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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Columnist: Boamah Sampson

UEW brouhaha: Violence is not the key

University of Education Winneba University of Education Winneba

The University of Education Winneba (UEW), has been in the news for about 2 years now due to the impasse that seems not to wipe off. If readers may recall, there was a court suit against the then Vice Chancellor Professor Mawutor Avoke, and the then Finance Officer Mr. Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie along with other workers of the University including the then Acting Head of Procurement Mrs. Mary Dzimey.

One Mr. Kofi Kwayera commenced an action in the High Court of Winneba against the University of Education, Winneba (UEW)and the Minister for Education, alleging a breach of the University’s Act, 2004 (Act 672) and Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663). He sought among other reliefs the declaration that the continuous existence of the Avoke-led Governing Council was “illegal” and declaration that all appointment by the council were void.

I wish I could continue to give a full account of the events as it unfolded but this is not the intent of this write-up. What this article seeks to talk about is the violent means by which students resort to anytime they are confronted with some issues, as if violence is the key to unlock the troubles.

The University of Education, Winneba (UEW) is situated in Winneba, Central Region of Ghana. Its main aim is to train teachers for the education system of Ghana. One expects some level of discipline from such a noble institution, but the opposite just happened.

On 12th to 14th of March 2019, some section of students started some series of demonstrations calling for the reinstatement of the sacked lecturers. The dismissed lecturers were Prof. Ephraim Avea Nsoh, Principal of the College of Languages of Education at Ajumako, Dr. Frimpong Kakyire Duku who is the local president of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), and Dr. Emmanuel Osei Sarpong, a representative of the alumni on the University Council.

Within those three days, students were faced with poor quality academic work. The school was on rampage as students called for the dismissed lecturers to be reinstated. Something that started as a peaceful demonstration turned out later to be violent which called for the Regional Security Council (RESEC) to shut down the University.

It is not out of place for students or citizens to resort to demonstration anytime their grievances are not being resolved but I do not support any form of vandalism that is hidden behind demonstration. These days, it looks as if students or citizens hide behind demonstration to cause the state huge sums of money.

Not long ago, we had a similar incident at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where students proposition to show their displeasure to management of the University for not being sensitive to the brutalities the security personnel of the University meted out to them and thereby going on demonstration.

This violent demonstration caused government to shut down the University for some couple of weeks. It will be very difficult to draw any similarity between the incident that happened at KNUST and the one which happened at UEW in terms of students and management relationship. In the case of the KNUST where students on several occasions had noticed the management of the University to engage them in a dialogue but their efforts were fruitless as the Vice Chancellor and the Dean of Students turned deaf ears to their pleas. They had no option than to embark on a peaceful demonstration but unfortunately this intended peaceful protest turned out to be destructive.

In a similar development, the demonstration which was termed as peaceful, later turned out to be violent. Comparing what happened at KNUST to what happened at UEW, I personally think it was quite brutal what happened in UEW. This is so because in the case of KNUST, students on several occasions sort to engage management of the University but their frantic efforts yielded no result. The students at KNUST had no option than to engage in that demonstration. The students at a point then might have got some genuine reasons to embark on that demonstration but they will have no single reason or justification as to why they descended on school properties.

Meanwhile, all that we heard in the case of UEW was, the students were not pleased with the sacking of their lecturers and called for their reinstatement, failure for the VC to do so, they would also not return to the classroom.

I was staggered when I heard UTAG executives endorsed the demonstration and called for the resignation of the Vice Chancellor. I saw this stand of UTAG as a very hypocritical one. Why do I say so? UTAG vehemently opposed all those who called for the resignation of the Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. Kwasi Obiri-Danso and in some instance said there was an attack on academic freedom. Was their position the same on the issue of UEW? They said the Vice Chancellor had failed in resolving some issue that was in place before he took over the administration of the school.

This reason they gave does not really add up. We do not take a short time to resolve a conflict that has ensued for a very long time. In any case, such justification cannot warrant the resignation of the Vice Chancellor. I am very convinced that UTAG’s backing of the demonstration really gave confidence to the students who engaged in that ungodly act.

Are we going to witness such form of vandalism in the next demonstration that will pop-up in any of the institutions? The cost of destruction at KNUST was estimated to be 1.6 million Ghana Cedis. This is not a “joke amount of money”. This money could have also been used to have started a foundation of some college or University, especially at a time we have Free Senior High School students and their counterpart; the double track people awaiting entry into our Universities, we could have built a hostel or a hall of residence for them. We need equivalent of such amount to repair all these damages.

According to a statement released by the Chairman of the Governing Council of the University, Prof. E.N Abakah, the total cost of damages is estimated at about 250,000 Ghana Cedis. If the next generation are causing the state this amount of money, then we can imagine the damages they will cause this country and the world when they eventually become leaders!

No matter the magnitude of the situation, violence can never be the key that will unlock the problem, particularly in this 21st century. We cannot act like this.

“Violence is the weapon of the coward” while “Tolerance and Dialogue are the weapons of the brave.” The destruction which took place at KNUST did not solve the issue but rather destroyed and damaged school properties that were beyond repairs. Likewise, this will be the case of UEW. The violence attack will not solve any issue but will lead to the damages of properties as it has already happened.

I have heard the registrar of UEW in some interview with the media saying “outsiders from town” engaged in the protest which resulted in the destruction of some properties. Yes, it could be true, but the initial process started with the students who got some backings from some UTAG executives. In any case, if they wanted the V.C to resign and the sacked lecturers reinstated, there were so many means they could have taken and not necessarily destroying properties.

If this claim is true, then I also get some bad impression about the Winneba residents who live close to the school. Is it because the rate of unemployment is very high in that area? Were they paid to engage in that? If so, who did? I was pleased when I heard the Governing Council of the University say they are proud of the VC. In this situation, it points out that the VC did not take any decision on his own and that due process was followed.

How do we solve this emerging canker of demonstrations that always result to the destruction of properties in our tertiary institutions? Leaders of these institutions must learn to listen to their students and reason with them. They should not see these students as minors and as such can always have their way through. If this continues to happen, students will always feel that they are being intimidated by authorities and will always resort to vandalism.

If we have listening leaders in this country, we would be able to overcome so many issues without any problem caused. Also, students should learn to be patient because their issues cannot be addressed always. “Tolerance and dialogue are the keys in resolving disputes and misunderstandings not violent demonstrations.” We do not know the next institution where a demonstration will occur which will cause the state huge amount of money to repair the damages.

In addition, proper sanctions should be given to perpetrators of these uncivilized acts. If we had fined some students who destroyed properties at KNUST, it would have served as some form of deterrent to the folks at UEW. Let’s rise above student Vandalism in our educational institutions.

Say no to violence and demonstration that leads to vandalism. Long live the University of Education, Winneba. Long live the people of Winneba. Long live Ghana. Ghana must work again. Ghana will work again. YOUNG POSITIVIST. A concerned citizen of Ghana.

Boamah Sampson is the author, a final year student at the University of Ghana, studying English and Political Science. (0548690091/