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Opinions of Thursday, 14 June 2012

Columnist: Ashong, Nii Tettey

The Activist, the Activism of Aluta Continua

– My reflections

I have been nowhere; and trust me
if I tell you so. I grew up in a setting where newspaper was for the few who
gained the opportunity to work in one government office or the other or in a few
instances, retired teachers; (pensioners) as they were called who had extra
cash to spare on the luxury of knowing what’s in the news. But as a young and
ambitious student, I have always known that the news mattered. News like “which
foreign government official visited the country”, “which part of Accra have
suffered flooding”, “the latest increment in fuel”, “what was new in Makola,
and others were but a few one could watch out for on GTV news bulletin. Hardly
did it matter to me nor my friends the news of students going on demonstration
as a result of insensitive increment in their school fees, a group of students
meeting somewhere to elect their leaders or a group of student leaders pressing
on government to meet one demand or the other. In fact, the last thing I might
want to care about is a group of students dictating how they think government
policies should have been put in place to salvage one national canker or the
However, what did I grow up to hear?
That there was some action called student activism, and that there was a group
in the name of a National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) under whose umbrella
all Ghanaian students have a place so to have our interest well catered for in
the national discourse. My ignorance was complicated when an older friend told
me stories about how NUGS played key roles during the dark days in Ghana when
our actions as a country so long as governance and politics were concerned,
were dictated by men in uniforms through the barrel of guns. Indeed, I was told
of how ordinary students of this country rose up to protest against those
oppressive regimes and their obnoxious policies; several of whom lost their
lives through stampede and gun fires during those wild demonstrations. I’m also
told of stories of hell breaking loose on campuses of Universities as students
rose up to defend their so called social rights some of which and other related
incidents have led to universities being closed down.
Eventually I have come to
familiarize myself with the acronym NUGS and a few names that have been
associated with it. I fell in love with Haruna Iddrisu those days when as a
young boy, I started sharpening my interest in the news of the day where in the
morning; my ears were either stuck to
Joy news or anywhere else I could hear the voice of one politician or the
other. Then later I heard bigger names like Ward Brew, Arthur Kobina Kennedy
and a few others I cannot exactly recall. Perhaps what must have helped more
was my association with a few friends through whom I was introduced briefly to
the activities of the Greater Accra Regional SRC. Perhaps, there was more I
could have learnt about student activism except that I was in a hurry to get
out of Secondary school merely because I felt I had fallen victim to the new
Computerised School Selection and Placement Program when my dream of Achimota
School ended on rocks. I attended a very small community secondary school in
Accra anyways; memories of which I hold dearly.
Honestly, the starting point for me
was the university. That was when I came to hear more of NUGS and this new
lexicon of STUDENT ACTIVISM, a definition I have been looking for. One of the
latest definitions of student activism I have come to learn from a senior
colleague is “when students know their rights and limits and can ask why or why
not if needs be”. I have grown to love my university, and even though I think
that KNUST is one of the finest universities we have around Africa, I doubt how
much this language of student activism is understood by students of the
university, most especially the fraction that takes unflinching interest in the
politics of the day. I must confess how thrilled I get by the boisterous
confrontations and agitations of my good friends from Conti and almighty
Katanga sometimes, but the question is: Are those scenes good enough to be
called student activism especially when male halls have had a long standing
history with the formation of NUGS. I’m not sure how much the history of NUGS
has been told, hence I ask ignorantly: What is the essence of NUGS? When there
is no credible voice to speak for the Ghanaian student or when they virtually
know nothing about it. What is student
activism when we cannot solve the basic challenges that confront our student
front? What is student activism if we cannot organize just one decent election
on our campus? What is student activism when we are being denied the space to
confront authorities over our needs? What is student activism if we cannot
contribute meaningfully to the national debate regarding policies that could
break the neck of the next generation of Ghanaian students? What is student
activism if the gullies of our rights are gradually being washed away by the
colourful lather of gushing party waters and individual selfish interest? I
know not what others think; but in my ignorant opinion, until we approach the
beckoning recognition of the fact that at the heart of student activism should
be a much more responsible NATIONAL
UNION OF GHANA STUDENTS (NUGS), then though I’m just a kid, the question I
pose for reflection is “what is student activism”? And “who is the activist”?

Nii Tettey Ashong