STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL UNION OF GHANA STUDENTS (NUGS)
ON 15TH MAY, 2012 ON THE OCASSION OF THE
NATIONAL STUDENTS' DAY
Students across Ghana are marking the National Students Day today, May 15. The National Students Day provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their contribution towards national development, take note of where we have fallen short and strategize on how we can make a difference.
The nation has benefited tremendously from student activism. Notable among these are the various roles of the student movement in the independence and anti-colonial struggles, as well as the post independence struggles against authoritarian regimes and the consequent demands for the nation's return to democratic rule.
As can be seen, students have always been major stakeholders in the quest for change in the country. The 1992 Constitution, the “Akosombo Accord”, to the GETFund, and other very important milestones this country has achieved had noteworthy contributions from the students of this country. The various demonstrations to kick against ill IMF policies, astronomical increases in facility user fees and pressures on military regimes to return to democratic rule were all championed by the student front. The history of this country surely cannot be recorded without mentioning the crucial role students have played.
But these are worthy achievements of yesterday. And so we need to ask ourselves what today too can do for tomorrow? And so even as we celebrate the gains made by our predecessors, there are troubling issues today that beckon us to rise up and determine how history will judge us. The ever rising cost of tertiary education coupled with the decline in its quality, lack of infrastructural and logistical support for the growing needs of the student community gives impetus to question the legitimacy of the status quo.
By our continued silence and indifference, we are sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest, one that threatens our efforts at arriving at our educational goals and casts a blur on the certainty of a successful career. With seeming inevitability we are nearing a critical juncture where the demands for getting a decent education in this country cannot be met.
Surely, the relevance of the student community will soon be questioned if we do not change our ways to suit the demands of the times.
As we approach the 2012 General Elections, the role of the student becomes even more crucial. Students are the elite in society; we have the widest intellectual base to assess government policies critically and offer a recommended path where need, we have the capacity to broaden the debate on policy issues, but all we have done is to remain silent while the politicos insult and assault each other – an unfortunate development which is gradually tearing the nation apart. We have moved into a state of unconsciousness, hoping that all the unpleasantness will vanish into thin air when we wake up. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, it's getting worse by the day – we witnessed snapshots of it during the biometric registration exercise.
One thing however is clear; that we (students) cannot continue to ignore the call by the good people of Ghana to rise up and actively impact policy making in the country. And that is why I find the idea that NUGS should not meddle in the affairs of the governance of this country very reprehensible. Students have played a key role in shaping the direction of policy in the past and will continue to play a key role in that fight now and in the future. NUGS is very optimistic than students can effect political change even in the short term.
And so what is the role of the student in ensuring that the outcome of the 2012 General Election is positive;
Impact Public Policy Positively:
The paramount issue for us as students should not be which party wins an election; it should not matter if power shifts from one party to the other. Our major concern should be how policy will be formulated, and what impact it will have on us. As students our key role here should be to shape government policy. We have to contribute to public discussions, publish articles, undertake campaigns to support positive policies and kick against ill ones.
Abstain from Violence and Destructive Tendencies:
The catastrophic proportions of casualties inflicted on the African continent have been perpetrated by politicians, using the students (particularly tertiary students) as a conduit. The case where students are used as pawns in the hands of politicians should be at thing of the past. What we need to be doing as students is, harnessing and investing our energies into productive ventures.
Abstaining from extreme partisan politics
We need to at all times commit ourselves to democratic principles and ideals such as those against corruption, poverty, hunger, tribalism and illiteracy. The advent of TEIN and TESCON has polarized the activities of students on campus. We need to eschew the tendency of becoming extremely partisan. Don't get me wrong, TEIN and TESCON are healthy for the good of our democracy provided they do not avail themselves as vehicles for political vendetta. At that point individual reasoning ceases and group-think sets in. The advice is that we do not lose our individuality in the crowd.
•Devoting much time for academic excellence and flee from the exigency for money
Our generation is one that loves materialism. However placing the cart before the horse is dangerous phenomenon. The best we can do for Mother Ghana is to avail ourselves for the pursuit of academic excellence. We live in the age of the paper and pen, and only the prepared mind will prevail. We must learn to make the most out of the present, for the future awaits the student who can match his/her competencies to the opportunities in the corporate world.
Let us not forget that those who took to the streets yesterday with many participants being brutally beaten and maimed by the law enforcement agencies were not protesting on their own behalf: they were not the ones who would have faced the brunt of the policies they fought so fiercely against – they fought for the next generation.
Today must serve as a clarion call to all students to wake up and take responsibility for the peace of this country especially during the upcoming elections. We must learn to condemn all destructive political activities, irrespective of which party perpetuates it. We must be the ones who separate the “wheat from the chaff” and the “propaganda from the truth”. Above and beyond what is convenient for this generation of students, there is a moral obligation to confront all vile activities head-on, to stand for the truth even if the heavens will fall and have the courage to call sin by its right name.
God bless us all.
Peter Kwasi Kodjie
Courage Kwasi Nobi