Katanga Students Storm Manhyia

A section of the irate Katanga Hall students

Hundreds of students, alumni and associates of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) marched through the streets of Kumasi to protest against the planned conversion of the Unity Hall (Conti Power) and University Hall, popularly known as KATANGA, into mixed halls.

It was the second city-wide protest to have been organised since a wave of unrest over the proposal, which the university authorities say is to pave way for admission of more females into the university after an earlier one in the capital city, Accra.

The two halls, which have the penchant for engaging in violent clashes, yesterday joined forces to embark on demonstration to protect their common interests, singing the same chorus: “We say no to mixed hall.”

The demonstration – characterized by actions and drama as the students carried miniature coffin to denote the intended ‘killing’ of the halls’ tradition – was organized by the alumni with support from the students and associates of the University Hall.

There was a standoff between protesters and police at a point during the presentation of a petition to the chancellor of the university at Manhyia Palace, but the organisers managed to carry on the protest peacefully, ending with a rally at Abby’s Park.

Ashanti Regional Spokesman for KATANGA alumni, Kankam Kwarteng, said the decision to convert the University Hall into a mixed one would put their inalienable right under Article 25 (1) of the 1992 Republican Constitution under “grave danger.”

In a petition received by Ankobeahene Baffour Kwame Kusi on behalf of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Chancellor of KNUST, the protesters stated that the Vice Chancellor intends to alter the identity, traditions and culture of the KATANGA, which have been nurtured and preserved for the past 55 years.

Mr Kwarteng indicated that the planned conversion was an “extremely short-sighted” approach in solving accommodation challenges at the university, arguing that such an act would invariably have dire consequences for students, alumni and associates of KATANGA.

He appealed to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II to intervene in the matter.

“For decades, KNUST has suffered from neglect and mismanagement with respect to residential and academic facilities. Currently, less than a quarter of all students are housed in on-campus accommodation. The notion that displacing a few males in KATANGA for the benefit of a handful of females is the solution to the acute accommodation crisis is extremely short-sighted at best,” the protesters noted.

Carrying placards with various inscriptions, the protesters said they strongly believed that the only solution to the accommodation and security challenges at the university lie in the expansion of residential and academic facilities.

Early this year, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Obiri Danso, announced plans by the university to convert University and Unity Halls into mixed halls so as to make room for more female students on campus as part of measures to address security challenges faced by female students living outside campus.

“In as much as we recognize the  efforts of the Vice Chancellor in promoting female education in science, technology, engineering and math at KNUST, it’s regrettable that such a noble agenda would be shamelessly used as a cover up to pursue other nefarious intents.”

They claimed the students, alumni, ministry of education, parents and other relevant stakeholders did not discuss the issue extensively.

From Ernest Kofi Adu, Kumasi