Students of the University of Ghana yesterday hit the streets of Accra in protest against what they termed “exorbitant” fees approved by the University Council for the next academic year.
The joint demonstration, which was organised by the Executive Council of the Students Representative Council (SRC), the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), the University Students Association of Ghana (USAG) and the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG) and dubbed “Yentua” (we will not pay), also had in attendance students unions from some private universities in the country.
The over four-hour peaceful demonstration attracted a huge police presence who provided security for the over 1,000 demonstrators.
Carrying placards, some of which read, “Aryeetey must go”, “If inflation is single digit, why school fees na double-double”, “Legon is not a private institution, nor the property of Aryeetey”, “Mr President, no reduction, no vote in 2012” and “We no go pay Amina fees', the students marched from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle through some principal streets of Accra amidst chanting, singing and dancing.
They called for a significant downward reduction in the fees. They also called for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, whom they accused of adopting an autocratic style of leadership aimed at intimidating students into submission.
Led by the acting SRC President, Ms Irene Sitsofe Attipoe; the NUGS President, Mr Hamza Sulhyini; Mr Innocent Badasu of USAG; the GRASAG President, Mr Rester Torgormey, and the Chief Vandal of the Commonwealth Hall, Mr William Tackie Yarboi, the students first marched to Parliament, where they presented a petition to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education which was received by the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Gershon Gbediame.
They then marched to the Ministry of Education, where a Deputy Minister, Mr Mahama Ayariga, received the petition on behalf of the government.
According to the leadership of the group, students were at the cross-roads, as their efforts to get the vice-chancellor to listen to their pleas had been unsuccessful.
Among other things, they sought the abolition of sports, security and sanitation levies imposed on them and a decrease in the healthcare levy of GH¢47 which they described as far beyond the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) premium.
Similarly, they called for the declaration of a national emergency dialogue on sustainable approach to funding university education in the country, a redefinition of the government's role in the determination of fees and the utilisation of funds by the universities.
Ms Attipoe told the media that the demonstration would continue until their demands were met.
According to her, the current fees were not just excessive but had also been designed to truncate access to university education by hundreds of students who might not be able to afford the high charges.
For his part, Mr Sulhyini called on the government to urgently intervene, as the vice-chancellor had claimed that “nobody anywhere can convince him to rescind his decision on the increment”.
He asked why an increment in the honorarium for lecturers should be a cost borne by students and wondered why the realistic charges students had presented in the past had been ignored.
“We must let him understand that even if the government fails to let him back down, we, as leaders of various institutions, will make him back down,' he reiterated.
He maintained that much as the students were not against reforms to make the university a first-class one, the authorities ought to respond to the need of students, whose input would help in the attainment of the said strategy, 'since the university cannot use just one academic year to achieve total reform”.
Mr Ayariga, who commended the students for the peaceful manner in which they had conducted the demonstration, gave the assurance that the government would engage the authorities and ensure that the outcome would be satisfactory to both parties.