KNUST authorities, don’t rob Peter to pay Paul - Conti on my mind

KNUST authorities, don’t rob Peter to pay Paul - Conti on my mind
Source: By Thomas Freeman Yeboah
Date: 23-07-2018 Time: 06:07:21:pm

I thought it was just a joke when I first heard it.

That Unity Hall, the all-male residential institution popularly called
Conti, was on the verge of being converted to a unisex hall to help
increase female accommodation on the Kwame University of Science and
Technology (KNUST) campus?

For me, it was ridiculous. I felt the leadership of the university was
making an audacious attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible.

Well now, things seem to have gotten into gear: news making rounds is
that both female continuing students and ‘freshers’ have been allocated
accommodation at Unity Hall (Conti) as well as its rival all-male Hall
of Residence, the University Hall (Katanga), with effect from the
2018-19 academic year.

I have to shoot straight: I feel the university authorities are being
frivolous. This decision is unwarranted.

Our professors always teach us to think outside the box to help solve
societal problems as intellectuals, so I get surprised when they fail
to do what they preach by towing the line of people without vision.

The last traditional hall in KNUST was established in 1968 and
subsequent governments and university authorities have failed to put
up new halls of residence.

The problem of accommodation on the KNUST campus has been with us for
several decades, but there has been no attempt to find a lasting
solution to this predicament.

Instead of churning out policies to put to sleep the accommodation
problem that has been a major worry to the university, we are waking
up to hear that the university plans on boosting female accommodation
on campus by displacing their male counterparts. The university
authorities argue that they are doing so to protect females, who they
think are prone to robberies and attacks when they stay in hostels off
campus. This is baffling to say the least. So they mean the males are
being sent off campus because they can fend off these attacks?

KNUST administrators seem to be overrating masculinity: they seem to
be insinuating that male students have the courage and bullet
proof vests to survive in the ‘wild’.

The reasons given by the University for its decision to convert the
two traditional male halls into unisex halls just don't add up.

I expect KNUST authorities to start thinking outside the box by
entering into agreements with individuals and corporate organizations
to set up accommodation facilities on campus.

The university has vast virgin and semi virgin lands to harness. They
have to make hey while the sun shines by putting these lands into good

Look, the truth is bitter, but it must be said.

During my days on campus, I remember the pride with which we boasted
of our school, because KNUST was the best university in Ghana
according to the world ranking of universities.

But, a few years after I graduated, I realised the University of Ghana
(Legon) had long usurped my beloved school.

What did the trick for Legon was that the authorities started to think
of solving the issue of accommodation. Legon, like KNUST, used to
accommodate four students in a room, but it reduced to three in a
room. This didn’t happen by magic. The authorities on the Legon Hills
were proactive enough to partner institutions to establish halls on
campus for students.

Legon acted smartly in its quest to provide decent accommodation for
its students. The University of Ghana realized that funds were
difficult to come by, so it needed to lobby private bodies to come to
its rescue.

Now the thing is: why can’t KNUST do same?

Universities with good accommodation facilities are ranked higher by
Google and order ranking bodies, and if KNUST wants to play at the
echelons of prominence, it needs to sit up and solve this
accommodation conundrum.

KNUST, like many other academic institutions, has a Quality Assurance
office. And so I weep for the University, because the quality this
office seems to be offering is supervising the conversion of the two
traditional male halls to mixed halls, instead of tackling the
substantive issues of campus accommodation.

KNUST, which is supposed to be the leader in science and technology in
the country, should apply the same scientific and technological
attitudes of innovation and practicality, in order to create lasting
solutions to its problems.

The solution the authorities are offering seems to me as only attempts
to paper cracks, a postponement of potential problems. There is a
funny adage that says that when you crown an elderly person as a king,
following the death of an old king, it is merely the funeral that has
been postponed.

What the authorities of KNUST are doing - making this a female against
male situation when indeed accommodation is a general student problem
-  will not solve the real issues.

On the flip side, it is believed by many that through these
controversial attempts to convert the male halls, the university has
used the “male vs female” arguments as a smokescreen to hide its fear
of the unhealthy rivalry between Conti (Unity Hall) and Katanga
(University Hall)

It is an open secret that the university feels that converting these
two halls - known for their notoriety and abrasiveness -  to unisex
halls will help tame them and create a peaceful atmosphere on campus.

This belief is flawed. Case in point? Have a look at Mensah Sabah on
Legon campus and Atlantic Hall at the University of Cape Coast (UCC).
These two halls were converted to unisex halls, yet they have been in
several clashes with Commonwealth Hall and Casely Hayford Hall - both
all-male halls - respectively over the last few years.

It is quite clear that conversion is never the way out.

I believe both Conti and Katanga have come to the realisation that
violence is not the only way to display their supremacy. There are
moves to end the fierce rivalry. For instance, just last week, all the
four male university halls in Ghana held a summit to discuss ways to
promote healthy rivalry amongst them, without resorting to violence. I
think it is a step forward and the University should take it up from
there by engaging the halls in future deliberations of that nature.

The alumni and JCR executives of Conti and Katanga have filed a writ
against the authorities of KNUST to restrain them from carrying out the
conversion. I think the university can save itself the needless
legal tussle by rescinding its decision to go on with the
conversion. Sincerely, throwing male students out of campus to
accommodate more female students is not solid justification to throw
out a tradition that has existed for well over 50 years.

Students and alumni of these two halls pride themselves with the fact
that they are all-male halls and it is a special identity that they
will do everything to maintain. The status quo is sensitive and will
be defensively guarded.

KNUST still has several great architects, planners, developers,
engineers and so on to produce. And so the university should put its
act together and eschew this needless conversion debate in order to
tackle the main issues. The University needs to pick up the pieces
from where it lost track and start building to make its stakeholders
proud again.

Long live Conti.

By Thomas Freeman Yeboah
      (Former Conti President)

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