Allow Students to be the Best of Their Kind!
On a recent tour of his Upper-West home region, the majority leader in the Ghanaian parliament was reported to have exhorted authorities of our nation's universities and colleges to allow students “to engage in healthy political debates and learning outside [their] classrooms” (Ghana News Agency 11/22/09). Furthermore, Mr. Alban Bagbin was reported to have added that vigorously participating in “partisan political activities on [college and varsity] campuses [was a] fundamental human right” of these students.
Needless to say, the preceding would have come as all-too-laudable had the speaker been known to have distinguished himself as a model of healthy and constructive debates in Ghana's National Assembly. To be certain, for the two decades, or so, that he has established his imperious presence in our unicameral House of Representatives, Mr. Bagbin has achieved an unenviable notoriety as a predictable spearhead of incessant and gratuitous parliamentary boycotts, especially while his party, the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC), sat on the opposition benches in our august architectural icon of constitutional democracy.
At any rate, about the only fundamental right which Ghanaian college and university students – I am very uncomfortable with the vacuously pretentious use of the rather histrionic term of “tertiary,” an utterly meaningless grab-bag of rhetorical elitism – reserve is the right to be educated in consonance with qualitatively global pedagogical and technological standards. For as someone pointed out in one of the chat-rooms on Ghanaweb.com, Ghanaian university students have yet to match the versatility of their classmates and counterparts in such East African countries as Kenya and Uganda in the critical sphere of cyber culture.
His remarks also indicate that Mr. Bagbin is tragically innocent of the quite disturbing history of student politics on the campuses of our nation's institutions of higher learning. And on this score, perhaps a brief mnemonic prodding would be quite in order. In sum, had he bothered to consult and confer with the astute and sterling likes of Professors J. H. Nketia and S. K. B. Asante, as well as Mr. Vincent Asisseh, this writer's uncle-in-law and until very recently a luminary in the largely lackluster NDC political firmament, Mr. Bagbin would have quickly learned to his horror that it was, indeed, the unsavory politicization of our university and college campuses by the erstwhile Convention People's Party (CPP) that massively and dramatically catalyzed the deterioration of academic and professional standards at Ghana's flagship academy, the University of Ghana. The parliamentary majority leader would also have learned about the infamous controversy between the African Show Boy (ASB) and then-Legon Vice-Chancellor Conor Cruise O'Brien.
In other words, politicizing our public academic institutions may well spell the definitive doom of these coveted centers of modern civilization and culture. For instance, once students are rendered docile and malleable instruments of campus police culture, which is almost certain to occur in our Ghanaian milieu, professorial independence and creativity would forthwith cease to exist, with students being transformed, almost overnight, into Young Pioneer-like spies for vindictive politicians and their sullen corporate paymasters.
What is also likely to result, as was embarrassingly and tragically witnessed at the University of Ghana in the 1960s, would be a weird and bizarre situation whereby the President of Ghana, now re-morphed as the de facto Chancellor of our public higher educational institutions, begins to constitute himself into a one-man University Council self-charged with the erratic and whimsical hiring and summary firing of university faculty and staff.
In any case, the Ghanaian academy of the 1950s and '60s was dramatically different from what pertains today. In those days, it was mature adults who largely populated our college and university campuses. What the foregoing means is that the university students of my father's generation knew about something culturally and axiologically meaningful called “parental” and/or “social” responsibility, which our current students, barely out of diapers, have yet to learn. In the latter sense, therefore, one may, perhaps, be apt in surmising that the parliamentary majority leader simply meant to encourage our college students to assume a central role in our national political culture. If so, then about the best method by which to induce such, admittedly salutary, behavior would be to enable the cream of our youth and future leaders to do what they are best suited for the moment – which is to avail these talented young men and women of the most up-to-date learning instruments and facilities. For as the Akan maxim goes: “One has to first learn to crawl; and then one can begin to walk.”
As for cheap credit-harvesting, as Mr. Bagbin did by proudly, albeit vacuously, claiming the NDC to have established the least winsome of Ghana's public institutions of higher learning, the so-called University of Development Studies (UDS), we the bona fide scions of Drs. Danquah and Busia have absolutely no rivals in staking our claim to Ghana's foremost academy and the very same one which educated the likes of Mr. Bagbin, the Tsikatas, Ahwois, Yankahs and their ingrate cohorts!
At this juncture, dear reader, hasn't it already become obvious that the Bagbin tack – or approach – to “student politicization” (as clearly opposed to “civic conscientization,” my unqualified apologies to the African Show Boy) is likely to generate precisely the kind of regressive and rancorous discourse which no well-meaning Ghanaian is apt to endorse? Then again, exactly how meaningful and/or productive is this partisan faux student organization called Tertiary Educational Institutions Network of the National Democratic Congress (TEIN-NDC), beyond the quixotically contradictory and technologically pretentious?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 20 books, including “Selected Political Writings” (Atumpan Publications/Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]
Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com