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12.09.2005 General News

Legon Imposes 600% Penalty For Lateness

The Statesman

Information reaching The Statesman indicates that about 30 students at different levels at the University of Ghana, Legon, who had registered after the deadline had elapsed, nearly abandoned their courses because of their inability to settle an initial penalty of ¢3million.

The cost of school fees for the academic year is around ¢1.7 million. During the last academic year, the penalty that the University charged students for late registration was about ¢500,000.00. However, much to the dismay of the students, during the long vacation, the fee was increased to ¢3 million. According to "deep throat" sources, the rationale behind the near-600% increase in the penalty was to deter students, especially those who travel abroad during holidays, from reporting late to continue their academic work.

This reason, and its resulting action, are seen by some members of the student body as an act of “poor judgment” on the part of the authorities because, as one of the irate students put it, “only about 500 out of more than 20,000 students travel abroad during holidays. Who says we are all rich?”

Investigations by this paper established that on August 18, 2005, a day after the closing date for continuing students' registration, those who reported late, perhaps because they could not raise the ¢1.7 million school fees, were told that they were now owing a penalty of ¢3m.

About 30 students, describing themselves as "victims of extortion," spoke of their predicament with The Statesman. They explained that after paying the requisite 70% of their fees, they were then told to pay an additional ¢1 million to their Hall Masters before they would be registered.

One of these self-described “victims” said he was advised by the Tutorial Secretary at his Hall to go to the Bursar's office to fill a form. It was at this office that he was then advised to see the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Kwesi Yankah, for details.

According to this student, who spoke on the condition that his name was withheld, when he arrived at Professor Yankah's office, he met a sizeable number of students with similar complaints but none of them was able to see Professor Yankah. The students then proceeded to the office of the Students Representative Council, where they met the President, Lom Ahliga, and told him of their predicament.

Ahliga, according to a number of sources, assured the students that negotiations with the authorities were on-going for an extention of the registration deadline. According to him, the SRC was pleading for additional two days.

The students, who were becoming increasingly frustrated, returned to the office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor on Friday August 19 to seek redress. Professor Yankah told them to first go for their statement of accounts. Upon bringing their statements, they were told to just pay ¢2 million, instead of the initial ¢3million, as a penalty.

A form, titled, Fee Payment Arrangement Form,” was given to each student to indicate the periods within which to make good on the payment of their penalty, in addition to the remainder of their initial school fees. One source, who had a ¢500,000.00 balance on his tuition, has now been left with ¢2.4million debt hanging on his neck, which must be settled in two installments.

Unable to come to terms with the reality of settling the huge penalty, the students, again, asked Mr Ahliga to intercede on their behalf, but he only told them to comply with the order. He also advised them not to “rush to the media,” to lodge complaints

The source continued that a letter had to be issued on Wednesday, August 21 to Hall Masters before they stopped demanding the penalty of ¢1m. The worried student noted that, they have exhausted all approved avenues on campus to reduce the penalty but to no avail.

The Statesman on Friday, went to campus to verify the students' claims, but officials from the Registrar's office, through the Public Relations, Pro-Vice Chancellor and the Dean of Student's offices, claimed to have no knowledge of the penalty. An official at the Public Relations Office told this reporter: “Are you their advocate? If they have a genuine case, why should they run to the media but not us? Let them come to us and we will solve their problems for them if they are registered students.”

As The Statesman was about to leave the so-called "premier university of Ghana," a bird whispered that, “some students have abandoned their courses because they could not afford the penalty.”

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