KNUST Riots: Scrap ‘Needless’ Mixed Hall Policy – Okudzeto Ablakwa
Former Deputy Minister of Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has called on the authorities of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to immediately reverse the conversion of the school’s single-sex halls to mixed ones.
According to him, the conceptualisation and implementation “have been very faulty” because there were “signs of resistance”, yet the management of the university failed to engage all the relevant stakeholders before introducing the policy.
“This policy needs to be suspended, clearly, it is unpopular, it has not been implemented well”.
Mr. Ablakwa, who was speaking on Asempa FM Tuesday, 23 October 2018, was of the view that the policy might have been the remote cause of the recent violent demonstration by the students, which resulted in the destruction of 30 cars and 10 motorbikes.
Students and alumni of Katanga and Unity halls had resisted the conversion policy fiercely to the extent that they filed a lawsuit against it, but the management of the university went ahead to admit females in the two halls after the court throw out an injunction application pending the determination of the substantive case.
The management of the university also issued a directive that there will no longer be vigils and gatherings to sing ‘jama’ songs which are traditionally held in Katanga and Conti halls, known as ‘morale’.
The final trigger for the demonstration was the arrest and manhandling of 10 students and one alumnus on Friday by the school’s internal security. They were later released.
Mr. Ablakwa said the conversion policy is not critical to teaching and learning in the university.
He finds no problem with having single-sex halls and pointed out that what the management of the university should have done was to introduce a policy of infrastructure expansion to accommodate more students on campus.
“You heard the student leaders, they were very vociferous, and in university management, you need your student leaders, you need the student body, you need the alumni, these are key stakeholders.
“In all sincerity, I think that the Professor Obiri-Danso-led team could have done a better job in terms of conceptualising this whole policy,” he added.
He said the conversion of Africa Hall, an all-female hall into a mixed one, too, defeats the reasoning behind the policy, which the management had always argued was meant for the accommodation of more female students.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu Constituency further blamed some government officials for fueling the situation by endorsing the unpopular policy.
“The government cannot be absolved because the Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Yankah, went to the university [and endorsed it]”.
Mr. Ablakwa, however, condemned the violence and destruction of property by the students during the protest.
“We all have to be bold to say that our younger brothers and sisters should have been controlled and they should not have taken that option. Violence should never be an option,” he stressed.