President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stressed the need for members of the legal fraternity to carry out their work in ways that assert, at all material times, the integrity and special status of the legal profession.
He said though lawyers had played critical roles in securing for Ghana independence, the foundation of the respect for the rule of law, individual liberties, human rights and the principles of democratic accountability, they have often not cut a good image for the profession.
The President made the call when he advised the pioneer graduates of the Faculty of Law of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), at Madina, near Accra.
The UPSA was holding the First Session of its 11th Congregation ceremony for the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Studies and the Faculty of Law, where a total of 326 students graduated with undergraduate degrees and diplomas.
President Akufo-Addo told the 45 law graduates that whereas lawyers have had the responsibility for setting the country on the road to freedom and national independence and progress, others have in recent years found ways to justify negative developments no matter how bizarre.
Pointing out the staunch defence put up by some Lawyers a few years ago, regarding the payment of fraudulently procured judgment debt as a case point, he said, it was not surprising that the legal profession had attracted the most cynical of comments.
"We need to be aware of these criticisms and respond in a manner that asserts the integrity of the legal profession and its termination to uphold the rule of law.
"Upholding law and order is the basis of every organised and progressive society," he said.
He continued: "As we seek to move our country to a situation beyond aid, I urge all Ghanaians to be natural champions of a law-based state, whose institutions are solid enough to sanction effectively, vigilantism, bank frauds, cyber fraud, child trafficking, illegal mining, identity theft, stealing public funds, bribery and corruption, criminal cartels and criminal behavior, including assault on and by law enforcement officers."
President Akufo Addo announced that the consultations on the Public Universities Bill had been completed and would be laid before Parliament this year.
He assured that the Bill when laid before and passed by Parliament, would not stifle or undermine academic freedom.
The Bill, would amongst others, the President noted, bring all the public universities under a common law, and make the administration of the public universities less cumbersome and more efficient.
"The flimsy allegations being perpetrated that the Bill will undermine academic freedom are deliberate mischief-making and disingenuous.
"My Government and I are firm subscribers, as the Bill amply demonstrates, to the cardinal importance of the principle of academic freedom in the development of all institutions of learning worth their salt," he added.
The theme of the congregation, "Celebrating Professional and Scholarly Excellence for Accelerated Nation Building", President Akufo-Addo indicated, reinforces the commitment of his government to ensuring that all of Ghana's youth gain access, not only to senior high school education but also to tertiary education.
This, he explained is a path "that represents the surest ways of equipping the citizenry with the requisite skills for national development", adding that, "Government is not sparing any efforts to make education in Ghana of the best quality, and fit for the needs of the 21st century."
With the implementation of the Free Senior High School policy, Ghana is one of the countries in the world where public education is now free from basic school to senior high school.
"From September this year, all students in our public senior high schools will be covered by the Free SHS policy. We are making sure that poverty is no longer an excuse for any Ghanaian child not to reach their full potential, and I am happy that it is under my time as President of the Republic that this feat has been chalked," he added.
The President further indicated that with a new standards-based curriculum set to be rolled out from kindergarten to Class 6 in primary schools, the new curriculum would focus on making Ghanaian children confident, innovative, digitally-literate, well-rounded and patriotic citizens.
Additionally, President Akufo-Addo stressed that all is set for the construction of 21 state-of-the-art Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) centres, and, in this year, also, ten Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) centres are being built around the country to provide support for the introduction of STEM into basic schools.
With adequate funding of tertiary education being one of the challenges of successive governments, he stated that "as part of efforts to deal with the problem of funding higher education, government has committed itself to the establishment of a research fund for the sole purpose of funding relevant and sector-specific research work in our institutions of higher learning. This is in addition to the Book and Research Allowance."
The government, the President added, would continue to support collaborative programmes between tertiary institutions and industry to increase opportunities for practical training and internship.
"We shall promote curriculum development to meet the skills and human resource demands of industry, create opportunities for work and study, and make training in entrepreneurship a cardinal component of the school system," President Akufo-Addo said.
The President later cut the sod for the commencement of the construction of an artificial football pitch for the institution.