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We should nip students’ unrest in the bud

BY: Daily Graphic

Students’ unrest, riots or demonstrations have hit many second-cycle and tertiary institutions over the years and they have left the affected institutions the poorer.

Yet we seem not to have the antidote to stop them from recurring, as they keep happening to disrupt academic activities every year.

Last year alone about three of such riots occurred, with the first at the Gyaama Pensan Senior High Technical School in the Kwabre District in the Ashanti Region in January, during which four students were injured and hospitalised.

The students’ reason for embarking on the demonstration was that the headmaster had prevented them from participating in extracurricular activities such as an inter-school sports competition, quizzes and entertainment.

Another riot happened at the Nkwanta SHS in the Volta Region on October 31, with students going on rampage after some teachers had seized their mobile phones during a roll call in some of the dormitories.

Perhaps the students’ unrest which caught the world’s attention was that which occurred on the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) on October 22, 2018 which led to its shutdown.

The rampaging students, who destroyed a lot of school properties, said they were incensed because the university’s management was high-handed in its decisions about students.

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In all the mayhem that broke out in the schools, it was clear that the management and student body who were supposed to co-habit did not see eye to eye, let alone jaw-jaw to avert such disturbances.

The Daily Graphic, however, believes that making available and leaving open avenues for dialogue will always avert clashes between students and lecturers or school management.

While lauding the Chancellor of KNUST, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, for stepping in when he did to ensure that the university was reopened for academic work and subsequently setting up a committee to probe the disturbances last year, we pray that such riots are not allowed to happen again.

Indeed, as the Asantehene rightly said, it is acts and statutes that govern universities, which were established to run on regulations to make the academic space tolerable for all and that order must be kept and rules followed to allow students have the freedom to operate without intimidation.

The outcome of the 20th Annual Residential Congress held by the leadership of the Ashanti Regional Students Representative Council at the Tepa SHS from July 30 to August 4, 2017 on the causes of students’ unrest at the SHS level may well hold sway for tertiary students.

We agree with student leaders that the lack of effective communication between school administration and students, weak SRCs, student leadership and security systems in schools, the lack of engagement between school administration and students, among others, may account for the riots.

The Daily Graphic believes that as the leaders suggested, “proper engagement between student leaders and authorities, strengthening of the local SRCs, recognition for the rights of students, proper intelligence and security structures and friendly all-welcoming leadership styles are some of the measures that can curb students’ unrest in schools”.

In addition, we urge the management of our educational institutions to see students as equal partners and not look down on them as children who do not have anything to bring to the table.

If that is first established, any discontent can be dealt with before it escalates into violence.