Govt opposed to retaining old KNUST Council members (VIDEO)

BY: Dominic Moses Awiah & Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor
Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah
Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah

The government says it does not expect any member of the old University Council of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to be part of the new council in its bid to resolve the crisis that led to the closing down of the university.

According to the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the members of the old University Council were part of the impasse, adding: “Just as the actions of the students, the student leaders and the school management will be the subject of full investigations when the university is reopened, so will the actions and inaction of the old council be the subject of those investigations.”

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Speaking at a press conference in Accra yesterday, Mr Nkrumah said specific persons who constituted that council “cannot preside over the matters in which their own decisions and conduct will be the subject of investigations”.

“It is in this spirit that the government and some other groups have already indicated new nominees,” he said.

Although the Conference of Heads of Assisted Schools (CHASS) and National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) are said to have changed their representatives on the University Council, the KNUST branches of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) are said to have resolved to maintain their representatives on the council.


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KNUST

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On October 22, this year, there was an outbreak of violence and destruction of properties of 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 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.

A committee is expected to be constituted by the university to look into the matter and determine the way forward.

Already, the university authorities have begun the process of replacing some of the destroyed items to facilitate work to enable the university to reopen on time.

Government’s stand

With regard to representatives of the constituents of the council, Mr Nkrumah said the KNUST Act required representatives from groups but the law did not ask for specific individuals and that the government was not interested in deciding which specific individuals should be nominated.

“The principle of specific persons who will end up becoming judges in their own court is what the government disagrees with. It is precisely to resolve this disagreement that the chancellor is taking leadership in engaging with all nominating groups,” he said.

Although the government set up an interim council to manage the university for three months, Mr Nkrumah said, subsequent assessment revealed that the interim council could hand over the management of the university and all emergency measures to a new council earlier than expected “if the membership of the new council is agreed upon and the body is inaugurated as soon as possible”.

“The government has indicated its new members for the KNUST Council. It is our understanding that two other groups (the Conference of Heads of Assisted Schools and the National Council for Tertiary Education) have also done so,” he said.

Mr Nkrumah said it was the expectation of the government that once the Office of the Chancellor received the full complement of names, the office would refer them to the President, who is the appointing authority, for the next step.

“The next steps involve the approval of the Council of State and the final inauguration by the appointing authority,” he said.

UTAG

Meanwhile, the Vice-President of the KNUST branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Dr Charles Marfo, has said the association will not change its representative on the University Council.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Kumasi yesterday, Dr Marfo said the association made it clear to the government that it was not going to change its representative on the council at a meeting with the government last Friday.

He advised the government to stay away from the affairs of UTAG, saying that the suggestion by the government to UTAG and other unions on the University Council to change their representatives was an affront to academic freedom.

“We have sent our list already and are not going to change it,” he stated, adding: “We are hoping that by tomorrow (Tuesday) the new council will be inaugurated for the university to reopen for students to come back.”

TEWU

The Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) of KNUST expressed a similar position, saying it would not kowtow to any pressure from the government to have their members on the council changed.

The Chairman of the KNUST branch of TEWU, Mr Charles Arthur, said: “Much as we cannot dictate to the government on what to do, we expect the government not to dictate to us.

“Besides, our members have a mandate and until that mandate expires, we cannot remove them from office and so we expected the government to respect the decision of the unions.”