Student politics or the process of selecting student leaders at the tertiary level has not always been as it is now. This is because we are all subjected to change at some point in time and that includes institutions.
However, not everything must change. Things like missions and visions don’t always change though strategies and leaders may change. It is however very saddening that the SRC, its leaders and how they are elected has become a story of there is a position to be filled so let’s choose our friends.
Simply put, the SRC has become rather irrelevant to students in general. Student leaders also have failed students countless times that most students prefer to deal with their problems in their own. Has the SRC lost its mission? What about its vision? How do students benefit from going to the polls?
Student politics or student leadership? It’s interesting how students have allowed our once strong ties of unity against bad policies which didn’t favour us disappear. Our leaders have often resorted to selling us to various political parties even before they come to power or should I say come to serve our needs.
Has the SRC leadership become an unnecessary norm?
I’ve always asked how the SRC has benefited me since I came to the university. My answer? In no way have they directly helped me. One of the movements I’ve benefited greatly from is the #FeesMustFall movement and yet this was never initiated by the SRC but by three students from commonwealth hall.
One of the chief purposes of the SRC is to collate the opinions and needs of students for national decisions and policy. Also, they are to make sure students are given a voice to the running of certain aspects of the University. But come to think of it, what do they actually do for students? Do they rather run at the throw of the hat when they are given commands by their political fathers or sit back and take the extra effort to fight for what really benefits students? Do we simply elect for the sake of it? Is that why voter turnout is running low by the years?
How petty do we want to make student politics?
Sometimes I ask myself why the kind of politics we do at the university level are so petty!
I’ve tried to find out how my friends make their choices and they’re answers most often leave me with a shock. Do we vote for people because they’re our friend or they are in the department with us or they’re in the same church with us or we want people who can stand for us when we need them?
I once asked a friend why she wanted to vote for one aspirant and she said he is in my hall and we go to the same church. I mean what happened to voting for competence and feasible policies? What happened to the logic of voting for people who have the capabilities to make the student front better as well as listen to them and solve the problems he/she can? There was a research by a lecturer at the Political Science department of the University of Ghana which revealed that though party ideologies are very important to the course the party takes in any situation, most youths unlike before don’t consider much of that before voting or rallying behind any party.
This is something I’ve always believed even though I didn’t have any proof of it. Most of us simply vote for a party because our parents support that party or some other reason which isn’t logical. I wonder how many of us use the critical thinking that we are taught in level 100.
The case of UG: down memory lane, cost of student elections and the malicious covert manoeuvres
It is no secret that national political parties sponsor student politics. This is a huge problem to the unity front of students. I see it as buying the top executives of students.
Yet people who parade themselves as friends to students sometimes openly but mostly secretly become partisan knowing very well the implications of being partisan. One big problem is when the government makes a policy which doesn’t favour students, how does such an SRC fight for the students when these same people probably sponsored their campaign.
When I look at the insane expenditure made by aspirants, I think to myself “If you use this money to do something for students directly, it would be far more beneficial to students than spending it in the name of elections meanwhile you may come to power and most likely to do nothing”.
I understand the exposure and etc. being an executive gives but the cost at which it comes is my concern. National political party campaign funding is already an issue and it drives a lot of corrupt activities. Students who know this don’t learn from it but are towing the same lanes. It’s really a sad story for me.
Breaking down the expenditure, most of the costs are not very necessary, they aren’t yet that’s the loophole political parties use to influence decisions at the student level. Most of us will speak of national politics scornfully and one to be considered as dirty. Isn’t that what the SRC and most student elections have become or are becoming? The power as always in a democracy lies in you and me.
Can the general populace change the story? What must be done?
I’ve spoken of so many problems and no solution. For most of these problems, I think we have the power as we have always done. We have the power to select our leaders and we have the power to remove them. We have the power to make demands from our leaders whether they agree or not so far as it’s a majority decision. Some decisions can be preceded by surveys but those hardly happen, why? Most people only do surveys and petitions when running for elections.
The decision for change must start now. It must start from this coming SRC elections and it must continue. We must make our choices based on critical examination of each candidate and their value proposition. What do students stand to gain when they’re elected? How likely are they to implement their numerous policies and how can I help to implement those policies? The decision lies within us to make the SRC relevant to students once again. It lies in your vote. It lies in you signing or starting petitions for decisions to be made. Most students vote but it is alarming the number which doesn’t vote. I believe the SRC is still relevant and there’s much work to be done.
Democracy as famously defined by Abraham Lincoln is “Government of the people, for the people and by the people”. This definition mentions people more than any other word in it. This expresses the power of the people. You and I are the people, and we have the power. Leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum but in a multitude of people.
Written by Enoch W. Kabange
The University of Ghana.
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