The University of Education Winneba, (UEW) has been in the news for about two years now due to the impasse that seems not to wipe off.
One may recall that, there was a court suit against the then Vice-Chancellor Professor Mawutor Avoke, and the then Finance Officer Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, the then Acting Head of Procurement Mrs. Mary Dzimey and some other workers.
One Kofi Kwayera commenced an action in the Winneba High Court against the University and the Minister for Education, alleging a breach of the University’s Act, 2004 (Act 672) and Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).
He sought among other reliefs the declaration that, the continuous existence of the Avoke-led Governing Council was “illegal” and that all appointments by the council were void.
I wish I could continue to give a full account of the events as it unfolded but this is not the intent of this write-up. What this article seeks to talk about is the violent means by which students resort to anytime they are confronted with some issues, as if violence is the key to unlock the troubles.
The University of Education, Winneba (UEW) is situated in Winneba, in the Central Region of Ghana.
Its main aim is to train teachers to help Ghana’s education system.
One expects some level of discipline from such a noble institution, but the opposite just happened.
From April 12 to 14, 2019, a section of students began a series of demonstrations calling for the reinstatement of the sacked lecturers.
The dismissed lecturers were Prof. Ephraim Avea Nsoh, Principal of the College of Languages of Education at Ajumako, Dr. Frimpong Kakyire Duku who is the local president of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), and Dr. Emmanuel Osei Sarpong, a representative of the alumni on the University Council.
Within those three days, the academic work of students were affected.
The school was on rampage as students called for the dismissed lecturers to be reinstated.
A protest that began as a peaceful one became violent which forced the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to shut down the University.
It is not out of place for students or citizens to resort to demonstration anytime their grievances are not being resolved but I do not support any form of vandalism that is hidden behind demonstration.
These days, it looks as if students or citizens hide behind demonstrations to cost the state huge sums of money.
Not long ago, a similar incident happened at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where students protested to show their displeasure to management for being insensitive to the brutalities the security personnel of the University meted out to them.
This violent demonstration compelled government to shut down the school for a couple of weeks.
It will be very difficult to draw any similarity between the incident that happened at KNUST and UEW in terms of students and management relationship.
In the case of the KNUST, students on several occasions served notices to their management to engage them in a dialogue but their efforts were fruitless because he Vice Chancellor and the Dean of Students turned deaf ears to their pleas.
So they had no option than to embark on a peaceful demonstration but unfortunately, this intended peaceful protest turned out to be destructive.
In a similar development, the demonstration which was supposed to be peaceful, later turned out to be violent.
Comparing the two situations, I personally think UEW’s situation was quite brutal, because in the case of KNUST, students on several occasions sort to engage management of the University although their frantic efforts yielded no results.
The students at KNUST had no option than to engage in that demonstration.
The students at that point had genuine reasons to embark on that demonstration but had no single reason or justification as to why they ‘descended’ on school properties and vandalized them.
Meanwhile, all that we heard in the case of UEW was, the students were not pleased with the dismissal of their lecturers and called for their reinstatement; failure for the VC to do so – they would also not return to the classroom.
I was staggered when I heard UTAG executives endorse the demonstration and called for the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor.
I see this stance of UTAG as a very hypocritical one. Why do I say so?
UTAG vehemently opposed all those who called for the resignation of the Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. Kwasi Obiri-Danso and in some instance said there was an attack on academic freedom.
Was their position the same on the issue of UEW?
They said the Vice Chancellor had failed in resolving troubles that were brewing before he came into office.
This reason they gave does not really add up.
Ample time is needed to resolve a conflict that has ensued for a very long time.
In any case, such justification cannot warrant the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor.
I am very convinced that UTAG’s backing of the demonstration really gave confidence to the students who engaged in that ungodly act.
Are we going to witness such form of vandalism in the next demonstration that will pop-up in any of the institutions?
The cost of destruction at KNUST was estimated to be Ghc 1.6 million.
This is not a “joke amount of money”.
This money could have also been used to establish a foundation for any of the tertiary institutions, especially at a time students of government’s Free Senior High School policy and their counterpart on the double track system await entry into universities.
We could have built hostels or halls of residence for them but that amount will be used to repair these damages.
According to a statement released by the Chairman of the Governing Council of the University, Prof. E.N Abakah, the total cost of damages is estimated at UEW, is about Ghc 250,000.
If the next generation is causing the state to lose this amount of money, then we can imagine the damages they will cause this country and the world when they eventually become leaders.
No matter the magnitude of the situation, violence can never be the key that will unlock the problem, particularly in the 21st century.
We cannot act like this. “Violence is the weapon of the coward” while “Tolerance and Dialogue are the weapons of the brave.”
The destruction which took place at KNUST did not solve the issue but rather destroyed and damaged school properties beyond repairs.
Likewise, this will be the case of UEW.
The violent attack will not solve any issue but will lead to the damages of properties as it has already happened.
I have heard the registrar of UEW in a media interview saying “outsiders from town” engaged in the protest which resulted in the destruction of some properties.
Yes, it could be true, but the initial process started with the students who got backings from some UTAG executives.
In any case, if they wanted the VC to resign and the dismissed lecturers reinstated, there were so many means they could have adopted and not necessarily destroying properties.
If this claim is true, then I also get a bad impression about the Winneba residents who live close to the school.
Is it because the rate of unemployment is very high in that area?
Were they paid to engage in that? If so, who did?
I was pleased when I heard the Governing Council of the University said they are proud of the VC.
It points out that the VC did not take any decision on his own and that due process was followed.
How do we solve this emerging canker of demonstrations that always result in the destruction of properties in our tertiary institutions?
Authorities of these institutions must learn to listen to their students and reason with them.
They should not see these students as minors and as such can always have their way through.
If this continues to happen, students will always feel that they are being intimidated by authorities and will always resort to vandalism.
If we have listening leaders in this country, we would be able to overcome so many issues without difficulties.
Students should also learn to be patient because their issues cannot be addressed always.
“Tolerance and dialogue are the keys in resolving disputes and misunderstandings not violent demonstrations.”
We do not know which institution the next demonstration will occur and require the state to commit a huge amount of money to repair the damages.
In addition, proper sanctions should be given to perpetrators of these uncivilized acts.
If we had fined students who destroyed properties at KNUST, it would have served as a deterrent to the folks at UEW.
Let’s rise above student vandalism in our educational institutions.
Say no to violence and demonstration that lead to vandalism.
Long live the University of Education, Winneba. Long live the people of Winneba. Long live Ghana. Ghana must work again. Ghana will work again.
Author: Boamah Sampson (YOUNG POSITIVIST)
The writer is a concerned citizen of Ghana. He is also a final year student of the University of Ghana, studying English and Political Science.