongoing arbitration at the NLC.

The members are claiming that Mr. Dugrah is toying with the destiny of the students by playing deadly NPP politics with the concerns of the Association, thereby accounting for the long delays in having the matter resolved amicably.

The members, have begun questioning whether his loyalty is to the Association or to the whims and caprices of the opposition NPP. Mr. Dugrah is said to be a well-known NPP member in the Upper West Region and has been one of the tough-talking NPP spokesperson on the Multi-TV’s Minority Caucus programme in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

The Herald is again informed that colleagues of Mr. Dugrah are unhappy with his unilateral decisions especially, how long the strike has lasted.

Government has denied owing the Polytechnic lecturers research and book allowance, revealing that government was only taking steps to setup a body which would properly regulate the allowance, as lecturers have been found to be pocketing the monies without conducting any research work.

However, for now, the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of tertiary, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, stressed at a recent press conference that Government did not owe lecturers any allowance.

“Let me state from the onset that as we speak, Government of Ghana does not owe salaries; does not owe allowances of lecturers. The book and research allowance is paid once a year; only once a year, at the end of the academic year,” he said.

Okudzeto Ablakwa continued that “Last year, for the 2012/2013 academic year, the book and research allowance was paid in September, more specifically on September 30, 2013. It is unfortunate and regrettable that POTAG decided to pull out, declared a strike for an allowance which is not due.

By May when they declared this strike, this allowance was not due. It is paid once a year,” he added.

Okudzeto Ablakwa added that Government was not in arrears, indicating that the book and research allowance has always, for more than ten years been paid at the end of the academic year but the POTAG President disagreed.

But POTAG President, Mr. Dugrah, said the Deputy Minister’s claims were untrue. “It’s not true, it’s a lie,” he said.

Mr. Dugrah later explained that Government owed each member of the Association GHc400 and $1,500 as research and book allowance, respectively.

This year’s allowance, he indicated, has not yet been paid, the reason for which members of the association are on strike.

He explained that the payment schedule used to be in February and was later moved to May/June.

According to him, the academic year ends in June and that, the September pay they received last year, was for the 2012/2013 academic year.

POTAG members, have since laid down their teaching tools due to the non-payment of their six-month book and research allowance owed them by the government.

When The Herald called the Vodafone line of the POTAG President to respond to the allegations that his actions are delaying the course of settling the impasse, his phone was dead as of the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, some critics are demanding the kind of research done by the lecturers, when most of the books used in the public and tertiary institutions were written by foreigners.

According to them, majority of the references made at the end of the long essays, has a tall list of foreign names.

They questioned, how lecturers could be taking research and book allowance when the country’s problems cannot be surmounted with home-grown solutions.

Yesterday, Mr. Dugrah, who was the Upper West Regional NPP Communication Director in the 2012 election, insisted that teachers would not return to the classroom unless government pays their book and research allowance.

According to him, the book and research allowance is the ‘’basic tool’’ for the work of the teachers.
‘’I think you know want goes into teaching; if you don’t research can you go and teach. If you don’t research how can you just get up and go and be teaching…,’’ he told the host of the Citi Breakfast Show, Bernard Avle.

He explained that government is deliberately ‘’dragging its feet’’ in paying POTAG. “People borrowed money to do that and you dragging your feet to pay; is it fair,’’ he inquired.

Mr. Dugrah, also stated that it was unfortunate that the POTAG strike was not receiving public sympathy.

He added that government cannot withhold the salaries of the teachers, because the strike is legal.

‘’… if the strike is illegal then government will not pay; I think you are a Christian, go and read Matthew 18:12-14 and then Luke 15:3-7. You will appreciate what we [POTAG] are doing,’’ he opined.

Explaining government’s side of the story, Deputy Minister of Education in-charge of Tertiary, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa said: ‘’we [Ministry] were ready to offer an amended position…, so that we can really pay serious attention to research in the country.’’

He stated that the book and research allowance, according to findings, does not aid research, hence the proposal of the National Research Fund by a committee chaired by Professor Mireku Gyimah.

‘’We had hoped to begin implementation this year; then the unions [POTAG and UTAG] raised an issue that the book and research allowance, should stay and then the National Research Fund should also be introduced. But we disagreed because that will amount to duplication and we [Ghana] don’t have the resources to run two systems [all serving the same purpose]…,’’ he said.

The deputy minister, also revealed that the issue was currently in the court and government is awaiting the outcome.
The new National Research Fund, will require teachers to apply for funding to undertake their research.

Polytechnic students will have to stay at home a while longer as confusion over the book and research allowance continues.

More to come

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