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General News Sun, 20 Jul 2008

Legon In Turmoil

Some former students of the University of Ghana, Legon, led by the former President of the Junior Common Room (JCR) of the Commonwealth Hall, Benjamin Akyena Brantuo has called for the removal of the university’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe, on multiple allegations of incompetence. They alleged among other things that the University of Ghana is currently not only bedevilled with deep-seated corruption but also bedevilled with financial mal-administration that does not only sin against the public good, but stifles academic work.

Speaking at a Press Conference in Accra yesterday, Akyena Brantuo, who was last Friday, July 11, discharged by an Accra Circuit for want of prosecution on allegations of death threats, alleged that University was being ran in a manner he described as dictatorial and reckless, equating how Prof. Tagoe was running the University to mere Boy’s Brigade.

This, he said, was evident in a report commissioned by a Visitation Panel on the finances of the University, which according to him “is at best a disgrace to anybody who has anything to do with the Institution.” Flanked by Messrs Ebenezer Hutornu and Akuban Amponsah Mensah, all products of the University, Akyena Brantuo quoted portions of the said Report of the Panel which was chaired by Sir Charles Daniels, to support his claims. Part of the Report noted, “The investigation uncovered little positive to be said about the finance administrative system of the University. The team’s (visitation Panel) view is that the financial administrative system at the University of Ghana is in a very bad state and is not providing anything approaching the services needed by the University, which needs radical change.

Again, the financial administration of the University is a serious hindrance to the work of many of the Departments, Faculties and other units of the University, damaging its teaching, research and the students’ experience, through inappropriate procedures and controls. It is widely seen as secretive, unhelpful and damaging to the University”. Despite the outward beautification of the Legon campus, he emphasised that conditions within Residential Halls threaten life. He noted that non-Residents as well as Residents pay Hall attachment fees which are increased annually, whilst Residential students pay residential fees as well as advances against anticipated damage to University property, in the sum of about GH¢30 per student.

Though students pay these monies religiously, he stressed that “they always get a raw deal and live in conditions that are not fit for human habitation.” For these and other reasons, Akyena Brantuo said he was not the least surprised that part of the Panel Report read, “Some members of the committee visited Commonwealth Hall and found it to be in a very poor state .Student numbers were about four times the number that the Hall was designed to accommodate. Hygienic conditions were bad, indeed the toilets were locked up during our visit because of their horrible state and lack of water.

All the students in this overcrowded Hall have to use the surrounding bushes as their toilet. Every available space was utilised for sleeping. These conditions were impacting the students psychologically and some of them were vociferous in their protest. Lighting in the Hall was inadequate and lights in the corridors were not working. The Dining facility had been converted to reading space. The Panel was told that the other Halls were in a similar shape. The Committee therefore recommended that “the Halls, particularly Commonwealth Hall, should be evacuated and rehabilitated”.

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The report further noted, “students are not well represented on the governance of the University…they are not satisfied with the Constitutional role of the Dean of students, and wish to represent themselves in discussions with the University authorities...’ We recommend ‘that the university introduces students’ representation on the council, the academic board, the faculty boards and committees of these bodies as appropriate.” To say the least, Brantuo noted that “academic content and infrastructure for academic work are the worse victims of these administrative lapses and incompetence of the Tagoe-led administration.”

He buttressed his claim in part of the visitation Panel’s Report which said, “The Panel found during its visits to the Departments and Faculties that there was inadequate classroom and laboratory space for the large number of students. Several Departments complained of decaying lecture halls and teaching facilities and particularly of overcrowding. Faculty members wanted urgent steps to be taken to rehabilitate their facilities...lack of facilities for effective teaching, especially audio-visual aids and public address systems.”

The introduction of the much talked-about ‘in-out-out-out’ Residential policy by the Tagoe-led administration as the panacea to the challenges posed by inadequate accommodation, according to Benjamin Akyena Brantuo, was one which surprised all progressive thinkers, because of the short sightedness of the proposal and the exposure of administrative incompetence in dealing with the challenges of inadequate accommodation and other related issues pose to education. He emphasised that “the level of public support and the massive crowd that demonstrated against the policy amidst police brutalities, clearly indicates what should be expected in the coming days.”

Though the thousands of students who marched to the Vice-Chancellors office and the Castle cross roads, really shook the foundations of the Country, he however, noted that it was the threat to boycott the Semester’s exams that got the University to wake up to the real challenges. That notwithstanding, the former JCR President of Commonwealth Hall said the massive public outcry and rejection of the ‘in-out-out-out’ Residential policy waned and focus on the debate for appropriate accommodation got shifted when Prof Tagoe told the press that he and his Lecturers have been threatened with death.

In what he described as Prof Tagoe’s quest to gag students and impose his will on everybody, Akyena Brantuo noted that “he had prohibited all forms of student gatherings except those of them for which he approves of the agenda. As if that was not enough, his introduction of ‘in-out-out-out’ Residential policy has reduced the campus to only freshmen and women, who know too little to question the system, and a few final year students who are very busy with their academic projects and perhaps are too scared to be in the bad books of the Vice-Chancellor.”

“Students live in fear on the University of Ghana campus and student leaders dare not talk, or they risk their positions in the University. My predicament serves as a great lesson to them”, he stressed. He thus noted that his subsequent planned arrest and detention effectively alleviated the anxieties and worries of Prof. Tagoe, resulting from student’s protestations against his policies, stressing that “my arrest was also a form of vengeance for being his long standing critic and was done in order to greatly embarrass me and deny me the opportunity to complete my University education.” Meanwhile, strenous efforts to get Prof. Nii Boi Tagoe’s input into the story proved futile as his ‘Onetouch’ mobile network was said to have been switched off. There was also no answer to similar calls put to the University’s land lines for possible comments from the Director of Public Affairs.

Source: The Chronicle
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