Student unions in tertiary institutions have been cautioned to desist from engaging in political activities that could foment trouble and destabilise the peace of the country ahead of the November elections.
The Deputy Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who gave the advice last Friday, urged the unions not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to accomplish their political agenda in this election year.
He reminded them that the unions represented the collective interest of students from all sorts of backgrounds mandated to address their concern but not to be used as puppets of some political groups.
“In an election year, student unions have the responsibility to contribute meaningfully to the peace of the country by conducting themselves in a manner that will not heighten political tensions or undermine the peace of the country,” he stressed.
Mr. Ablakwa cautioned when he addressed executives of student unions at the third annual meeting of students’ leaders in Accra.
The event brought together the student leadership from the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), Ghana National Union of Polytechnics (GNUPS), Teacher Trainees Association of Ghana (TTAG) and Private Universities Students Association of Ghana (PUSAG).
Others included University Students’ Association of Ghana (USAG), All Africa Students Unions (AASU), Ghana Union of Professional Students (GUPS), National Health Students Association of Ghana (NAHSAG) and Graduates Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG) as well as representatives from various Students’ Representative Council (SRC) in tertiary institutions.
According to Mr. Ablakwa, the unions were supposed to remain a non-partisan movement with well-structured activities geared towards promoting the welfare of students while ensuring healthy public discourse through their activities.
He explained that the engagement between the ministry and tertiary institutions through the annual meeting with students’ leaders as well as the ministry’s youth programme dubbed “Campus Connect” was aimed towards building a stronger relationship.
Mr. Ablakwa rejected claims by some section of politicians that the two programmes was targeted at canvassing votes in tertiary institutions for the National Democratic Party.
“As a deputy minister for tertiary education, I recognised the need to interact regularly with tertiary students to help address some concerns that would be made known during these interactions,” he said.
He noted that such interactions had gone a long way to inform policy formulation and annual programmes of the ministry designed to enhance tertiary education in the country.
Mr. Ablakwa said, it was therefore ironical for any person to conclude that the two programmes were political without considering their enormous contributions to the growth of education in the country.
“During our meetings, we do not invite any politician from the NDC to speak to students neither do we talk about political issues. In fact, we always come along with intellectuals, technocrats and the media to capture all activities for public awareness. Nothing is done in secret,” he explained.
Mr. Ablakwa further admonished the students to consider the two programmes as thoughtful programmes designed by the ministry to promote the interest of students rather than anything partisan.
The President of NUGS, Michael Paa Kwesi Adu commended the ministry for creating the enabling environment to interact with student bodies in the quest to address their concerns and strengthen relationship.
He suggested to the ministry to come out with a broader policy and interventions to address graduate unemployment, create a proper link between tertiary education and industries.
He urged the ministry to tackle high tuition fees in tertiary institutions particularly in private institutions.
By Charles Amankwa