President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that the government would consult with the governing council of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for an amicable resolution of the impasse between the school and the alumni over the conversion of some halls of residence from all male to mixed.
He said the principle of academic freedom and independence of the university meant that he, through the Minister of Education, should get in touch with the university council and find out what its views on the issue were and then move on from there.
President Akufo-Addo was speaking at the Jubilee House after the executive of the alumni of the University Hall (Katanga) and Unity Hall (Conti) had presented a petition to him on the decision of the KNUST authorities to convert the two all-male halls into mixed halls.
He noted that the issue was of great concern to a lot of people in the country and commended the leadership of the alumni for taking the step to look for a responsible way out.
He assured them that he would get back to them after he had contacted the authorities.
The President subjected the leadership to a barrage of questions, ranging from what they had done and those they had written to and consulted regarding the matter.
He also asked them if they had made an attempt at the formal level to meet the university council and asked why they had not taken the decision to meet with the council.
The spokesperson for the group, Mr Charles Dontoh, explained that when the issue cropped up they approached the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Kwasi Obiri-Danso, in July this year and to their surprise the VC asked them to build a hall for the students or they should allow him to execute his plan of clearing the boys for spaces for the girls.
He said the vice-chancellor explained that the intention was to increase the female student population to 40 per cent by 2025, which they described as laudable because that would inure to the benefit of the entire nation.
However, he said the group was worried about the way it was being done.
Mr Dontoh contended that the VC had all along targeted Conti and Katanga halls because though his initial reason was to increase the female student population, he later moved into diluting the all-male halls so that “excesses, rowdyism and riots will be curtailed.”
Mr Dontoh described the VC’s alleged reason as “funny” because with the current in-out-out-out system, where only first year students enjoyed on-campus accommodation for a year and looked for hostels for the next three years, how would first year students who did not know their left from right engage in all those vices.
He alleged further that the aim of the vice-chancellor was to destroy the tradition of the all-male halls- Conti and Katanga.
Mr Dontoh said unlike KNUST, when the management of the University of Ghana, Legon, wanted to increase accommodation on campus, it invited property developers to build hostels and halls on Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.
That, he said, had culminated in a lot of accommodation on campus, with the ownership of some of the facilities reverting to the school because the BOT had reached the final cycle.
He noted, however, that all that while the KNUST authorities were increasing the student population without a corresponding accommodation facilities.
According to Mr Dontoh, the KNUST had a current student population of 45,000, while the school had just around 7,000 accommodation space and contended that even if all the girls were brought to the hall, there was going to be acute shortage of space and that getting rid of all the boys at Katanga would not solve the problem.
He said another worry was that he alleged that the main halls with 198 rooms had been cleared of all the males and given to females, the annex with 96 rooms had been given to the males and the elected students leaders were being prevented from taking rooms at the halls.
Mr Dontoh also alleged that the school authorities had resorted to the use of brute force against the male students and wondered why a police armoured vehicle was stationed at the hall as if there was instability on campus.