Members of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) had been having a running battle with government over conditions of service. It had been an on-and-off drama, with UTAG, just like National Labour Commission and Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, showing some commitment to negotiations.
However, in the last few weeks, the relations had turned sour, compelling UTAG members to take a harsher position, laying down their tools and doing what typical unions do, while the poor students leave campus and the classroom back home to agonise over their already fragile future.
Certainly, the situation has not been the best for major stakeholders who are parents, UTAG themselves, the NLC/Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and, of course, government.
The stalemate comes in the wake of critical graduate unemployment situation, and efforts to widen access to education and improve tertiary infrastructure in all the public universities.
It also comes in the wake of agitation from other unions in the education sector over a whole gamut of issues, including textbooks and new educational calendar and curricula.
At this point, it is imperative that only a consensus among the stakeholders can douse the flames of mistrust in a nation where education is considered a treasure.
For a nation carrying out several programmes to speed up efforts at creating a reliable pool of human resource that would drive our industrialisation agenda, we must understand the stress consultants and directors go through daily developing strategies and monitoring implementation.
That surely must be stressful, particular when the idea is to work out the best in a short time.
That is not to say that the UTAG or, for that matter, other agitating unions do not have grounds for their actions. It must also be appreciated that the NLC, most of the time inundated with complaints, still finds opportunity to engage.
The situation, however, gets compounded when we consider the financial stress we have collectively put on ourselves in the effort to bring hope to other segments of society, particularly when it is the very youth in schools who are beneficiaries of the whole agenda of holistic education of which teachers are an inextricable part.
It is in that breath that we support the call on the part of the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Tertiary Education when he says it is imperative to have our kids in the classroom while negotiations continue.
In our opinion, having the kids back in the lecture halls is important because even when times are good, it still takes some good effort to cover syllabuses and academic calendar.
That is aside of tight timelines for lecturers to go through projects submitted by students and fairly rate them.
Blaming each other is not the way to go at this critical time. It is therefore the opinion of the Daily Statesman that both sides ignore statements from either sides that had not helped smooth discussions.
It is also our fervent hope that UTAG would give government and the sector Ministry time to discuss draft proposed conditions of service, as the kids return to the lecture halls and negotiations continue.