University of Ghana students’ justice gone bad

Until the case of the sexual abuse of an alleged female student-thief [as reported by Citifm], I would have argued that University of Ghana students’ justice was one of the fairest and even something one could call spectacular and fun if you are an outsider [and not the perpetrator]. But the actions of the students (men) of the Mensah Sarbah Hall has left a sour taste in my mouth and that of any person looking up to graduates of the university to be future leaders of Ghana.

University of Ghana students’ justice works this way; when a student steals from a colleague and caught with stolen goods or red-handed, two options are presented to the perpetrator. They are either reported to the school authorities or ‘ponded’. In effect, the perpetrator is presented with the option of rustication/suspension (as stated in the University of Ghana handbook and determined by the university authorities) or humiliation at the hands of fellow students.

Actually all students accused of theft are entitled to a hearing by the university authorities and with so many witnesses to a case of theft [as is often the case with about 5 roommates], it is a given that the said student-thief would be rusticated or suspended after a hearing. Students’ justice is actually not a response to the university’s perceived perversion of justice as has often been the argument for mob justice in the world outside the university walls. Students’ justice is a show of solidarity and to a large extent a support system which seeks to help the perpetrator of theft to still maintain his scholarship.

So it is not surprising that most students who find themselves at this cross-road of choice of justice will prefer students’ justice because it will probably save them [2 years] from rustication and having to explain to their families why they’re suddenly out of school.

At this point the student-thief is stripped to his boxer-shorts or shorts and put on a truck (cart) and pushed to the pond at the entrance of the university amidst chanting of war songs. It is at the pond that the student-thief’s crimes are called out and then dipped into the grimy pond (and mud) and that is what is called ponding. The journey back to the hall is led by the student-thief who pushed the truck (cart) followed by his colleagues [who happen to be his judges] and that short ceremony/spectacle albeit humiliating serves as a better deterrent for other students and in the eyes of students justice is done without messing the student-thief’s academic life.

In the annexes, the student-thief is typically brought out to the parking lot of the 5-storey building and splashed with water from buckets. After this public display of ‘punishment’, judgment is done.

What most of us never envisioned whiles in school was a lady being dragged thru the school in her panties to the pond at the university gate to be ponded. And I still can’t imagine what form of students’ justice can be meted out to a lady if she was caught with stolen goods. But I never in my wildest and craziest dreams imagine what happened at the Mensah Sarbah Hall of the University of Ghana. Besides breaking every rule in the books of the country and the university, it has also brought shame to alumni of the university as a whole and the hall in particular.

What these students have done has jarringly brought into the university what has been happening in their neighbourhoods. To wit – kill the thief; lynch the thief; no need for the police. And this scares me above all things; that students who are supposed to bring enlightenment to the world have somehow allowed themselves to be swayed by the unenlightened thoughtless actions of the unwashed masses that they are supposed to positively influence.

What happened to Integri Procidamus? What does it mean to be a Viking now?

By this gruesome treatment meted out to an alleged female student-thief, you have put the University of Ghana in a bad light that will not only reflect badly on your own futures but that of all alumni and alumnae.

Two things must happen of a necessity because of this gruesome justice meted to the female student.

  1. An official denouncement of the actions of the students by the university authorities and all student bodies.
  2. The men responsible for sexually abusing this female student should be sacked by the school and handed over to the police for them to deal with them in order to send out a clear message to the world and rest of Ghana that instant justice of any form cannot be condoned in a community (country) that is governed by law.

But I ask myself, how can this happen in the University of Ghana of all places and I come to the conclusion that allowing students to have their own form of justice can lead to this case we currently have on our hands that has hit the whole nation like a sucker punch.


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  1. #1 by Tiffany on April 2, 2011 - 6:53 pm

    This is very sad to hear…I remember a friend explaining the “ponding” process to me and it seemed funny to me. But like you said, it’s probably better than being suspended from university. It seems like the process is usually successful, but there’s always somebody or somebodies who have to eff it up for everyone else. That’s to say it’s likely that these guys went off on a tangent by doing their own thing but didn’t necessarily change the way the university students will be doing things from now on. In order to prevent that from happening those students need to be dealt with as soon as possible. It really is sad to hear that anyone was hurt at all, but any system has its defectors every now and again.

    • #2 by hollatainment on April 4, 2011 - 9:34 pm

      The university authorities and students’ leadership have for all these years allowed this system to run parallel to the official one and this case was bound to happen sooner than later but it still beats me that things could go this wrong. And you’re right, just one individual could have sent this into what we see now; a case of sexual assault and abuse of human rights. I will like to see a thesis paper on this case by a sociology student, will make interesting reading.

  2. #3 by Barima Kwakye on April 3, 2011 - 8:48 pm

    Its a shame that such a thing has happened and of all places and institution of higher learning. I agree with you this incident shouldn’t have taken place. but what surprised me was that, it took such an inhumane act being done to a female for voices across the country and beyond to realize that mob justice isn’t right. I DO NOT CONDONE OR ACCEPT THEIR ACTIONS. NEITHER AM I TRYING TO TRIVIALIZE THIS ACTION. The students should be punished for their actions and it should serve as example to all that mob justice/assault or molestation of any kind is not acceptable regardless who ever this kind of action is befalls be it male or female.

  3. #4 by Shadders on April 5, 2011 - 6:56 pm

    In this 21st century????…. what happened to forward ever backwards never…this is soo inhumane.

  4. #5 by Kofi Nimoh on April 21, 2011 - 2:18 pm

    What you seem to be saying is that this sexual abuse by a mob (and a mob is always a mob, whether students, railwaymen, football hooligans or bankers) was “fair” – that is until it happened to a woman?

    University of Ghana’s “justice” as you name it has not “gone bad” – it was always bad. This imbecilic practice stinks. Lynch mobs – even if the “justice” and obvious humiliation they mete out is considered “less harsh” than that of the bona fide authorities – are still just that – mobs – a crowd, collectively behaving as idiots.

    What should happen is that this stupid, offensive, demeaning activity (to those who support it, observe it and involve themselves in it) is that it should stop. Period. It should not happen to anyone – irrespective of their sex – or sexual orientation for that matter while we’re here.

    What happened to Integri Procidamus, I hear you say. I can tell you – it was never there. And still isn’t. The question perhaps you should be asking is what about Magna Carta? Habeas Corpus? And all those bodies of law in a civilised system that the true “Vikings” had a hand in one-thousand years ago.

    When supposed “future leaders” actually begin to show true leadership, not just in actions, but in thought, then, and only then perhaps, will there be true progress. With integrity.

    • #6 by hollatainment on April 22, 2011 - 1:55 pm

      Kofi Nimoh, my first paragraph does not intimate in anyway that sexual abuse is/was ‘fair’ until it happened to a woman as your first paragraph claims.

      What I tried doing in this blogpost was to lay a background (2nd paragraph) of how university of Ghana students treat cases of theft by students and link it with Amina’s case and try to identify reasons why Amina’s got out of hands. I was trying to put things in perspective.

      I won’t take a moral high ground on how I perceived ponding just so to right a ‘great’ blogpost. If you got my point clearly, you’d realize that I am laying the blame not only at the feet of the perpetuators of Amina’s assault but also alumni [of which I’m one], student leaders and university authorities who allowed such a system to run alongside the official one. I am questioning leadership – school leadership and student leadership alike.

      That any student would rather take the easy way out i.e. ponding, than face the school authorities and lose their scholarship tells you our attitudes towards responsibility. I like that you are questioning leadership and attributing this failure to it. Indeed true progress can only be achieved through true leadership [with integrity].

  5. #7 by Kofi Nimoh on April 26, 2011 - 12:06 pm

    Your words:

    “I would have argued that University of Ghana students’ justice was one of the fairest and even something one could call spectacular and fun if you are an outsider [and not the perpetrator]. ”

    Fair? Even fun?. Actually, your first paragraph absolutely does intimate your opinion that you thought this was “fair” until the unfortunate debaclé of Amina. What you seem to be doing now with your reply is simpy backtracking and claiming something you have said is not what it (clearly) says.

    Back to the integrity question…

  1. University of Ghana’s thugs highlight a wider problem « Critical Point

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