Surcharge students who destroy property

True democracy is where the voice of the people is heard.

It is where freedom of assembly is defined and guaranteed to ensure that citizens have the right to hold public meetings and form associations without interference by any individual, the government or agents of state.

Article 21(i) of the 1992 Constitution states in part that all persons shall have the right to freedom of assembly, including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations and freedom of association.

In fact, the frontiers of democracy and the right to demonstration were expanded when the Supreme Court ruled that intended demonstrators needed no police permit but had to inform the police about the demonstration. The aim of informing the police before a demonstration is to ensure the protection of life and property, as some elements may go out of the way or infiltrate to misbehave.

This means that all persons, including students, have the right to demonstrate in order to press home grievances, illegitimate inequality, feelings of relative deprivation, feelings of injustice, among others.

Within a couple of weeks, the country has experienced protests in some of our educational institutions, notably the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi and the Nkwanta Senior High School in the Volta Region.

The students in these institutions are reported to have destroyed properties running into millions of Ghana cedis.

At KNUST, things that were destroyed or damaged included buildings, vehicles and CCTV cameras, all estimated at GHc1.7 million.

At the Nkwanta SHS, properties vandalised were three staff bungalows, vehicles, including 26 motorbikes belonging to teachers, a pick-up, two school buses, a tipper truck and a car belonging to the Nkwanta Divisional Police Commander. The water systems, ECG meters and whiteboards in the classrooms were also destroyed by the students.

Inasmuch as the Daily Graphic recognises the right to demonstrate by all persons, we condemn, in the strongest terms, the penchant for some protestors to destroy public property, an action that rather makes their case bad, even when they have public sympathy for their cause.

While we call on our authorities to have a listening ear and to dialogue with our students in the introduction of policies that affect them, we advise that severe sanctions be meted out to people who use demonstrations as a cover up to indulge in their own nefarious activities.

We also advise that where public properties have been destroyed by a few, it will be against natural justice to charge the cost of destroyed properties on the public purse. It is reasonable to surcharge the demonstrators with the cost of the damaged items.

It is our admonition to parents to seriously counsel their children who are in school to always weigh their actions against their repercussions before taking any decision that will affect themselves and the entire society.

As we wait for the two institutions to put things in place to reopen, we want to drum home to especially students that it does not pay to destroy the very facilities that make their learning possible, as such behaviour does not in any way address concerns but rather complicate them.

Despite this, we appeal to the various authorities to expedite action on recalling the students back to school, as any long delay does have a serious effect on the students and the country at large.

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