Opinions Mon, 4 Apr 2011

NUGS and SRC Student Leadership

; Exploitation or Service to the Community

Banners flying, billboards rising, leaflets winging, floors dotted, walls decorated and everybody is marvelled at the awesome sight; students are competing for leadership positions. That is how far politics has come in our schools.

Student leadership everywhere symbolises a united community with a common purpose and attests to the fact that we only stand united and fall divided. It is the most formidable platform, in my opinion, for the grooming of future leaders for the nation and the world.

Unfortunately, student leadership in our institutions, including the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) and the Student Representative Councils (SRCs), has of late, been subjected to, absconding, exploitation and violence. This is evident in the level of incongruities among student leaders themselves. The latest are the tangling litigations and constitutional gymnastics that have drawn off the needed attention of our leaders on the concerns of the ordinary Ghanaian student. The adverse consequence of these on-going incidents is the perception, that student leadership is an incoherent force and not a frontage that we can rely upon for the sustenance of our hopes or for the achievement of our goals. This is also evident in the lack of adequate participation and response to initiatives that are being staged by student leaders. Students themselves are simply not more interested in the repeated lies and hollow promises that have been heard time and time and again. They also now believe that their colleague leaders only seek their votes to gain access to their dues and exploit the available opportunities for their personal gains.

When aspirants storm classrooms, excuse lecturers and seek votes, knock on doors and disturb naps, splodge walls and floors with posters and paint – what more could be exploitation, started even before the award of mandate? When student leaders never update their fellow students on any developments, never publish any minutes of meetings, never present statement of accounts, increase fees and inflate budgets, even before they become certified budget planners – what more could be exploitation?

The treacherous part of this latest turn of events is the rumour that student leaders of our time come into power through monetary sponsorships from political parties. Believing these allegations is the easiest thing to do, since we all know that political parties would not miss such opportunities of getting “their favourites” into the student front. At least, we also know that political parties would like to have the student front dancing to the tune of their voices. Political parties would also like to have promising leaders of our time in their domain, to insure the future of the party. So when aspiring student leaders begin to spend extravagantly on campaigning, eye brows rise.

Preventing up-and-coming student leaders from being sponsored by political parties may not be the thing to do, since we cannot stop political parties from pursuing their own agenda. What if a political party decided to surreptitiously sponsor each candidate so that whoever wins may still be in the mesh of manipulation?

Nevertheless, preventing them from becoming political boot-lickers and from being tied to the apron strings of those political parties should be the headache of students who are led. At the end, if a political party genuinely sponsors a promising leader, who did not just occupy a position but got the work done; was not just led but led and did not just invest in the campaigning because of the monetary gains but because of the leadership experience, we would be better off. It is our collective responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and support them to offer the best of services to our community. To ensure this, aspiring leaders must be scrutinized by us with well disciplined processes and properly documented functions laid down as guiding principles.

Effective Student leadership should go beyond simple representation at the authority level to championing causes and improving the educational objectives of students. Aspiring student leaders should be able to define leadership for themselves with a good understanding of the roles and functions of a leader. They should also be able to formulate and present achievable goals, whip up enthusiasm among others, endow them with trust and responsibility, incorporate criticisms and divergent views and forecast a challenging future for others to appreciate.

The functions above would require no other aspirant than one who is willing to learn and opened to change, accepts responsibility and upholds honesty as a virtue. One whose intrepidity and ability to shove out of intimidation can be trusted; whose leadership experience and not just academic laurel is significant, whose problem solving strategies and not extravagant campaigning is marvelling, whose knowledge about student needs and not popularity is appreciable; above all, whose fear of God and not "respect" for ruling political party is phenomenal.

John Taden

Columnist: Taden, John