The Ga-Adangme Students Union, Asante Students Union and the Akyem Students Union are just a few of the ethnic associations you can find in Ghanaian tertiary institutions. You'd also find the Brong Ahafo, Northern and Volta student unions which include a range of ethnicities. The Northern Students' Union for example is made up of members of several sub-unions such as Mamprugu Students' Union, Dagomba Students' Association et cetera.
Throw-in your TEIN of the NDC, TESCON of the NPP, TESCHART of the CPP, TERIF of the PNC and Progressive Youth Movement of the PPP, several religious associations, and a Ghanaian campus seems like a pretty polarised place, yes? No. At least, not from my experience. Anyway, back to the topic.
How all these associations started, I have no idea. I can only imagine how awkward it would have been for the first student to suggest to other members of his ethnicity that it would be a smart idea to form an association. Can you imagine what others would have thought of them? Whatever be the case, these associations are here to stay. They are organised at campus and national levels. A lot of them have been engaged in voluntary work in their home communities.
Having been an active member of the Northern Students' Union (NSU), I must say that it was pleasant as a freshman to meet lots of people with whom I had at least one thing in common. NSU is made up of several ethnicities, and thus my experience there cannot be the same as the experience in some other groups. English was the language used during meetings and care was taken that both Christian and Islamic prayers were said. In fact many Kokomba and Kotokoli people preferred NSU to Volta Students' Association, which some of them actually belonged to.
Although I cannot speak for the purely ethnic associations, I've never had any reason to suspect that they negatively affected the relationship between members and other students. Some students have tried to exploit the associations for political gain in SRC elections, but those I know of have largely failed. This is because ethnicity is just not a big enough factor in determining who wins an SRC election. Political affiliation is a bigger factor although not the overriding one. That is however a subject for another day.....and another post.
So if you avoid ethnic associations on the basis of some personal principle, good for you, but anyone who associates with one has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. After all, chieftaincy still exists as the ultimate symbol of our ethnic differences.
P.S.: You realise at no point did I use the word 'tribe'. It's a derogatory word that must be extirpated from our lexicon.