University of Ghana students embark on street protests against cost of education
University of Ghana students embark on street protests against cost of education

More committees, more student protests

Student protest is nothing new to our educational institutions. It can range from passive, non-violent and institutionalised acts to active, violent and undesirable behaviours.

Long periods of frustration, the discontent with the management style of the school, the obnoxious government policies, the molestation of junior students by seniors, assaults, and a host of other reasons have all led to student protests.

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Some protests may be expressed through walkouts, sit-downs and placards, while others may be violent, leading to flagrant violation of the human rights of protesters.

Rights

The right to free expression and the freedom to assembly are guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution. Therefore, the students have the right to protest.

In exercising these rights, however, they have a responsibility to act in a manner devoid of violence. The protests that lead to serious injuries, the burning of vehicles and school buildings, roadblocks, and even deaths should be condemned by all.

Concern

A number of student protests have recently taken place, particularly at the second-cycle institutions in the nation, which must be of considerable concern to everyone. Ashanti Krobea Technical and Vocational High School is the latest in a string of student riots.

Some of the stated causes of the disturbance are pathetically unfounded: the seizing of mobile phones by the school authorities, the disapproval of food served in the dining hall, the strict invigilation, the prevention of exam fraud, the poor performance of the predecessors and many others leave a lot to be desired. Among the effects include injuries, the suspension of academic work, and the destruction of motorbikes, school buses, air conditioners and vehicle windscreens.

It is rather disheartening to see that despite the government investing much in infrastructural facilities for schools to create an enabling environment for teaching and learning, student riots nonetheless place a significant financial strain on the public purse.

Last year alone, more than 10 student riots were recorded, and properties worth millions of Ghana cedis were destroyed. So far, two cases of student unrests have been recorded since the beginning of this year. These riots come at a huge cost to taxpayers and the economy

More committees

As expected, a committee has been set up to look into the Ashanti Krobea Technical and Vocational High School disturbance.

Unfortunately, most of the recommendations made by these committees to ascertain the root causes of student riots are not put into action. That could perhaps explain why there are student riots taking place in second-cycle institutions.

Effective control measures of student riots include: the use of dialogue and counselling, the training of school administrators in conflict, prevention, management and resolution, the establishment of peace clubs/committees, the introduction of peace education into the school curriculum, and the cordial and mutual relationship between students and administrators.

Important pillar

Above all else, peace education is the most effective strategy for containing student riots in schools. The government and all other stakeholders in education must see peace education as an important pillar in bringing about constructive social change and thus work to incorporate it into the school curriculum due to its many positive effects on society. These include:

• To promote behaviour and attitudinal change. For example, peace education programmes for students can promote the individual behaviour change necessary for responsible citizenship and the systemic change necessary for a safe learning environment.

• To equip students with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to resolve their disputes amicably and without resorting to violence.

• To inoculate students against the evil effects of violence by teaching skills to manage conflicts non-violently and by creating a desire to seek peaceful resolutions of conflicts.

• To help students acquire skills for nonviolent conflict resolution and to reinforce these skills for active and responsible action in the society for the promotion of the values of peace.

In the end, students can gain knowledge and skills that encourage personal growth and development, contribute to self-esteem, tolerance and respect of others, and develop competence for a non-violent approach to future conflict situations including riots and demonstrations.

The writer is a journalist/peace practitioner. E-mail: [email protected]

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