Welcome to the University of Ghana School of Law.
I recall the month of November 1993 with nostalgia. That month, I arrived here at the School of Law (then, a Faculty of Law) locked in thoughts of uncertainty but pretty much excited about the thrill of the journey ahead. As teenagers, my classmates and I (some in their early twenties) began the LL.B programme.
It was an unusual month on the academic calendar to commence lectures, since freshers’ arrival for University was slated for the month of August. The delay was as a result of a strike by university lecturers. A unique batch we were; or at least, the circumstances surrounding our entry to university made us believe we were. Hold on to that thought. Halfway through the LL.B course, university lecturers went on strike again; and this time, for one whole year!
In a rather shocking plot twist, during this year of waiting, we witnessed many lives get destroyed. Some students abandoned their studies; some left the country to pursue other interests and to seek greener pastures; some entered into deleterious relationships; others developed drinking and drug-related challenges. I spent some time observing proceedings at the Bolgatanga District Court, painfully, encountering a number of university students arraigned before the court for various offences.
The hiatus in academic activity was not all gloom and doom. Students utilized the break to develop their skills by working as interns. Others travelled back to their villages to assist with the family business and to serve as the literate mouthpieces for their countrywomen. Significantly, we, the law students returned to school, pretty intact.
This experience taught me two things: first, that the charge that university teachers are given over their students may either be productive or destructive; and second, that the School of Law was definitely doing something right, having recounted that all her students were saved from the havoc that was wreaked on young lives during the year of waiting. So yes, we were a special and determined batch after all.
You have arrived at the School of Law at a very extraordinary point in the world’s history. You pushed through despite the odds. With that same resilience and fortitude, may you continue to surmount the many academic, social, spiritual and emotional challenges that come with being a law student, for all the mythical folklore you have heard about law school is true. But here at the University of Ghana School of Law, for my colleague academics and I, our first call is to provide an environment that is safe and emotionally stable for the nurturing of young minds. We also acknowledge that in the medium term, we have to work at expanding our physical space, not only quantitatively, but qualitatively.
A global village means that the legal education we expose you to should include international experiences at home and abroad. As I speak, there are a number of educational programmes that aim at granting international exposure to curious minds like yours. We would continue to roll out a series of programmes in that direction, ensuring that as many of you as possible are able to travel to the best universities in the world for various academic programmes, and allowing for a more potent exchange of knowledge and culture. With the effective use of technologies, we can also collaborate with these centres of learning around the world from right here.
In 1993, all of our registration was paper-based. We woke up on registration day at 3am, and queued at the Registry from 4am, only to be told at 6am to disband, move to the Central Cafeteria, and form a fresh queue there. In Room 414 in Legon Hall Annex A, we were at various points, 5 to 8 students, in a room originally designed for 2 persons. There was such a scarcity of reading material, 100% of which was paper-based, and so I could not attend to personal commitments on Sundays in the whole of my first year at the Law School. The only way I could capture rare material before anyone could, was to arrive very early at the library on a Sunday morning. By far, the situation is incredibly better now. I therefore urge you to take advantage of the available resources which we continually aspire to improve.
Our second charge as your teachers and administrators is to ensure that you have a memorable experience here at the School of Law; the type of experience that will make you, not just productive citizens and excellent lawyers, but also willing donors to the School of Law, contributing thousands of dollars every year to make your alma mater great. Your success is our success, and your success is important to each and every Faculty and Staff Member who works here. “Learning the Law” is hard enough. We should not make your lives any harder.
Now to the last point I seek to convey to you. Our School of Law is the best in Ghana, and one of the best in Africa, and even in the world. However, whilst we used to be in the top ten for Africa, together with Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi, Makerere, and Ibadan, we are no longer in there. We must return there.
We must work assiduously, and at a fast pace on improving the student experience; creating a research, conferencing, publications, and outreach hub here at the School; and aggressively fundraise; all within a refreshed setup for the good governance and administration of the school, and all aimed at putting the experience, interests, and welfare of our faculty, staff, and students first.
Permit me to conclude by noting that these worthwhile endeavours cannot be accomplished without the help of our students. Since assuming office, I have had a series of meetings with the Law Students’ Union Executive Council and their Faculty Advisor, Dr. Samuel Manteaw, and we are working together to ensure that what we want achieved, is attained. We are additionally on social media platforms and on email contact to ensure that our various endeavours are intensely coordinated, in order to avoid duplication, slippages, and inefficiency, and join forces to achieve our common goals.
Lastly, a word of advice: Some of my best human relationships were built right here, and they have endured for over a quarter century. I encourage you to forge productive relationships amongst your lecturers, staff, the cleaning crew, classmates, seniors, juniors, roommates, hallmates, and the broader university community.
I have absolutely no doubt that if we continue this way, together, we have affirmation of an outstanding future ahead, and we can make the University of Ghana School of Law even greater than it is now.
The School is not perfect. I am sure you have realised that by now. No institution is. Indeed, no human person is. But you have my commitment as Dean, and the commitment of the Faculty and Staff, that we will always strive to make it better.
Together, we can do this. Yes, We Can.
May God, the Almighty, who sees not as man sees, and who does unto us what He wills, bless us all and bless the University of Ghana School of Law.
Prof. Raymond A. Atuguba