16.10.2008 Feature Article

Students violence and the future of Ghana: The case of KNUST

Students violence and the future of Ghana: The case of KNUST
16.10.2008 LISTEN

Over the past weekend it was reported that some students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) clashed among themselves in rather bizarre circumstances leading to several injuries and damage properties.

This act needs to be criticised with all the condemnation it deserves. One least expects that students, some of whom are the brightest in our nation, to behave in ways that even truck pushers at Kejetia or Abglogoshie would not. There are a countless number of precedents at KNUST and in other public universities of students behaving badly. I remember in my days as a student, students from the University Hall and Unity Hall clashed leading to serious injuries, some of which required surgery. This led to the university banning student processions for a one year period. There were some students who argued whether the university authorities could outlaw processions which some claimed was their fundamental human right.

The frequency of riots in our schools, coupled with other acts of indiscipline in our tertiary institutions causes the good people of Ghana to arise with righteous indignation against this trend.

In the early parts of this year, the Casely Hayford Hall of the University of Cape Coast had to be closed down as a result of clashes between the students in that hall and another hall in the same university. Back to the KNUST case, University Hall (Katanga) and Unity Hall have fought many times whether at the University Sports Stadium or at other grounds. Sometime in 2006, Katanga students were alleged to have vandalised the KNUST Hospital- a facility that was meant to treat and cater these same students' health. One may ask, what causes these students to behave in this rather awkward way.

Such acts of hooliganism perpetuated by trained students using the tax payers' money are abhorrent and one would be right to doubt whether such students can lead Ghana in the years to come.

Abraham Lincoln once said that “the philosophy of one school in one generation would be the philosophy of the next government”. If something is not done hurriedly to check the growing spate of violence and nihilism among the present generation, I am afraid we will be raising an unfortunate generation that will in the coming years, resort to unlawful means of settling issues.

If at the least provocation, we will decide to vent out our anger in a destructive way, then I am afraid again that we will be purchasing our destruction on an instalment plan.

It is both historically and sociologically true that any generation raised in violent struggle for freedom or independence grows up to see violence as a normal part of human life. South Africa gives us a perfect example of this. For more than half a century, the people of South Africa fought for independence.

They faced their enemy who was armed with the latest weapons. Blacks in South Africa, like the temperamental Apostle of Jesus Christ, Peter could not put their swords down but also met their colonial army with 'an eye for an eye'. It is therefore not surprising that today South Africa has the highest murder rate in the world. Now when I look at what is happening on our political scene, I can say that the parallels are frightening. NPP sees the NDC as an albatross that needs to be rid off the political scene. The NDC also sees NPP as a principality that they have to pull down before they can enjoy their life in government. The result is the hatred and bitterness we see to the extent that a leading party functionary in the opposition invoked the “gods” to kill opponents.

We need to prepare and secure a better future for Ghana-where people would be tolerant of each other and where democracy and the rule of law would be respected and not what Charles Darwin calls the 'survival of the fittest'.

It was President John F. Kennedy who once said that that equality of opportunity does not mean equality of responsibility. All Ghanaians must be responsible citizens, but some must be more responsible than others by virtue of their public or their private positions, the investments made in their education, their role in the family or community, their prospects for the future or their legacy from the past. Increased ability goes with increased responsibility. For those to whom much is given, much is required. So those who have been given the benefit of education to the highest level must become like a shining light for others to follow.

Former US President Woodrow Wilson once said that “every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time”. That is he /she has to use his / her talents for the benefit of the society which helped develop those talents. And he must, as Goethe put it, “whether you will be an anvil or a hammer, whether you will give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education”.

Of the many special obligations incumbent upon an educated citizen, there are three which are outstanding: The obligation to the pursuit of learning; the obligation to serve the public; your obligation to uphold the law. If the pursuit of learning is not defended by the educated citizen, it will not be defended at all.