My GHC 8,000.00 (plus some) Education

Hi folks! This is the 3rd post in the UEW trials series.

The Course Rep

One day, the course representative told the class that the reason we had been able to view our exam results through the students’ portal midway into the second session was because he had followed up on them. It sounded weird, at least to me. And well, it was weird. Listen to what the course rep said.

He went to the office and asked about our results. According to him, they results had been “lying there”. And all that was needed was for one person to do his job. And the impetus that one person needed was to receive a phone call from our course rep and viola, our results were suddenly accessible.

This got me thinking, especially because the course rep, immediately after informing us of this “inside gist” told us that was why we needed to pay the class administrative charges. You might wonder what these administrative charges are or mean. Simply, they are a “self-imposed” charge that the course rep together with some key decision makers in the class, had agreed on to be paid by each member of the class. The issue of administrative charges opens up a Pandora’s box that I will delve into later.

Back to what got me thinking. The course rep said that the next thing he was going to work on was our identity cards. Apparently, all other second year students had theirs. So he (the course rep) made a sanctimonious statement which I paraphrase: “I don’t spend a single pesewa of the administrative charges on myself. It’s for my running around expenses so that I can get things done for you. If you haven’t paid up, don’t expect me to hand you your ID card. Besides, for the Republic Day games on July 1, we would be supplying water and other things (only God knows what other things) for our teams”.

Now, this statement is wrong on many levels. But you can depend on students who don’t know their rights to begin to cower at the least show of power and give in to an absurd statement without any thought.

First, why should examination results be available to students a year after exams were written, almost halfway into the final session of their studies? Second, why should examination results be accessible to students only after a “lowly” course rep goes to inquire after them, especially when lecturers had assured us that they’d sent in the results long time ago? If I were to indulge in rumour here, you would hear of fantastic but probable reasons why the examination results are not released to students even though lecturers had keyed them into the “system”. And finally, why should a course rep have the audacity to threaten withholding a student’s ID card if that student has not paid an administrative charge of GHC 5.00? Now, when the ID cards did arrive- on 16 July, 2015 to be exact, just before the final session exams begun and more than a year after we were admitted- we went to the Dean’s office to get them. There was no nonsense about going through a course rep.

Pay Up!

And now, what is this administrative charge and why was it being demanded?

Picture this: you are sitting in a class of 134 and a lecturer walks in to teach. He looks around for a whiteboard marker but finds none. He asks the class for one, but no one has any. And then he vents his frustration at the class. Welcome to the University of Education, Winneba, where students provide markers and dusters for use in the classes that will be taught to them.

Well, after this rude awakening, when we all realized that the UEW had other plans for how to spend our school fees and the GRASAG (Graduate Students Association of Ghana) also preferred to throw us parties, hand us t-shirts, exercise books, pens and stickers instead of advocating that our picnic shed of a lecture room was changed or at least fitted with light bulbs, the majority of the class decided that we might as well contribute monies into class coffers which would be used to take care of these needs. After all, we wanted to get an education. So enter administrative charges.

I have to confess, nothing annoyed me more than seeing our course rep give a lecturer a marker and a bottle of mineral water. Look, I’m all for respect and courtesy but when it is shrouded in the web of hypocrisy that is our sick educational system, then it makes me mad. Why should I pay good money to buy water and whiteboard markers for my lecturers? There is no way you can justify that to me. I also was once a lecturer, and as a self-respecting teacher, I came to class ready to deliver, with ALL my tools. Why do we tiptoe around and cuddle people who have little respect for us as evidenced by their comments?

Do I blame the course rep? It is often said that talk is cheap. That the system changes you. That men and women with sincere motives who have attempted to do what was right were either changed and corrupted by the system or sacked by the system. Why else did we pay?

It is easy to begin moralizing here. However, it is a fact that the rottenness in our institutions has become so endemic and institutionalized that it takes some effort to distinguish between what is and what should actually be.

So why did we pay administrative charges to lecturers some of whom showed up for 2 weeks in an 8-week session? Why didn’t we ask for answers from the GRASAG (busy campaigning on non-issues)? (By the way, I became a well-known face in the GRASAG office because I was asking too many questions. To pacify me, the president (then a female, decided she might as well be nice to me. She went as far as reserving a t-shirt for me in my size. After all, small size shirts were running out fast. Oh boy!) Well, we paid because we wanted to preserve our sanity. Because others were doing it. And because sandwich sessions do really feel like you are being sandwiched and anything to reduce the stress is welcome.

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