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.
- An official denouncement of the actions of the students by the university authorities and all student bodies.
- 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.