Engage students in decision making

BY: dailly graphic
Matthew Opoku Prempeh
Matthew Opoku Prempeh

The advice by the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the University of Ghana (UG) to lecturers and the university authorities to find innovative ways of engaging students to ensure a healthy relationship with the student body is one that the Daily Graphic wants to describe as apt.

Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu was speaking after he had visited the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and come face to face with the destruction that had taken place during the demonstration by students of KNUST.
For us at the Daily Graphic, we do not think the admonition by the VC goes to the University of Ghana authorities alone but all lecturers and administrators of educational institutions in the country.

As a society we should not lose sight of the fact that the right to freedom of expression and be heard is an inalienable and natural one which, when denied, can result in unimaginable consequences.

We are not oblivious to the accounts and lived experiences of young people regarding their world which can contribute significantly to new knowledge and enhance decisions that affect their livelihood.

Involving young people especially in decision making is more than just asking them for their ideas and views.

It is also about listening to them and turning their ideas and suggestions into reality.

In the decision-making process, young people and even children should be provided with the ability to influence the things that affect them, to a large extent.

At the same time, adults should try and understand children’s issues through the lenses of children and not through those of adults.

We think this is what has often created a wedge between adults and young people or children as far as the implementation of decisions is concerned, which has resulted in needless tension and strong disagreements.
We are aware of many instances when adults have sought to impose their ideal on the young.

This is not surprising, as, in many societies, the child is supposed to be seen but not heard.

But we seek to differ on this, as the world has changed from being a paternalistic society to one that accommodates all shades of opinion.

Our stand is underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that the views of children and young people should be considered in any decision that is likely to affect their well-being.
Perhaps if we had acted earlier, matters would not have got to this level.

A couple of months ago, the students of the KNUST and sympathisers to their cause had extended their procession to the principal streets of Accra, the capital, and presented petitions to the authorities.

We think if action had been timely, we would not have gone this unfortunate path.

The Daily Graphic reminds all that both children and young people have the right to be heard as adults do.

Again, we should all be reminded that a shared decision-making leads to improved outcomes, as stakeholders are willing to collectively own the result, together with its effects of implementation.

As we add our voice to that of Professor Owusu and entreat the lecturers of our universities to treat students with respect, we enjoin students to use internal mechanisms to address grievances.

Let this be our guide as a society, so that we can take decisions that are acceptable to all to forestall such nasty reactions from those who feel isolated because they think they are perceived to be weak, vulnerable or in the minority.