by Enoch Darfah Frimpong & Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has stated that no group would be allowed to dictate or conduct itself in a manner, that undermines the integrity of the management of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
Addressing the Governing Council of the KNUST on Tuesday in Kumasi, after six new members had been sworn into office, the Asantehene said: "Yes, the university is nothing if not a hotbed of free expression and the penchant for rigorous debate must be one of the intrinsic values we inculcate in our students."
"But defiance and disorder cannot and can never be part of those values, and it should be abundantly clear that neither students nor alumni or any group within the university shall be allowed to dictate or conduct itself in a manner that undermines the integrity of management," the Asantehene who is the Chancellor of the university said.
Expressing regret at the events that led to the closure of the university, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II said even though there had been periods of tension at the university, just like any other university in the country, “at no time had lives and properties been in such danger to necessitate the intervention of the state”.
He described the October 22 incident as the worst in his 10-year tenure as chancellor of the university and vowed to get to the bottom of the issue.
The Asantehene said the fact that “this happened under my chancellorship is a pain I do not bear lightly”.
"I have served as your Chancellor for more than one decade, I have devoted more time, effort and resources to the university than any single entity since ascending the Golden Stool. We have maintained a credibly close relationship with all levels of personnel with the leadership and general body of students, with alumni as much as I have done with management and academic staff."
Consequently, he said, now that the council was in place, he would constitute a five-member committee to be headed by a judge to investigate the remote and immediate causes that led to the October 22 protest by the students.
“So I am determined that the return to normalcy should not be seen as a premature closure but the commencement of the cleaning process for the sake of the future,” he said.
According to him, a full and transparent inquiry must be set up into all the circumstance “leading to the day of horrors” and asked that “no dirt must be swept under the carpet”.
Role of alumni
He said since the incident, a plethora of allegations had been aired in various outlets about the administration, its procedures and the conduct of some of its most senior officers, including the vice-chancellor.
He said the role of the alumni was very much to the fore “and we clearly need to interrogate the extent to which they can influence the administration of the institution”.
According to the chancellor, even though the alumni of the two halls (Unity [Conte] and University [Katanga]) had petitioned him over the conversion of the halls into mixed gender halls, before he could step in the same petitioners had taken the matter to court, a situation that tied his hands until the determination of the matter.
According to the chancellor, nothing should be done to constrain the council in the discharge of its duties to develop policies for the running of the university in accordance with its statute.
“We should not encourage students to feel the right to defy authority or cherry-pick rules they choose to obey,” he added.
He explained that while the exchange of ideas and debates must be encouraged on campus, “defiance and disorder cannot and can never be part of those values and it should be abundantly clear that students, alumni nor any group within the university shall be allowed to dictate or conduct itself in a manner that undermines the integrity of management”.
He said academic freedom was one of the pillars upon which true democracy thrived and that it was as critical as freedom of the press and the rule of law.
“Just as we want our court system to function with integrity, so we should protect the system of higher education within our democratic environment,” he stressed.
He was grateful to the government for stepping in to protect lives and properties following the violent demonstration on campus and said the constitution of the council was an indication that from divergent positions “we can find the appropriate synthesis through the force of reason”.
Mixed gender policy
The Asantehene said: "indeed when I received the petition over the mixed gender policy, I went over the minutes of the university council and confirmed for myself that this was a matter on which the council had taken a decision at one of its meetings early in the year with the full participation of representatives of the alumni, students representative council, national council for tertiary education, convocation and all the institutional representation."
"It raises serious questions about how a decision taken by all these representatives will still ignite such fray from a section of the alumni and a section of the students with the calamitous consequences we now face."
Otumfuo said the fact that this has happened and led to the worst incident in the life of the university "under my chancellorship is a pain, I do not hear lightly. So I am determined that the return to normalcy should not mean premature closure but the commencement of a clean process for the sake of the future. We should not sweep any dirt under the carpet and accordingly, a full and transparent enquiry must be set up to look into all the circumstances."
KNUST re-opens Friday
A statement signed by the Registrar of the KNUST, Mr A. K. Boateng, and issued in Kumasi Tuesday said lectures would resume on Monday, November 19, 2018.
It said the decision to reopen after its closure on October 22, 2018 followed a special council meeting Tuesday and in consultation with the Ashanti Regional Security Council.
Earlier in the day, the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, had sworn into office six new members of the Governing Council of the university.
They are four representatives of the government, a new representative of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) and a representative of the National Council of Tertiary Education (NTCE).
The new members are Nana Effah Apenteng, Bompatahene and Chairman of the council; Nana Agyei Baffour Awuah, Mr Alex Quaynor, Mrs Hilda Hagar Ampadu, Mr Steve Anoff Amoaning-Yankson and Alhaji Yakub A. B. Abubakar.
Meanwhile, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has expressed its appreciation to the chancellor of the university and the government for constituting the Governing Council.
In an interview, the National Secretary of the association, Dr Samuel Bert Boadi-Kusi, said the constitution of the council was the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations and that UTAG was grateful to all stakeholders, adding that it was good news for academic freedom and respect for the rule of law.
On October 22, this year, there was an outbreak of violence and destruction of properties in the university following a demonstration by students of the KNUST in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.
Following that, the Ashanti Regional Security Council (REGSEC) took a decision to shut down the university and also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the university campus with immediate effect.
The students of KNUST, who had gone on a demonstration against what they described as the “tyrannical style” of the university administration, turned violent, leading to massive destruction of public and individual properties.
According to the students, the demonstration was also intended to express grave concern over the use of force by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kwasi Obiri Danso, to cow them into submission.
Before the demonstration, 11 students of the University Hall (Katanga) who had participated in the usual entertainment programme (otherwise called moral session) of the hall on Friday, October 19 were allegedly brutalised and arrested by the university’s internal security men and handed over to the KNUST Police Station, where they were detained.
Moral sessions are processions of students, usually on campus, amid singing and dancing, and are very common with the all-male halls of residence.
Earlier before the demonstration, the management of the University Hall had issued a circular banning all forms of moral sessions with immediate effect and warned that anyone “who flouts this directive shall receive the necessary sanctions and response”.
Cost of damage
After an assessment of the damage caused by the students, it was realised that the university would need about GH¢1.7 million to fix the mess.
The amount excludes the cost of items stolen or lost during the riots.
The students caused damage to buildings, vehicles, motorbikes and CCTV cameras.
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