The Activist, the Activism of Aluta Continua – My reflections
6/13/2012 6:28:59 PM -
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 other.
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