What started as a peaceful graduation ceremony of a Skills Training and Employment Placement (STEP) programme ended in chaos and violence in Accra last Thursday. The graduation ceremony had shown signs of disarray after it had been delayed for close to three hours as the organisers laboured to get their acts together.
Apparently, there had been a confrontation between Ms Agatha S. Konadu, proprietress of the Hephzi-Bah Institute, organisers of the course, which was supported by the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment on the one hand and the graduands on the other, over who had the right to organise the graduation ceremony.
The contention had been against the background of wild suspicions of misappropriation of funds against the proprietress by the graduands. The tension ran deep into the graduation ceremony as the graduands demanded access to an amount of ¢779,000, realised from an “appeal for funds” during the programme.
Ms Suzzy Anane, a sister of the proprietress, who had custody of the money refused to hand it over to the students. After chasing her around for some time, the students accosted her in a room and pressed her to the ground, with hands firmly at her neck.
Subsequently, they snatched away the money, and after emerging from the room, took to their heels as a bare-footed Ms Anane screamed, “armed robbers, they've stolen the money”. The students contended that they had financed the graduation ceremony to the tune of ¢6.5 million and deserved to be given the proceeds of the fund- raising ceremony.
They added that Ms Konadu had refused to fund the STEP programme substantially even though she had been given adequate sponsorship by the ministry and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). The students who had undergone training in photography, videography and public relations alleged that they had not been given any practical exposure.
Ms Konadu described the allegations as baseless and unfounded. She said when she started the programme six months ago, she consulted the AMA for a place to hold the classes. She said subsequently the Calvary Methodist Church in Accra offered their premises at the cost of ¢11 million for the six months that the course was going to run.
She added that after negotiations the church agreed to charge only ¢2 million.
She failed to disclose the amount given her by the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, saying: “I will have to make some checks before I get the exact figure”. Ms Konadu debunked the students' claim that they had funded the graduation ceremony, maintaining that it had been funded by the ministry.
She said students had been offered the opportunity to tour some studios to have a practical feel of the processing stages in photography, but on the instructions of one of them, Ms Adelaide Allotey, they refused the offer.
Before then, 28 graduands had been given certificates and in an address, an Assistant Director of the ministry, Ms Brenda Laryea, advised the graduands to form co-operatives to enable them to access micro-finance facilities offered by the ministry.She challenged them to use the skills acquired to attain self dependency and avoid immoral lifestyles.