The National Union of Ghana Students has given the authorities of the University for Development Studies up to March 2, to reopen the Wa campus of the UDS or it will organize a nationwide protest against the closure.
It said the closure of the Faculty of the Integrated Development Studies by the school's management was unwarranted and unjustified as students had called off their boycott of lectures.
Speaking at press conference in Accra, the president of the union, Ishmael Tweneboa-Kodua, said the Vice Chancellor of UDS, Prof. Kaku Sagari Nokoe must revoke the suspension of two of the student leaders of the UDS.
He said the suspension was unconstitutional illegal and must be revoked.
The NUGS president called on Ghanaians to join forces with the union to resist what he called the flagrant violation of the fundamental human rights of the students.
The Ag. VC, according to him does not have the power to suspend an elected student leader.
NUGS says if the authorities fail to respond, it will hit the streets and “the authorities of UDS shall take full responsibility for every action of the obviously and justifiably enraged students.”
The full statement is published below:
STATEMENT PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF GHANA STUDENTS ISHMAEL TWENEBOA-KODUA ON THE CRISIS AT THE WA CAMPUS OF THE UNIVERSITY FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES (UDS).
Officers of the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Ghana Students
Colleague national officers
Institutional representatives here present,
Media friends who heeded our crisis call
Ladies and gentlemen
I welcome you all to this avoidable crises meeting called by the students of Ghana to register their disquiet at the turn of events at the Wa campus of the University for Development Studies (UDS).
As I talk to you now, the Faculty of Integrated Development Studies of the UDS based at Wa has been closed down indefinitely.
Without doubt, the closure was unwarranted and unjustified. But before we go into that let me give a brief account of the saga.
What precipitated the standoff between students and management of the UDS was the unilateral action by the Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kaku Sagari Nokoe to suspend two elected leaders of the students.
The Central President of the Students' Representative Council of the UDS, Mr. Naab Alphonse and Secretary were arbitrarily suspended from their positions for granting “unauthorized radio interviews” to the media and allegedly using “abusive language”.
Ladies and gentlemen, while Article 21, Section one, Clause (a) of our Constitution says that “All persons shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression,” Alphonse is being punished for exercising this right.
Is it fair, colleague students, to suspend an elected student leader citing such a flimsy excuse?
We are also told that the two students used abusive language.
Fellow students, our friends from the media, the conditions in UDS are not only inhuman but shameful; lecture theatres with seating capacity of over 2,000 without Public Address systems, students scrambling to get places to perch in a poorly managed bus shuttle.
Note that paying for the bus shuttle by first year students is compulsory whether you have your own means or not.
While the average Ghanaian paid GHC7.20 to get a National Health Insurance card, our poor colleagues at UDS paid 40 Ghana Cedis. What is even worse, after making payment they never got ID cards to enable them access health care.
How else can the rights of a people be abused? And when after persistent complaints, nothing appeared to be happening a student leader says management “adopted a lackadaisical attitude towards students' issues”, he is accused of using foul language and hounded out of office.
But did the VC have the power to suspend the two leaders? The answer is absolutely no. According to our national constitution, sovereignty lies with the people. We may ask whether students of UDS are a sovereign people and reserve the inalienable right to determine who leads them. If they do, why is somebody trying to deny them a leader they willfully chose for themselves?
Let me emphasize that the letter suspending Alphonse also asked the Dean of the IDS faculty to appoint somebody to act in his (Alphonse's) stead. It means as far as UDS is concerned, the authorities have the power to decide who should represent the students and to deny students their sovereign will.
Is it conceivable for President Mills to suspend a Member of Parliament from parliament for criticizing his government for adopting a lackadaisical attitude and go on to direct The Rt. Hon. Justice Banford-Addo that someone else be appointed instead?
The action of the Ag. Vice Chancellor is offensive to the conscience of right thinking and democratically minded people of our country and should have sparked a revolt.
But what did the students do? They sought legitimate non-violent means to resolve the fracas. In fact they retracted what was referred to as 'abusive language'. They planned, a street protest in Wa but the security authorities pleaded with them to stay action. They didn't complain. They rather addressed the media and left only to plan for another day. When everything they did fell on deaf ears, they organized another protest followed by boycott of lectures. Despite all the frustrations, there was no single case of violence or destruction of school property. What a benign group of students. In all this management of the university remained not only indifferent but also belligerent.
Upon NUGS' intervention meetings were held on Tuesday, 17th February between NUGS, the Minister of Education, Mr. Alex Tettey Enyo, the Chief Director at the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ato Esuman, the Executive Secretary of NCTE, Mr. Paul Effah, the majority leader, Hon. Alban Bagbin and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education in the majority secretariat of parliament to try and find an amicable solution to impasse.
At that meeting it was agreed that within 48 hours the two parties will 'press the reset button' and return the campus to normalcy. While the students showed good faith by going back to lectures long before the 48 hours, management has never fulfilled their part of the bargain till date. In fact the MP for Wa Central, Mr. Rashid Pelpuo said on Joy FM that he found it difficult to surmise the actions of the authorities. He appealed to them to “meet the students half way”.
The Education Minister also appealed to the authorities not to close down the faculty but all the appeals fell on deaf ears.
We view with grave concern the increasing insensitivity of university authorities and call for the immediate and unconditional reopening of the Wa campus of UDS.
The arguments made for its closure are childish and unreasonable. We are told by the Ag. VC if students are out of lectures up to March 16, they will not meet the requirement of 75% attendance of lectures. Ladies and gentlemen, students had unconditionally resumed lectures when the faculty was closed down. Lecturers had resumed teaching and were uninformed by the decision to close down the facility when the news was already on the front page of newspapers. This raises questions about the management style in UDS.
The question also arises whether the Ag.VC wishes to short change the students by getting them not to attend lectures. It is worth noting that the other two campuses of the university, Navrongo and Nyankpala had served him notice that if he fails to revoke the suspension of Alphonse by Friday, Feb. 27, they will together with Wa campus embark on a massive protest. He has therefore closed down Wa avoid such a unanimous decision by the students and the forthcoming embarrassment.
Ladies and gentlemen, what is worth noting is that this issue started last year in October. On no occasion has the student body resulted to violent means as the generation of the Ag VC did, when they went on demonstrations based on the fact that they were being served too much chicken, in school. The problem here is that the authorities fail to realize that they are not dealing with children here but mature, rational thinking beings who were actively involved in deciding who ruled this country. It is pitiful to hear them speak as if they are dealing with a bunch of pimple-faced teenagers.
We also want an unconditional revocation of the letter suspending Alphonse and Mr. Aboagye and all rights due them duly accorded.
We have exhibited unparallel patience, maturity, restraint and goodwill. The usurpation of the sovereignty of the students must stop.
The repression and suppression have gotten out of hand.
We are tired and are prepared die on our feet than live on our knees.
We will exercise our constitutional mandate to resist any attempt by person or group of persons who seek to prevent students of UDS from freely exercising their political will.
Art.3 and 4 of the 1992 constitution enjoins all to defend it and resist any attempt to suspend it or a part of it. The Ag. VC seeks to suppress lawful political activity.
If Ghanaians fail to see the gravity of this blatant violation of the fundamental human rights of the students granted them by the Supreme law of the land, we shall go alone.
If they wish to join us in a fight for justice as we are enjoined by the constitution to do, then they are welcome.
All democratic forces must speak loudly against what is happening in UDS and must commit to joining us in legitimate actions on the matter.
Justice cannot be sacrificed to satisfy the whims and caprices of a single individual.
If by Monday, March 2, we hear nothing, the students of Ghana shall hit the streets and the authorities of UDS shall take full responsibility for every action of the obviously and justifiably enraged students.
We have been directed by the National Executive Committee of the union to do so.
Aluta Continua, Victoria Ascerta.
Thank you for coming.