The KNUST Imbroglio – Between Scylla And Charybdis
“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”
Steve Biko (1977)
PROFESSOR OBIRI DANSO, V.C. of KNUST, is a card-bearing member of the NDC or is sympathetic to NDC, so what? Who in Ghana does not belong to a party or does not lean on one party or another? Too flippant, frivolous and shallow. Rationality is now creeping in- the Chancellor has arrived back to Kumasi, and Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has been requested “to lead the next steps in constituting the University Council in accordance with the university's statute and relevant laws”. The Interim Governing Council may have been still-born.
Some people think Universities enjoy 'academic freedom', so the government should not interfere in their running, so should the government fold its arms and allow unarmed students to be hewn down by the very body established to protect them? OR should it sit idle and allow students to take the law into their own hands and damage lecturers' vehicles (over thirty) and other property?
Whoever thinks the crisis at KNUST is a simple matter may be living in his or her own world of delirium or fantasy. I will not say they may be “living in a fool's paradise” because it may be misinterpreted as insulting, when it only means: a state of happiness based on false hopes. It is a very complex issue which requires tact. Someone says it is like “bese-pa ne kooni ahahan: y[sesa no ba nyansa-fo]” (Professor Agyekum should help with the translation).
And who says the tradition for the creation of halls at the Universities is for the segregation between 'males' and 'females'. Traditionally, all the halls of KNUST were established as male-halls: that was the time when the ratio of male-female students was 9:1 or at best 7:3. Let me state, here and now, in a discussion of Universities that, Commonwealth Hall in the University of Ghana used to be a mixed hall (ask Professor Dolphyne) until some male students decided to make the entrance of the female bath-houses their reading places. The female students would scream and run away on seeing the simiguado. Call the male-students Jones, Akoannye or Cicero and you may not be far from right. But why put males in Africa Hall at KNUST? So, you think a student reading History, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, Classics… cannot reason? What they may need is a little guidance; they are people of a voting age (18-plus years).
Perhaps they need to be told that some things can be allowed within their halls: how on earth can any reasonable person entertain students on a peaceful walk in the streets and on the road going naked; or dancing 'one-corner' (making sex moves around a tree), sing profane songs before their parents – can't they hum? Who born dog? In Commonwealth Hall, Koo Hia would take the students on. “Major Koo Hia would like to know what came of that knock-kneed hominid with the face of a Cro-Magnon and with features of a Neanderthal with the name that is close to a hill starting with 'R' and ending with 'n' with a 'k' in the middle. Why should this nincompoop mix Vandalism with Gyimiism and syncopate in a bestial dance with a tree during the procession? Does he know certain things are 'allowable' only inside the hall…?”
Since students are quick to point at tradition, let them study the history of their halls very well: they may 'enahoro' a colleague, NOT narrow him; (just as Nkrumah deported Nigerian politician, Enahoro). They may use urine to pour libation, not Schnapps bought from the store; do the students want to invoke evil spirits to come and take over? How can we defend the accusation of voodooism or….. A Vandal may be described as a vivacious, affable, neighbourly, dedicated, altruistic lad. Forget about 'loyal' which is a corruption of the acronym coined by my good self in 1979, during my post-gra days when I was the editor in chief of the Hall's 'Echo'. With HIV-AIDS on the prowl, which Hall Tutor will entertain a procession which includes urinating into the ponds of other halls? And you call this TRADITION!
A student-researcher will write a long essay for the Sociology Department of the University of Ghana on 'Vandalism' and his 'Literature Review' will not include: 'Building a sub-culture: A Sociological Probe into Vandalism' (authored by my good-self. If anyone is in doubt, he or she should find out from Captain Nkrabeah – Effah Darteh or Professor Kwame Boafo – Arthur or Yaw Boadu – Ayeboafo or Chairman Boakye Ansah).
It is not easy to guess the origin of the bitter rivalry between Unity Hall (Conti) and University Hall (Katanga). Why should students engage in such unnecessary rivalry? And when there is a rift, you get non-students from around (Ayigya, Aboabo and Asawase) entering the campus with knives, cudgels and other deadly weapons. Is the University campus a war-zone? And these are our future leaders: doctors, lawyers, judges, administrators! Can they proudly talk about their student life if they should become President of Ghana, say, like Mahama, if in their student-days they paraded naked?
Why do we talk against the Witches' Camp and Female Genital Mutilation? They are local traditions, but as society progresses the human mind must also progress. We used to have human sacrifices: should they continue?
And the authorities… why all this high-handedness? The Dean of Students, the Security posts with cells… You will not allow students to have the freedom to vent their pent-up feelings, after a hard study session? At the Languages Department of the University of Ghana in 1974, a lecturer from the Russian section (allow him to rest in his grave) would call upon his students to recite 'Ya Goya'. For failure to do this, all the students would be made to stand on their desks. The students numbering about 24 were in a fix-till one day, one of them fell from his desk. The lecturer got so frightened, he stopped the irresponsible harassment. You may say the student who 'fell' was this writer.
Students may recall the incarceration in Nsawam of Anselmus K. P. Kludze and Ocantey for removing the CPP flag hoisted on Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana in 1964. The hushed agitation among the students was countered by the youth wing of the CPP (NASSO- the National Association of Socialist Student Organisation). They may recall the student demonstrations of the UK, France, U.S.A. and other countries in the 60s, typically the 1968 protests: after the 'Tet Offensive' against the Vietnam War. They were mostly protests against dictatorship, state repression, colonization and perceived injustices. The 1968 student protests in Yugoslavia cooled only when President Josip Broz Tito gave in to some of the students' demands. The student agitations of the 1960s could be attributed to the social changes including the 'baby boom' of the post-war world peace: the proliferation of chain stores, the emergence of television… Or the Tiananman Square protests of 1989 led by students in Beijing in which a lone student stood his ground and was run over by an armoured truck… Or the South West Township (Soweto) uprising of South Africa in 1976 protesting against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in local schools…Steve Biko…
With Otumfuo Osei Tutu II sitting in his capacity as Chancellor of KNUST, everybody believes his pacifist approach will yield positive results. Let everybody go to the table with an open an unbiased mind… let them dialogue – with the well-being of Ghana in mind. One does not need any reminder that Otumfuo, King Solomon, can tell the students and the authorities to go to hell in such a way that they will eagerly look forward to the trip.
Africanus Owusu – Ansah
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