Student activism and democratic quality in Ghana’s Fourth Republic
Student activism has been pivotal in Ghana’s political and democratic history. Prior to Ghana’s Fourth Republic, student activism was highly confrontational and entailed student support or opposition to the various regimes depending on the extent to which the regimes were accepted by all as being rightful or legitimate. After 23 years of uninterrupted constitutional democracy, Ghana has earned the accolade of being a successful electoral democracy. However, in terms of democratic progression, the mere conduct of periodic elections that sometimes lead to alternation of power is described as elementary and a low quality democracy. Given that Ghana’s democratisation process since 1992 has not been static, some remarkable strides have been made in improving the nation’s democratic quality. Using a purely qualitative research design and interviews with some former student activists, this study argues that the modest strides made in the quest for high quality liberal democracy in Ghana cannot be meaningfully discussed without acknowledging the invaluable contributions of student activism. The study further suggests a relationship between democratic quality and student activism. It postulates that the shift from the usually oppositional and sometimes violent student activism in Ghana’s Fourth Republic could partially be attributed to the country’s strides made in the drive towards democratic maturity. For students to continue their role as vanguards of democracy in Ghana, the study recommends an amalgamation of all tertiary networks and other student splinter groups under the National Union of Ghana Students; and a shift in the modus operandi of the Union from confrontation to the use of dialogue and other peaceful democratic means to achieve its objectives. This could contribute to the restoration of the Union’s former glory as a united, national and independent mouth-piece of students in all national issues.
Keywords: students, activism, protests, demonstration, democratic quality