University of Ghana says it is disappointed at students’ demonstration over recent increases in its residential fees, saying that its doors are still open for dialogue and negotiation.
The Director of Public Affairs of the university, Mrs Stella A. Amoa told the Daily Graphic in Accra today that negotiations were never off the table and that such public displays of unrest were unnecessary.
Students took to the streets at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle on Wednesday in response to increases in various residential costs, including security, sanitation and health care fees. The event was organized by the Executive Council of the Students Representative Council (SRC), the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), the University Students Association of Ghana (USAG) and the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG).
The cost hikes, which come into effect in the next academic year, are nothing if not controversial, but Mrs Amoa still believes that students acted rashly.
Mrs Amoa said that university management had made clear that “the door for dialogue was still open, and demonstrations should really be seen as a last resort.”
The protests, Mrs Amoa emphasised, came after numerous concessions from management in an effort to ease the financial burden on students.
Residential fees, earlier slated to run at $GH 450 per student, were lowered to $GH 400 at the request of student representatives on the residents board.
Further, attendees of the university are now allowed to split their tuition payments at 50 percent per semester.
“That is some concession which is supposed to provide that relief,” Mrs Amoa said. “To give relief to students.”
Yet for members of the SRC, it was not enough. Demonstrators were, particularly, unhappy with the current health care levy of $GH 47 per student, which they claimed to be much higher than the National Health Insurance Scheme premium. Other fees, which go into building renovations and new sanitary measures, have also stirred anger.
For Mrs Amoa and other members of University management, it comes down to a choice between cost and the safety and comfort of students.
“You visit the halls, you find a lot of renovation going on,” Mrs Amoa said. “All in the bid to make the residences very comfortable so they live in a healthy and sanitised environment.”
Mrs Amoa also noted that the situation is no different in other Ghanaian public universities, such as the University of Cape Coast and KNUST.
“Unfortunately, the spotlight is on us,” she said.
For now, the two sides remain divided, but Mrs Amoa stressed that students are always welcome back to the bargaining table.
“The door has never been closed,” she said. “So if they feel that they still want to come back, I’m sure management would still want to meet, and look at all these things.
“I think that commitment is still there from management.”
By Patrick Malee- Daily Graphic