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Opinions of Saturday, 20 November 2010

Columnist: Amadu, Kpuusuu

UDS: Is It Worthy Of The Name?

In every civilised society freedom of speech is legislated for and encouraged, as it is an essential foundation of democracy. In a society where individuals are allowed to freely express their opinions, intellectual, moral and spiritual growth is stimulated. Through constructive debates and criticisms, better ideas are generated for individual development as well as national development. Although freedom of speech is vital for the individual and the state, unfortunately it is a conditional right. Freedom of speech comes with responsibility. A reckless use of the right to free speech can cause harm and distress to others. In extreme circumstances an irresponsible use of the right can put national peace at risk. It is therefore not surprising that responsible governments and organizations all over the world subject free speech to certain limitations.

It was this right to free speech which led Ato Kwamena Dadzie to assert that UDS is not a university. “You call that a university” were the exact words he used to refer to UDS. In a brief article which appeared on his blog as an explanation of his radio comment about UDS, he contended that, “UDS is only a university in name…elsewhere, for the lack of the basic infrastructure, it would be shut down… I don’t need a PhD before I am able to tell a university worthy of the name.” I understand both past and current students of UDS have not taken these remarks kindly. The Alumni of the university had written to him demanding an apology for such harsh comments. One thing has to be made clear. That is, Ato’s observation about UDS isn’t criminal. He is quite entitled to express his views (no matter how ignorant they appear) about the university, as long as he keeps his remarks and conduct within the framework of the law. On this particular occasion I think his conduct was within the dictates of the law. However, most people would find these comments outrageous. I do not hold a UDS degree, nor am I a member of staff of this prestigious university, but I found his words both shocking and unreasonable. I couldn’t comprehend what Ato wanted to achieve by making and repeating such hurtful remarks about a national treasure.

To use his own phrase, nobody needs a PhD to figure out that these unhelpful remarks weren’t intended to draw the attention of the government to the constraints and challenges facing our brothers and sisters studying at UDS, as Ato would have us believe in his article. I think Ato has demonstrated a lack of sensitivity towards the feelings of graduates and staff of the university. As one of our young journalists committed to promoting and supporting the democratic process of the public’s right to know, he should be aware that liberty to express one’s opinions incurs responsibility. It is a well known fact that some journalists relish the idea of drawing public attention to themselves by writing or uttering provocative words. If this was what Ato wanted to achieve by taking such a route, I think it is sad and disgraceful. I’m not sure Ato has ever set foot in any of the campuses of UDS, which is one of the most cherished and patronised public universities in Ghana. If my guess is right, what audacity has he got as an individual and professional journalist to castigate UDS? One thing seems obvious from his remarks, he is being disloyal to Ghana, not just UDS as an institution. I couldn’t find a single word of encouragement in his remarks. Even with the difficulties which face it, UDS is a source of national pride. We are all aware that as a nation, there is room for improvement in all aspects of our lives.

My Collins English Dictionary defines a university as “an educational institution for study, examination and conferment of degrees in various branches of learning.” This definition says nothing about the facilities which should be present in a university before it can be recognized as such. Neither does the definition say that sharing a campus with goats makes it less of a university. Having all the appropriate facilities for learning doesn’t necessarily lead to the training of better graduates. I believe that a university is a place for independent learning under the guidance of well qualified lecturers. UDS meets this definition of a university. If Ato’s perception of an ideal university is a higher place of learning without constraints, then the most logical conclusion is that there is no university in the whole world. It would also follow that because Ghana has numerous constraints, it shouldn’t be recognized as a sovereign country. Ato’s reasoning would further assert that because he has challenges and constraints in life, he shouldn’t be recognized as a human being.

Ato’s comments cannot be said to be a balanced account of an individual exercising his right to free speech. The fact is, UDS graduates encounter all the constraints Ato has mentioned in his article and yet they apply themselves diligently and conscientiously to their studies, coming out stronger and ready to face the real world. It is a credible university. It has produced some of the most impressive graduates Ghana has ever had. I hope the university continues to do so, disregarding detractors such as Ato Kwamena Dadzie. Long live UDS!


Kpuusuu Amadu, MBA, LLB
amadukpuusuu@yahoo.co.uk