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24.04.2007 Feature Article

EXPAND THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA

EXPAND THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA
At Ghana's flagship academy, the University of Ghana, Legon, students have been engaged in vehement protest marches for the past several weeks. These street demonstrations are an expression of student disapproval with a new residential policy which stipulates that only first-year students, or freshmen and –women, can be accommodated in on-campus dormitories. The new policy was engendered by decades of abject neglect by the largely military governments that have dominated the postcolonial Ghanaian landscape and which preferred to expend the nation's hard-earned foreign exchange in stockpiling small munitions in order to ensure their perennial entrenchment, rather than wisely overseeing the crucial development of tertiary academic infrastructure. In the process, student intake has outstripped the availability of residential facilities.
The new policy means that students may have to spend the better part of their freshman year searching for private housing for the duration of their three remaining years at the University. And so it is quite understandable that the students are upset, for it is not very easy locating a desirable and reasonably priced rental facilities in the overcrowded Ghanaian capital of Accra and its environs. And, matters are further complicated by the fact that unlike here in the United States, for example, student employment opportunities are virtually nonexistent. This means that the new residential policy, poetically designated as “in-out-out-out,” is likely to prematurely force a remarkable number of students to abort their academic and professional ambitions.
It is, thus, for the foregoing reasons that we solemnly urge Campus authorities to look hard at the new residential policy before making it a permanent institutional fare. In the interim, University authorities, we recognize, are faced with two options, neither of which is easily implementable. The first alternative is to build more dormitory facilities, a project which, at best, can only be implemented in the medium-term, that is, anywhere from between five to ten years. The second alternative is to create several satellite campuses of the University of Ghana at strategic, or convenient, locations in all the ten regions of the country. The latter alternative, of course, can only be implemented in the long-term, which is roughly between ten to twenty years, going by the traditional pace of development in the country.
Interestingly, the second alternative is not altogether a new phenomenon; for the University of Science and Technology, located in Ghana's unofficial second capital of Kumasi, for example, has a campus housing students with specialty in mineralogy – or mining – in the Western Regional town of Tarkwa. The latter satellite campus, it bears recalling, has recently been accorded an autonomous status. Then there are also satellite campuses of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana's teacher-training flagship academy, at Winneba, Kumasi and Asante-Mampong. And, indeed, those who are well-versed in the history of Ghanaian tertiary educational institutions, may well recall that both the University of Science and Technology and the University of Cape Coast were created by the transference of the erstwhile departments of education and science and technology from the University of Ghana to Cape Coast and Kumasi, respectively.
Under the present circumstances, the expedient thing to do would be for the authorities of the University of Ghana to liaise – or contract – with private real-estate entrepreneurs in the Legon vicinity to rent housing out to students at mutually beneficial rates, while the University explores either of the two preceding options.
It may be recalled that prior to the new policy of “in-out-out-out,” there was an “in-out-out-in” policy regimen by which both freshmen (and women) and seniors were accommodated on-campus, while sophomores and juniors found private accommodation off-campus. Obviously, the rationale was that being largely new and wet behind the ears, as it were, freshmen and women required accommodating on campus, if they were not to be prematurely alienated from the entire academic process and culture. Seniors, on the other hand, faced with the academic behemoth of a hectic graduation season, required on-campus accommodation in order to ease some of the burden – such as ready access to library, laboratory and other vital study facilities – that an off-campus residency may hinder or impede.
Significantly, the students' one grievance is that they had not been consulted prior to the implementation of the new campus accommodation policy. And, to be certain, it is highly unlikely, even assuming that they had been consulted, that the students, having been comfortably settled in the old regimen, however unpleasant it might have been initially, would have readily consented to the implementation of the new, presumably unpleasant, policy. Still, if, as they claim, the students had not been consulted prior to the implementation of the latest campus residential policy, then, by all means, they deserve a heartfelt apology from Varsity administrators. Needless to say, gone are the days when University dons treated their students with paternal impunity.
The students were also reported to have presented a petition to Ghana's Minister of Education, seeking to have their grievances addressed by Wednesday, April 25, “or they would boycott their second-semester examinations” (Ghana News Agency 4/19/07). Now that one reads rather sophomoric, being almost tantamount to the proverbial cutting of one's nose in order to spite one's own face. For a boycott of one's terminal examinations affects nobody else, in the long run, but one's own academic advancement, as well as, to be certain, the long-term progress of the country at large.
In the final analysis, both the University's administrators and the disaffected students ought to be made to appreciate the stark reality of the fact that there is, indeed, no quick-fix for a bottleneck that has been created over the course of at least some three decades; and that practical compromises may have to be arrived at and sacrifices made for the long-term good of the whole nation.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

This author has authored 4704 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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