The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has been in the news for a week; not for the best of reasons. This is as a result of a peaceful demonstration by students of the institution which turned violent, culminating in the closure of the school and dissolution of the Governing Council.
The Students’ Representative Council (SRC), according to reports, mobilised students to protest alleged brutality and abuse of power by campus security and KNUST management.
10 students and an alumnus were said to have been arrested for holding a vigil on campus without permission while another student was allegedly manhandled by the campus security. The brutalised students was subsequently hospitalised at the KNUST hospital.
The protest, Monday, led to the destruction of properties, thereby attracting criticisms from a section of the public who argued that the students went too far.
Despite the backlash, the Executive Council of the SRC argued that the demonstration was necessary to convey students’ frustration – for they had endured oppression from management for a very long time.
It is instructive to state that the arrests came after the KNUST management served notice that it had suspended the organization of vigils (morales) in the school because of “several negative issues encountered recently concerning morales in the hall.”
Management accuses alumni of masterminding violence; old students deny involvement
In the midst of the controversy, Management of KNUST stated that alumni of the University Hall, popularly known as Katanga were behind the violent demonstration.
“Information available to KNUST some alumni of the University Hall have been the brain behind this orchestrated and executed vandalism as they came in several buses to participate in today’s activity,” said Andrews Kwasi Boateng, Registrar of the KNUST.
In a rebuttal, the old students denied any involvement in the protest, stating unequivocally that the claims are untrue. “It was spontaneous and as humans, we do not have control over spontaneity. The SRC was leading and they were in charge,” George Tetteh Wayo, council for the alumni said.
“Most of the alumni are in Accra. Those in Kumasi had gone to work. It is the same first years who are demonstrating against them, no alumni is there,” he added.
Mr. Boateng presented an official breakdown of items destroyed by rampaging as follows:
1. 30 vehicles belonging to staff of the university have been burnt.
2. The reception of the main administrative block, office of the dean of students, finance office and the offices of the university relations and security offices were demolished.
3. The official vehicle of the Dean of Student Affairs was destroyed.
4. 14 motor bikes of campus security officers have been vandalized.
5. Laptops, mobile phones, ladies’ handbag and the other items in offices which were broken into were ransacked.
6. Access and controlled gates were also destroyed.
Indefinite closure of KNUST
Due to the extent of damage and insecurity on campus, the Ashanti Regional Security Council (REGSEC) on Monday ordered that the school be closed down indefinitely. The Council further imposed a 12-hour curfew on the campus from 6:00pm to 6:00am, which took immediate effect.
“… Between 6:00am and 12:00noon tomorrow [Tuesday], every student must vacate the school premises including student leaders. The only people who will be permitted to stay are foreign students. We are going to provide security for such students. We will meet [relevant stakeholders] tomorrow [Tuesday] to agree on a tentative date that the school will be reopened,” Simon Osei Mensah, Ashanti Regional Minister announced.
Akufo-Addo summons Kan Dapaah, NAPO over KNUST violence
The National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah, and Education Minister, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh were summoned to a meeting with President Akufo-Addo where the two were expected to brief the president on the situation and also about measures that have been put in place to bring matters to rest. Dissolution of KNUST Governing Council; the controversies
As many wondered what could be the remedy to the situation, news broke that the Governing Council of KNUST had been dissolved with immediate effect.
A statement issued by the Education Ministry announced the composition of a 7-member interim Council which will oversee the reopening of the University in 14 days.
“This follows briefs and recommendations made by the Minister for Education, Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh after he led a high powered delegation, including the Minister for National Security, Hon. Albert Kan Dapaah and the Minister-Designate for Information, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah to Kumasi,” portions of the statement read.
“The Ministry took the view that the Governing Council was not in a position to review its own processes and decisions affecting the student body to guarantee peace. Subsequently, the Ministry of Education recommended to government the suspension of the university’s Governing Council and the establishment of an Interim Council,” it added.
The members of the council are:
1. Nana Effa Appenteng
2. Prof. Mrs. Rita Akosua Dickson
3. Dr. Edward Baffoe-Bonnie
4. Madam Hilda Haggar Ampadu
5. Prof. Joshua Ayarkwa
6. Mrs. Abena Antwi
7. Mr. Kelvin Sah
Moments after the release, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) said the exclusion of Prof. Kwasi Obiri Danso, Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology from the Interim Council was wrong.
In addition, they argued that government was acting arbitrarily.
“We do not believe that the action taken by government is the best way to resolve the issue as it frowns on the autonomy of the University and smacks of political interference,” a statement from the outfit said. “UTAG-KNUST, therefore, wishes to state emphatically that it does not accept this interim arrangement by government and insist on government allowing the Act and Statutes of the University to work. Should the Government insist on going forward with its interim arrangement, UTAG will have no option, other than to advise itself with immediate effect,” it added.
Indeed, KNUST-UTAG has advised itself as it has declared an indefinite strike over the government’s dissolution of the university’s governing council.
The Vice Chancellors Ghana has also expressed dissatisfaction about the treatment meted out to Prof. Obiri Danso. They have described the treatment as a rush.
“Our checks indicate that in recent times that the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) have not even tabled any issue at the University Council for discussion,” says Prof. John Owusu Gyapong, a member of the Vice Chancellors Ghana. “So there is a lot of noise out there and I am not sure where we are headed but we believe that this decision to dissolve the Governing Council is probably a rushed decision.”
Meanwhile Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) has lauded government’s ‘swift’ response to the unrest describing UTAG’s stance as ‘unthinkable’.
Reversal of initial bans
Following negotiations between the university authorities and the Student Representative Council after the protest, some of the policies were reversed.
The university, according to the SRC, has agreed to among other things:
1. Return to previous hall/college week celebration schedules. All hall celebrations will be celebrated separately.
2. Open engagement with students regularly (Have an open forum with students to get to know their concerns). Also, students will be treated with respect and dignity – unnecessary harassment from any quarters in their residential life will be promptly attended to.
3. Reverse decision to consolidate/centralise all student association accounts.
4. Lift of ban on morale.