Concerned parents of non-staff of the University of Ghana Basic Schools (UGBS) have condemned the decision of the university authorities to restrict access to the university, describing it as discriminatory against their children.
According to them, the decision by the university authorities to restrict access to commuters including parents of the UGBS was not in the best interest of the children, as it went a long way to affect the parents.
At a press conference held in Accra on Tuesday, the parents said the decision of the university to make it mandatory for one to acquire the university’s sticker before using the campus meant that the authorities were taking undue advantage of the situation to exploit parents.
The purpose of the conference was to highlight the plight of children who had been enrolled at the UGBS and the frustration and agony parents went through as a result of the negative effects of the road access policy introduced by the university authorities.
On Thursday, May 8, this year, parents of pupils and students of the school staged a demonstration to protest against the insistence by the authorities of the University of Ghana (UG) that the parents acquired UG stickers before they could drive into the campus.
The parents complained that the GH¢400 being demanded by the university for a sticker to give access to the university’s roads for a year was too exorbitant and asked the university to reduce it drastically.
To register their displeasure, some of the aggrieved parents blocked the access road with their vehicles to prevent other vehicles from entering the campus.
The University of Ghana restricted vehicular entry to and from the university campus to only those with the university stickers from Saturday, March 15, 2014.
The decision by the university led to various reactions from the public, the government, Parliament and some civil society groups.
Addressing the media, a member of the group, Ms Felicia Agyapong, said it was unfortunate for a university such as the UG to carry out initiatives that went against the interest of children.
“Nowhere in this country, to the best of our knowledge, do schoolchildren have to pay road user fees to enter their school premises.
“The university road access policy concerns the children of the university basic schools. However, the interest of the child, which shall be paramount in any matter concerning a child, was not considered by the university authorities in the formulation and implementation of the policy.
“The university authorities are taking undue advantage of us for their financial gain because the authorities believe that the children, and for that matter their parents, do not have a voice or relevance for the university community,” she said.
Instead of the UG sticker, Ms Agyapong suggested that the authorities should consider issuing each child at the UGBS with an identification card (pass) specially designed by the university and at the expense of the non-staff parents to facilitate the entry and exit of the child, accompanied by the parent or a responsible adult, at any of the gates on campus.
She added that the parents were prepared and willing to contribute to the cost of implementing the proposed ID system, saying that they could pay up to the equivalent of 25 per cent of the cost of the one-year sticker per parent, which translated to GH¢100 annually.
The parents, therefore, called on the ministries of Education and Gender, Children and Social Protection, stakeholders in education, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education, the National Council for Tertiary Education and civil society groups to quickly intervene to end the access restriction on pupils of the “non-staff parents” of the UGBS.
Ms Agyapong called on the university authorities to consider and grant the children recognition as members of the university community for the period of their academic life on campus.
In spite of their pleas, however, she said the parents still held the view that the policy was unfair, arbitrary and discriminatory and could not be implemented in the manner being imposed on the affected parents by the powers that be in the university.
“Our children may not be privileged enough to have been born to parents who work in the university but we believe they too have some rights as children, pupils and Ghanaians and these rights must be respected,” she noted.
When asked whether the parents had any negotiations with the management board of the UGBS, Mr Kwabena Agyekum Hene, a member of the group, said they (the parents) could no longer trust the management, since it was not fighting in their interest but that of the university.
“If the management had been able to do enough, we wouldn’t have resorted to the media as the next option,” he stressed.
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