Some time last week, I saw a publication on Ghanaweb with the caption: Ghana School of Law (GSL) withdraws 31 students over failure to meet deadline for submission of LLB certificates (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/GSL-withdraws-31-students-over-failure-to-meet-deadline-for-submission-of-LLB-certificates-1200976). I had wanted to comment on the matter but time had not permitted me until today. When I read the news item I realized that, the students passed the entrance exams and also met all other conditions to gain admission into the GSL except for the submission of true certified copies of their LLB Certificates.
I began to wonder how the students could have even taken the entrance exams if they did not have their LLB Certificate as this would make them ineligible to apply in the first place. Section 2 of the Legal Profession (Professional and Post-Call Law Course) Regulations, 2018 answers this simple question. It provides that, a person is eligible to apply for admission to the School to undertake the Professional Law Course if that person has obtained a Bachelor of Law Certificate from a recognized university and obtained passes in prescribed subjects specified. Section 4 of the Regulations makes a person qualified for admission if he passes the entrance exams upon payment of the required fee. Why then should an admission be withdrawn?
Reasonably, students awaiting final results results not be eligible to apply. They must wait till they have their final results and Certificate. Inspite of this provision, the Independent Examination Committee; an independent examination committee set-up by the General Legal Council to oversee the administration of its exams, allowed students to sit for the exams while they waited for their final results.
I then turned to the advertisement of the Independent Examinations Committee published in the Daily Graphic on 11th June, 2020 (https://www.graphic.com.gh/lifestyle/life/how-to-apply-for-the-2020-2021-professional-law-course-of-the-ghana-school-for-law.html). The advertisement gave final year students awaiting final results (Academic Transcript & LLB Certicates) the opportunity to sit for the exams. This was stated thus:
“a. Persons who have obtained a Bachelor of Law certificate or Final year Bachelor of Law students awaiting their final results from the Faculty of Law of Universities in Ghana accredited by the National Accreditation Board and approved by the General Legal Council (GLC); …”. The affected students in good faith relied on this part of the advertisement and did sit for the exam.
The Ghana School of Law gave the successful students a Provisional Offer of Admission to the Professional Law Course pending a final admission if all the eligibility criteria was met. The Provisional Offer of Admission made the successful students pay a commitment fee to the tune of Nine Thousand Six Hundred Ghana Cedis (GHC 9,600). The Offer also stated that the admission letter would be made available if the student met the eligibility criteria as advertised for the 2020 Entrance Examination. This the students had already met and leaves no doubt. The only instance where the Provisional Offer of Admission will be withdrawn was if there were discrepancies discovered in the relevant information submitted by the students.
In the withdrawal letter to the affected students, the GSL has withdrawn the admission on the premise that, the students had failed to submit their LLB Certificates. This is an eligibility issue which has already been settled, hence the Ghana School of Law had no right to withdraw the admission of the students.
Apart from meeting the eligibility criteria, according to the students, their various faculties have had correspondences with the GSL through Letters of Attestation, References letters and letters for extension of time to issue Certificates.
This indicates a shift in responsibility for providing Certificate on the student to their various faculties or awarding institutions. A School of Law should know better when it comes to the issuance of Academic Certificate. It is a very important document and requires laid down procedures for its issuance. You would bare with me that due to the COVID-19 pandemic most academic boards couldn’t meet to approve results and Certificates. Has the GSL considered that?
It would rather be appropriate to invoke the National Accreditation Board and the General Legal Council on institutions that advertently failed to issue the Certificates. These institutions should liaise with each other and conduct an in-depth investigation into the delay of the issuance of Certificate and come out with a remedy in order to avert same in the future.
Surprisingly my extensive reading this morning revealed to me that, the Provisional Offer of Admission is not even founded in law and therefore constitutes an illegal process in its entirety, it represents an abuse of office and an affront to the rule of law. I have read through the whole Legal Profession Act, 1960 (Act 32) and the Legal Profession (Professional and Post-Call Law Course) Regulations, 2018 but I have never come across any provisional offer of admission. Maybe the GSL can prove to the general public under which authority it derived such a power.
This falls in blatant breach of articles 23 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Article 23 stipulates that, administrative bodies and administrative officials shall act fairly and reasonably and comply with the requirements imposed on them by law. Article 296 similarly provides that, where in this Constitution or in any other law discretionary power is vested in any person or authority- that discretionary power shall be deemed to imply a duty to be fair and candid; the exercise of the discretionary power shall not be arbitrary, capricious or biased either by resentment, prejudice or personal dislike and shall be in accordance with due process of law; and where the person or authority is not a judge or other judicial officer, there shall be published by constitutional instrument or statutory instrument, regulations that are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution or that other law to govern the exercise of the discretionary power
Therefore, the 31 students whose admission were withdrawn have not been fairly dealt with, they also share the view that, they were also not informed of the various deadlines mentioned in the letter. They were completely kept in the dark.
The Ghana School of Law breached the rules of natural hearing by not giving the affected students a hearing or even a qualified notice.
Prior to the final withdrawal of Admission, the GSL had taken various prejudicial decisions against the affected students by first denying them index numbers, denying them access to the student’s portal and even excluding their information from being published in the students album.
All I want to say is that, the decision of the GSL is very harsh, undemocratic and illegal and same must be reversed.
Watch out for Part II.
By Kofi Abanga (Pseudonym)