I am most grateful, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to this Statement.
I would want to commend the Hon Member who made the Statement, especially for his approach in staying in the middle and refusing to take sides, in commiserating with the students who became victims of the unrest and the policemen who were injured in the attempt to enforce law and order.
Mr Speaker, I intend to adopt that same approach. In these matters, it is important to allow for investigations to be carried out fully. The outcome of the investigations will then let us know who was at fault and what we must do to apply sanctions to those who may have to face them, and also how can we ensure that this does not recur?
Mr Speaker, I would want to speak to the preventive mechanism that can be adopted. I do know that in the 1980s and early 1990s, there were numerous incidents of this nature. That is what led to the formation of the regional students representative councils, which persons like Mr Gayheart Mensah spearheaded at the time.
He was a student activist at Achimota School at the time. The motto of the Students Representative Council (SRC) as was fashioned out was “Emancipation of Students through Dialogue and a Philosophy of non-violence.”
So, it was the students' own attempt to create avenues for dialogue and to ensure that students are able to seek redress using peaceful mechanisms that can forestall violence, so that whatever the issues are, they can be resolved in good time, so that it does not escalate to what happened at the KTI.
Mr Speaker, I believe that the SRC experiment has helped. I am a product of that experiment. I was Trustee of the Greater Accra Students' Representative Council, and I know that some Hon Members in this House have also served on these SRCs. But unfortunately, at that level, we could not have a national consensus -- we could not have a national SRC, so, the experiment worked in only a few regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti and Eastern. But even now, I do know that the SRCs are quite challenged.
Mr Speaker, at that level, the authorities prefer to utilise the prefectorial councils and to aid them. The SRCs are seen as bodies that are a bit antagonistic, which would want to rival the prefectorial councils. Then it leads to a situation where the impression is created that the SRCs are for students and the prefectorial councils represent the authorities.
Mr Speaker, the point I am trying to make substantively is we should encourage mechanisms that allow for student grievances to be brought to the fore in good time through organised structures. Authorities should also be more responsive. Naturally, when people feel that they are not being heard, that they do not have a voice, then they turn to some of these means which are not democratic, not peaceful, and disturb the peace of a country.
Mr Speaker, I believe that we are reminded by this Statement and by this occurrence that we need to work with school managements to take a second look at the responsive mechanisms that they have within their administrative responsibilities.
Also, they should try to give the students a voice. They should recognise the SRCs and the prefectorial councils. They should find ways of allowing whatever concerns and grievances they have to be brought to the fore so that they could respond to it very quickly.
Mr Speaker, I would want to commend the Hon Minister for Education, Hon Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who acted swiftly. I followed this matter closely and I know that as soon as it happened, the Hon Minister took a flight the next day and visited the school. He engaged with students and authorities of that institute and he has promised full-scale investigations. We are all awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
Mr Speaker, I believe the approach that has been adopted this morning by the Hon Member of Parliament for the area, in wanting to stay in the middle is the right one.
We must all, however, say “no” to violence no matter what the issues or grievances are. Things should not have deteriorated as they did. We should never encourage violent ways of resolving concerns no matter what the grievances are.
Mr Speaker, so, we all await the outcome of the investigations. We hope that those carrying out the investigations would be fair and they would do a good job. I also hope that they would make recommendations that can help us forestall these incidents. They are becoming quite a number. We do know that there have been some secondary schools that have witnessed these in recent times. We all have to be concerned about that.
Mr Speaker, the students are supposed to learn in an environment which is conducive for studies and will also engender unity and togetherness. We should not, as it were, have situations where students are sent to school and what we hear is that they are engaged in all kinds of untoward acts.
So we would also want to see some more leadership from the unions. We would want to see some more leadership also from the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) and other like-minded organisations so that we see how they could be more responsible working together with the various student unions at that level. I believe that an amicable solution could be found towards a long-term resolution of these matters.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity.