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KSA breaks silence on Mixed Hall Saga-Politicization of students’ affairs,a root-cause of a failed SRC’s, GRASAG and NUGS.

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Christopher Sam
Christopher Sam is a web designer, developer and has advanced knowledge in Search Engine Optimization, Responsive Website Design, Emails Marketing, BULK SMS Messaging, Schema Markup and a certified Google Trainer. He is a creator and editor at Hypercitigh.com, an online digital platform focusing on Credible and Timely news and in Ghana.
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Politicians have developed several strategies to affect the activities of students in Ghana. They endeavour to accomplish this, for instance, by using their political parties’ student wings to influence the elections of SRC,NUGS’ and GRASAG leaders. Since 1992, the two major political parties of Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP), have both penetrated GRASAG, NUGS and the SRCs through the Tertiary Educational Institution Network (TEIN) of the NDC and the NPP’s Tertiary Education Students Confederacy (TESCON). TEIN and TESCON are the respective branches of the NDC and NPP on the campuses of the various tertiary institutions in Ghana.
They were established by the two parties to canvass for votes for the political parties. Conversely, the parties have sponsored their astute youths within their student political wings to GRASAG, NUGS and SRC leadership.
Thus, through the TEIN and TESCON, the NDC and NPP have taken control over the processes of choosing student leaders and the making of decisions. The effects of the partisan politicisation of student leadership as, for example, experienced in the case of NUGS, on the representation of student interests have been modelled recently by Luescher-Mamashela and Mugume (2014). Adapting a framework developed originally by Schmitter and Streeck (1999), Luescher-Mamashela and Mugume (2014) argue that political party leaders may seek to attempt to ‘buy’ the support of student leaders by entangling them in relationships of resource exchange.
Thus, political parties provide services and resources directly to student leaders at different stages of their student political careers including campaign support through cash donation, printing of t-shirts, posters and fliers; support to incumbent student leaders through scholarships, leadership workshops, and political support or pressure;, and career opportunities upon graduation, including, leadership positions within the party.
The student leaders in return are expected to represent the policies of the party; market the party among students and recruit new members for the party; adapt their posturing in accordance with party preferences; and altogether dance to the tunes of politicians sometimes to the utter neglect of student interests .These strategies have been observed in the case of NUGS’ leaders’ relationship with local political parties.
In addition, another strategy is for the political parties to give recognition to potential student politicians especially NUGS leaders. Some student leaders consider political recognition as crucial because it affords them the opportunity to know and interact with top party leaders. This recognition also gives them confidence and the assurance that they could climb to the party’s centre of gravity.
Students who are affiliated to political parties feel important among their peers because they have political ‘godfathers’.
For the opposition parties, influencing NUGS typically means encouraging students to challenge government’s policies. Conversely, the government would need NUGS to tame students to support its policies and programmes even if they are contrary to the students’ welfare.
Again at the institutional level, the various school authorities play a role in getting their preferred candidates selected as leaders in order to ensure that whoever emerges as leader will dance to the tune of school authorities in an attempt to ensure student support of decisions taken by authorities and a stable academic calendar .
As indicated earlier, they try to achieve this by setting high student academic performance standards as a requirement for contesting leadership positions and also by cajoling students who are likely to create problems for the school authorities to withdraw their candidature for elections or by cancelling unfavourable outcomes of elections and appointing their own interim leaders on the slightest and sometimes orchestrated complaint by a few students about the outcome of elections. These tendencies are what we refer to as the politicisation of the SRC’s,NUGS’ and GRASAG.
For instance, politicisation of NUGS’ activities therefore encapsulates a wide range of efforts both at the national and institutional level to subdue and neutralise active student activism that threatens the authority of leadership at the national political and institutional level.
Since 1992, almost all the student leaders who yielded to efforts by political leaders to politicise NUGS’ activities were given positions in government to serve on governmental boards or committees, and to be appointed as ministers or deputy ministers. At the institutional level too, such student leaders enjoyed very cordial relations with the authorities of the various tertiary institutions even after school.
It must be added that the politicisation of the SRC’s, GRASAG and NUGS, particularly by politicians in recent times, also aims to ensure a sustained future and succession plan for the political parties. Indeed, most of the politicians target student leaders as potential replacements for leadership positions within their respective parties. Hence they try to catch them young, whiles they are in school by giving them recognition and sponsoring their elections to executive positions within the SRC, NUGS and GRASAG so that they can be groomed and trained for future political leadership roles in the parties. This explains why almost all the former student leaders are appointed or encouraged and sponsored to contest for various elective positions within the political parties.
In sum, politicians and school authorities strive to infiltrate the student camp in order to win student leaders’ co-operation; avoid demonstrations and other violent student activities that tend to make leaders unpopular; ensure electoral support among students; as well as to groom students to play a role in future decision-making.
Given its wide reach and nationalistic posturing as most powerful student groups in Ghana, politicians tend to capitalise on the weak financial base of these groups especially NUGS in order to bait the leaders to their camps . Student leaders in turn tend to yield to politicisation largely because of the personal benefits that accrue to them.
In accordance with the multi-level analytical perspective proposed by Clark (1978), the analysis in this chapter proceeds on two levels, namely the national (or macro-political) level and the institutional level where the political influences on students’ activities have been most pronounced.
At the national level, we examine student representation as reflected by the activities of NUGS, while at the institutional level, we focus on the activities of the various SRCs and GRASAG in their attempts to promote the representation of students’ interests. The dangers of politicising students’ affairs and the representation of student interests at the national level.
In sharp contrast to the orientation of student groups like SRC, GRASAG and NUGS as a body to promote and represent student interests, the politicisation of their activities has undermined the attainment of these ideals. The analysis of their weak power to influence decisions and always acting as public relation officers of university authorities as evidence reveals that politicians, government and school authorities have infiltrated the camps of students to the extent that student leaders are pressured to pander to the interest of ‘the powers that be’ instead of advancing the interests of students. This clearly undermines the concept of representation.
As postulated by Pitkin (1967) and Heywood (2002) for example, representatives are expected to act in a manner that promotes the interests of their constituents and not to pander to the interests of other superior bodies who do not belong to the constituency.
The strategy to ‘buy student allegiance’ has undermined SRC’s, GRASAG and NUGS’ ability to provide effective representation of student interests. According to Samuel Binfoh, the former President of NUGS,
the politicisation of GRASAG, SRC and NUGS especially has affected the student representatives’ ability to criticise the government on issues that border on student welfare. What has exacerbated the problem is that the executive members of various student administrations especially NUGS are polarised along partisan lines with each segment trying to promote a party’s interests rather than pursuing the agenda of the student body.
This development has stimulated intrastudents’ conflict and in-fighting among the executive members of GRASAG, SRC and NUGS, thereby leading to schism in the student front.
 
division and in-fighting has become so intense that they have defied any solution. It is also the reason why acrimonious exchanges between ‘opposition party student leaders’ has protracted to the detriment of holding government accountable to students. The excessive conflict among the student leaders has dissipated their energies, integrity and objectivity to initiate actions on students’ concerns. As a body representing student/youth interests, NUGS for instance serves on a variety of corporate boards, including the Ghana AIDS Commission, Ghana Education Trust Fund (GET Fund), the National Youth Council, the Student Loan Trust, Ghana Revenue Authority, National Council for Technical Education and other important decision-making organs whose activities directly affect students. By the Acts of parliament establishing these bodies, they are mandated to provide one seat for NUGS to serve on their boards.
For example, the Ghana Education Trust Fund Act, 581 of 2000, Section 6 (k) (Ministry of Education 2000), makes it mandatory for one representative of NUGS to serve on the board of the GET Fund. Moreover, NUGS is a consultative body, which is called upon by stakeholders including the government to submit input into pertinent issues that are of interest to students in the country, for example, in drafting national development programmes and policy frameworks (Constitution of NUGS 2008(a).
At these forums, the leadership of NUGS is expected to articulate the concerns that reflect their constituents’ perspectives, even if ‘they are often in the minority on these boards and hence their voices are dwarfed and torpedoed when it comes to decision-making and development planning’. It may be argued that student leaders can only debate the critical issues and receive favourable responses to them if they are seen as genuine representatives of general student interests and stay clear of partisan politics.
According to many tertiary students especially those in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and indeed all the past student leaders , some of the important concerns that have influenced Ghanaian students’ demands in recent times include:
•Congestion in the various halls of residence due to introduction of the
Biometric access control gate in Knust
• Conversion of traditional male halls like Unity and University hall into mixed sex halls.
• Absence of a formal policy on the number of years to be spent in high school
• High rate of unemployment after school especially among graduates from the tertiary institutions.
Student leaders’ presence on the boards and commissions noted above has so far not produced significant benefits for students because of the issue of conflict of interest. The student leaders have allowed their personal political interest to override the organisational mandate of the SRC, GRASAG and NUGS by posing as politicians more than as student leaders.
As George Sarpong, a former NUGS’ leader rightly observed, ‘today student leaders have metamorphosed from activist student leaders to political sycophants who pursue their parochial objectives thereby setting aside the overwhelming interests of students’. He maintained that the crop of NUGS’ leaders lack the power to bite government’s bad policies because the politicians have removed students’ sharp incisors. Indeed, the student leaders lack detachment because they have compromised their representative position. Hence, the politicians think of them as ‘small boys and girls who have nothing to offer except youthful exuberance. Even when the student representatives speak their minds on key policy issues, their views are often marginalised because ‘political leaders and authorities tend to conclude on decisions before arranging meetings with the SRC, GRASAG and NUGS. In the past, the marginalisation of students would have resulted in ‘pouring onto the streets to demonstrate against government.
However, the current SRC, GRASAG and NUGS’ leaders lack the wherewithal to attack the government because of the political benefits that the non-confrontational attitude brings to them. Obviously, posing as typical upcoming young politicians instead of student leaders dilutes the student-features expected to be typified by the SRC, GRASAG and NUGS leaders in a manner that makes nonsense of the resemblance model of representation. In the view of Heywood (2002), the resemblance model is based less on the manner in which representatives are selected than on whether they resemble or typify the group they claim to represent. In this regard, people who come from a particular group and have shared the experiences of that group can better identify with and represent the group’s interests. Taking on the colours of regular politicians dilutes the features and common attributes shared by the leadership of the SRC, GRASAG and NUGS and its student constituency.
It puts student leaders persistently at odds with the wishes of their constituents and renders student representation ineffectual. As already intimated, the SRC, GRASAG and NUGS leaders whose elections were sponsored by politicians are not willing to mobilise students against their sponsors even if student interests have been unduly undermined.
We believe that university men and women must sacrifice their time and be involved in the achievement of every noble objective. The loftier the objective,the greater the sacrifice. It is only those who are prepared for that sacrifice who deserve the fruit of success.
Respectfully yours,
Ulzen Jacobs Ulzen
[email protected]
Executive Director
KSA.
https://www.facebook.com/KnustStudentactivists/
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©2018
Source: Aibi/Hypercitigh

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