GHANA is preparing for a wave of student militancy against tuition and accommodation fee rises introduced because of financial constraints.
University authorities are working with the security forces to prevent a repeat of violent student demonstrations similar to those that took place in Nigeria earlier this year.
Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, pro vice chancellor of Cape Coast University, announced that fees for new students living in university hostels will rise to up to 212,000 cedis (Pounds 59) for the most expensive courses in science, agriculture, and science education. Students already on the same course would pay the old rate of 135,000 cedis.
New students on other courses would pay 162,000 cedis as against 85,000 cedis from enrolled students.
Professor Anamuah-Mensah also announced that all new students are to be non-residential because of a campus accommodation shortage. This is despite the fact that only 1,400 out of 5,293 qualified applicants could be given admission.
He expressed concern over the delay in the completion of new halls of residence which, according to him, could have easily accommodated about 700 students.
"The blocks of offices which were previously converted into students' residential hostels have reverted to their original use," he added.
Professor Anamuah-Mensah also admitted that lecturers had accommodation problems and the university had a shortage of lecture theatres.
"The applications of 15 lecturers are pending because of lack of accommodation for them while the lecture halls are overflowing," he said.
The National Union of Ghana Students expressed disappointment at the "undemocratic" decision. "We do not understand why the authorities of the various universities should unilaterally charge new fees since negotiations for cost-sharing in tertiary education is still in progress" declared John Kublenu, NUGS press and information secretary.
The NUGS annual congress resolved that student and university authorities should share residential accommodation costs on condition that hostels are built for students at reasonable cost "to be determined by a committee involving students".
NUGS called on student representative councils to reject the payment of the new fees until all issues on cost sharing had been clearly defined.
But student leaders at Cape Coast University were far more radical. The students representative council at Cape Coast threatened that any attempt to impose the new fees "would leave in its wake students' militancy".
Council president Henry Agyeman Prempeh angrily vowed that "an imminent showdown by the students against the university authorities is in the offing over this burning issue".
He refused to disclose how students would ward off the new fees but added: "We are waiting for the students to report to the campus before we can decide the next line of action."
Mr Prempeh warned: "We shall fight tooth and nail to reject academic fees especially for continuing students."
Professor Anamuah-Mensah said: "We do not consult students on administrative matters. Students are only consulted on matters concerning welfare of students. The position of the council that only freshers should pay fees is unjustified.
"The universities are in a deplorable state and it is high time all stakeholders understood that they have to assist the universities to provide qualitative education. If this is not done, there would be total cessation if the universities are forced to close down."