I took a short break from Winneba to reflect on other things going on in life- cars and floods and bribes. But then the casual and institutionalized way we take and give “gifts”in Ghana led me straight back to the University of Education, Winneba. So here I am, with this post.
In the first session there was an extra fee attached to the self-imposed class administrative fee. It was called the appreciation component. The course rep stood up one fine day and carelessly announced that he had heard that other classes always put together “something” for each lecturer so that the entire class might be in favour with each lecturer which in turn would translate into favourable examination results for the class. The gift would thus, pave the way for us to graduate without hassle as no one would need to repeat a class. This whole act was tagged “Pharaoh, let my people go”, since it was meant to ensure a mass “exodus” of the entire class from the throes of Sandwich Egypt into the Promised Land of Graduation.
Now, after this announcement, the entire class was in an uproar. Many were outraged. Some couldn’t care less. Others wanted further clarification. Now, there were 2 Catholic Fathers, 2 Reverend Ministers and several lay pastors among us. And needless to say, this announcement tried the fine sensibilities of these men of the cloth and of course, some lay people, too.
So for weeks, the debate went on: to contribute or not to contribute? To make matters worse, it was now tagged as a way to appreciate our lecturers, not what it actually was- an outright greasing of the palms. In a desperate effort to rebrand a bribery scheme and get people on board the wagon, a new term for the class tax emerged: “Appreciation”. But it still defied logic because there we were, in the third week of school and we were supposed to appreciate lecturers who had hardly taught us. Which begged the question: what were we appreciating? Or were we just a fine example of people who thought ahead? So other arguments arose which said that if truly we were contributing monies to appreciate our lecturers, then could we not do it at the end of the year?
But the louder, panicky voices rose up and said that we needed to appreciate, NOW! A point of view which won the day because the system is so warped that students do not trust that their results would be free and fair. Free and fair implies that there was proper instruction, clear guidelines for what the lecturers expected from students and that the exams would reflect the content of either the course outline or what was taught.
Bottom line, we were not in a dispensation where students could assert their rights to quality education without being punished for it. One lecturer decided to grace our classroom 3 times out of 16. Ah, the online evaluation forms do not work. Another couldn’t care less that his voice could not be heard by half the class which in his case, did not matter because when we did manage to hear him, he would have deviated from the topic meant to be under discussion to why King Solomon had many wives. I daresay that some of the lecturers themselves were lessons in Psychology.
So considering these unpredictable variables, my colleagues panicked and paid, making sure that we appreciated lecturers, thereby completely giving new meaning to the word “appreciation”. Not that the English mind. The day the English decided to leave their shores and colonize about half the world, they gave up that right. But that is another tale for another time.