You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2015 06 19Article 363332

Opinions of Friday, 19 June 2015

Columnist: Asare, Kwame Boahene

On the Suspension of Protesting Students and How We are Governed

By Kwame Boahene Asare

I read a news story this morning about a group of nursing stories who have been suspend from school for daring to protest against the government for the non-payment of allowances to which they were entitled. This story helps to flesh out one of our deepest fundamental problems in Ghana.

We have adopted a mode of governance – liberal democracy – which originally evolved in a foreign culture. This mode of governance does function in a vacuum. It functions well only in a setting where the people exude certain cultural practices, including a consistent and relentless effort to hold their elected representatives accountable.

As the story goes, some students were entitled to allowances from the government. And the government failed to pay those allowances.

It is one thing for government to cancel such entitlements as a policy decision. But until it formally does so, it is obliged to pay. And those who are entitled to those entitlements must be expected to agitate for payment when they are not paid.

Even if the allowances are cancelled, human beings whose entitlements are cancelled should be expected to agitate for their reinstatement. Even an infant will go berserk if one takes away what has already been given to him or her.

But back to our story. The students went to meet with the Minister of Health. And the Minister promised to pay them the unpaid allowances. And still they were not paid.

Then, as the news report goes, the following happened:

In a letter signed by the Board Chair of the School Nana Addai Gyambra said the Dunkwa midwifery is built on the solid foundation of patience, tolerance, respect for authorities and obedience for which reason the school will not countenance any form of disrespect from the students. “I must state this institution is governed by rules and regulations which every student is under obligation to obey every bit of it to the letter . The advisory board and management of the school will not sit down for the students to dictate what goes on in the school. Discipline still rules and it will continue to be the hallmark of the school,” Addai Gyambra stated in the letter to the students which Myjoyonline.com has intercepted. (Daily Guide, June 18) Some Ghanaians have wondered why Ghanaians sit still while their leaders take them for granted. Perhaps the answer lies in the way there are being taught to behave. The students in this story exercised the very actions that make democracy functional. The lesson they are being taught by their school authorities, however, is that they are not allowed to do what they did. Rather than agitate to hold their leaders accountable, they must be obedient and patient even as government promises them entitlements and refuses to pay. And even as a minister tells them that they will get it and yet they do not. If you want democracy then you must develop the cultural tendencies that make democracy work. The school authorities in this story are operating in a particular cultural mindset. One that may be better suited to a bygone era, perhaps in our pre-democratic Gold Coast. And the students are operating in another cultural mindset. But the democratic institutions that Ghana has adopted requires the cultural spirit demonstrated by the students in order to work. So we are left we an important dilemma. Either we get rid of our old culture or we get rid of democracy. The two cannot stand. For now, it is clear. We are squares in a circular hole.