The rights of every individual are perceived to be inherent and inalienable. Yes, that’s true because by virtue of one’s humanity, there are equal rights for everyone. Rights have legal and moral protections to making sure that needs are met irrespective of colour, culture or race. Everyone has a right against authority but those rights must be exercised responsibly. Your rights as a student are those rights exercised precisely as students. There are two individuals of rights: Right-holder (student) and Duty-bearer (authority). The duty bearers uphold and function within the framers of the constitution, to take decisions on behalf of the right-holder(s) to primarily provide security from violence. In the case of duty bearer (authority) being autocratic, totalitarian or discriminatory, the right-holders may seek for their claim rights. It occurs when duty bearers become “duty imposers”.
University authorities perpetually, provide the students with liberty rights and that the authorities have “limitation” to control students. The students of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) exercised their claimed rights on 22nd October, 2018. Such claim rights come with responsibilities and obligation for the right holders. Once you exercise the claim rights, you must respect the rights of others. Students had the liberty right to demonstrate on issues of national, regional or within their own sovereign confinement. It is a choice the students made to protest as a means to pour their hearts out but choices have consequences, especially, in the cause of destroying properties and not respecting the rights of others. Once choices have consequences and depending on the degree or type of protest and how receptive authorities are, the claim right may be cut short. Remember, schools can’t stop students from expressing their grievances peacefully for answers. Students may not be punished for voicing dissatisfaction but rather when they use their claim rights to violate the rights of others. Claim right can leads to physical violence and often crops up from ethnic discrimination, economic marginalization or to better put it, from negative peace.
At KNUST, there seems to exist, negative peace in the four walls of the university. This may be deliberate policies that put the students at disadvantage. Such structural violence emanates, from the actions and inactions of school authorities or school governance. Campus policies that stifles innovation, movement or when students have realized there’s a straightjacket, protests and physical violence may not be absent.
However, vandalizing school properties, and vehicles of persons in the name of demonstration is a violation of claim right and it’s punishable. Rights may be morally absolute but legally not because rights are determined by authorities and once laws exist to check human behavior, there’s the tendency of limitation to every right. There is little or no restriction to protest peacefully but there are restrictions during the protest. Hence, students would be reprimanded for such a gross violation of their claim rights.
Peter Bismark K.
Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI), Center for conflict, Human Rights and Peace studies (CHRAPS – UEW)