The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has called for the reinstatement of the existing University Council. His call came despite the earlier composition of a seven-member Interim Governing Council by the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE).
As the Chancellor of the University, he made this call after recent happenings at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where demonstrating students destroyed property leading to the University being closed down by the Regional Security Council (REGSEC).
As a result, the NCTE had asked the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kwasi Obiri-Danso, to step aside. This decisive intervention by the Chancellor of the University reaffirms the rule of law and it is parallel to the statutes that govern the University (KNUST, 1961; Act 80).
The genesis of the impasse was a directive by the Vice Chancellor of the University to convert all six halls to mixed halls with the aim of expanding access to female students.
The directive was met with vehement opposition from students and some alumni of some of the all-male halls. Some views suggested that the Vice Chancellor sought to break the age-old deep-rooted traditions of student activism in the university. There were calls by the students to reverse the directive, resulting in protests.
Manhyia Palace was duly petitioned by some students and alumni of KNUST as “such an act would have dire consequences for students, alumni and associates of the halls and for tertiary education at large and should not be allowed to occur without further analysis and reconsideration.” The students and other parties took the issue to court to seek redress.
There was decorum on the part of students and all parties in taking advantage of our judicial systems and institutional engagements to seek redress. The court ruled in favour of the university and all parties came to terms with judgement. Later, there were other reports of students being abused by the security personnel of the university for holding vigil events.
This incident compelled the SRC to call for a peaceful demonstration, which escalated into the mass destruction of university property. Even though massive destruction on the university campus has merited media attention, it is unjustified. A curfew was then imposed and students were advised to vacate the campus.
Did Manhyia delay?
There is a huge expectation from Manhyia Palace pertaining to issues of this nature and mostly, people expect swift and direct interventions. However, we forget that “Opanin due mate mante” (a proverb that translates as that the elderly does not act on hearsay).
We should not expect the Asantehene to interfere in the executive and administration of the university, especially when there are laid down channels to address concerns. In my opinion, the Chancellor is the last resort to some of these grievances. This is also not to say that he sat unconcerned.
The Asantehene directed that Manhyia Palace engages all parties diplomatically behind the scenes. Manhyia believes in the institutions that guide and protect our deeds and will not sabotage its authorities. In this regard, it is not justified to blame the Asantehene or Manhyia Palace for “keeping mute”.
The Asantehene is known for his role in dispute resolution and peacemaking. Since his coronation 20 years ago, he has been able to settle various chieftaincy and land disputes in Asanteman. He has also been instrumental in bringing sustainable peace to the impasse in Dagbon.
The role of chancellor
The chancellor of a university is an executive and ceremonial role in a university system. Occupants of the position mostly epitomise quality leadership and direction. It is mostly accorded individuals of high repute whose influence uplifts the image of the academic institution and brings development to the university.
The way forward
The new Council is expected to be constituted on Friday, November 2, 2018. Moving on, the following suasions will expedite action in the normalisation process. The Vice-Chancellor and the University Management will have a fresh opportunity to draw students much closer to themselves than before.
In the past, students have been regarded as “minor” actors in the running of the University. There should be wider public fora and stakeholder consultation on notable project and programmes and also ensure a sense of democratisation. The opinion of student leaders is embodied in the aspirations of the masses. Steps should be taken to address the concerns of students in order to avert future disturbances.
Issues of SRC funds being in the “hands” of the Dean of Students should be tackled with an appropriate checks-and-balance system that also averts student leaders embezzling funds. The welfare of students should be made a priority to the university. Students, on the other hand, should exercise restraint in their actions. Mass destruction of university prosperity is criminal and punishable by law. Culprits of the destruction should be made to face the full rigours of the law.
Sylvester Kwame Osei is a communications professional who is passionate about Asante tradition and culture. Reach out to him firstname.lastname@example.org