An incident has happened at the University of Ghana which, for me, sums up some of the challenges Ghana faces.
It may not be my place to comment on this but I do feel it illustrates some of the points that my frustrated Ghanaian friends feel strongly about.
Students at the Commonwealth Hall, well known for its traditions of rowdiness, dared to heckle the Chancellor of the university who just happens to be the famous Kofi Annan. Whether they were justified in their disruption is not the issue I wish to discuss, because there seems to be a greater issue at stake.
It appears that if you have achieved certain things in your life, studied at certain universities, worked in various companies, or have a lot of money, you become a god in the eyes of many people. A god cannot be challenged as s/he makes no mistakes. To challenge a ‘world-renowned’ professor would meet with the response “Who are you?” The assumption is that the worthless you can have no valid opinion, no right to think critically about ‘experts’ and authorities but instead you should stupidly accept everything that these gods say to you. Ghanaians have a problem with authority. They offer it too much respect.
Everyone would acknowledge that individuals make mistakes yet people are not encouraged to think critically. Our reason is the only self-correcting mechanism we have yet we are told to suspend it when confronted with the gods.
Interestingly people of the calibre of Kofi Annan are successful because they show humility. They would be the last people to want to be handled with kid gloves and to be made into gods. Annan is able to admit mistakes and is a stronger man for doing so but is not infallible. But it seems some people believe asses were made to be kissed and their mission in life is to ensure that we all know where our lips belong.
Far from bringing the university into disrepute, we can actually start to respect it because some of its students have demonstrated something the university seems incapable of teaching – the ability of independent action and thought.
The student’s action was not the most intelligent – merely typical student behaviour common the world over. Yet they showed a healthy disrespect for authority and have taught us that each one of us is worthy of expressing our opinion and that the gods should and must be challenged.