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Opinions of Thursday, 28 May 2020

Columnist: Theodore Dzeble

A parent’s nightmare and a university’s shame

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Nothing in all sincerity could be more humiliating to a parent than to see sexually complicit photos of your ward circulating the internet. The feeling could be particularly disgusting when the university, where the child is supposed to be receiving higher education is accused of having a hand in staging the immoral funfair.

I read with sadness, news of an alleged “sex party” organized by the Students Representative Council (SRC) for fresher’s of the University of Development Studies (UDS) at the Nyankpala Campus last week. Indeed, the sea of uproar, revulsion, and condemnation that greeted the story among various social groups in the same university (not to mention the broader public opprobrium in the national space) is justifiable for a country with a tradition of pride in its strong educational system.

The Students Representative Council has denied the event was a “sex party,” though they have not discredited the photos. Its President, Master Sadiq Kilwa, told the Graphic online that the “jersey on jeans” event was held to welcome the students to the university, a refrain proudly corroborated by the Dean of Students, Dr. Adu Gyamfi. The Dean said the students were in a frenzy during a dance to a popular song “one corner” and it was in the spirit of that song that the pictures were taken and posted on the internet.

I think the Dean’s rhetoric was cold-blooded. Is the respectful Dean justifying the photos because they were taken while the students were in a frenzy? When the university organized a “jeans on jersey” event for freshers at night, and soaks the atmosphere with “one corner” music (whatever that is) did the good Dean expect the students to fall on their knees in repentance to God? What symmetry exists between sexually complicit photos of apparent minors on the internet and a legitimate program to welcome students to school? No wonder, an unverified rumor from the campus suggests that some people were seen openly having sex!

The Dean and the SRC have not clothed themselves in honor, to put it mildly. UDS is probably the only university in Ghana that welcomes its freshers to school with a promiscuous dance at night. I have heard no such bizzarrity in KNUST, Legon or UCC.

Given the bad press the story has generated for the university, I am stunned that no official statement has come from the university at the time of writing this soliloquy. Such insensitivity is regrettable, coming from a university ? the citadel of knowledge.

Indeed, it did not come to me as a surprise when I received information that the SRC President led student thugs to ambush and attack journalists who were invited to cover the matriculation ceremony of the university, ostensibly in retaliation for the bad press the SRC received for its role in the freshers’ event last week.

What appears to be happening at the Nyankpala campus is a total breakdown of law and order, for which the university authorities should be bold to confront. Their passivity in enforcing appropriate sanctions on over-exuberant students seems to have emboldened a section of the students to believe they can take the law into their own hands and physically attack journalists doing diligent service to the nation.

The management of the Nyankpala campus of the UDS has a duty to preserve and protect the traditions, social norms and discipline that have come to define our nationhood. The series of student behavioral irregularities being made to pass under the watchful eyes of university authorities would not only endanger the students in the end, but it would severely discredit the university and damage its reputation.

The seven-day ultimatum issued to the UDS by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to blacklist the university if it does not apologize to journalists and sanction the SRC President is a sovereign indication of a university that is losing the battle of leadership and waning in public confidence so spectacularly.

Ghana’s social decorum, public decency and national unity ? which we often take for granted, but which is the envy of our neighbors in the sub-region ? is the result of a solid educational discipline inherited from the colonial days and consolidated by mission schools and deliberate policies of post-independence political leadership. Our educational system is the preserver and custodian of our heritage, our identity as a people, and our sense of nationalism. Nothing should, therefore, be done to destroy this legacy.