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No space for 499 aggrieved law students – Akufo-Addo adds voice to law school fiasco

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says there is no space to accommodate the aggrieved 499 law students who were denied admission into the Ghana School of Law.

Commenting on the issue a day after the aggrieved students demonstrated and presented a petition to parliament, the president admitted the challenge but added that the school cannot be forced to admit all students.

“I think the idea of more lawyers in the system is good for the nation. I want a country that is governed by the rule of law and we need to have lawyers in all aspects of our lifeguarding the development of our country,” he told Kwame Sefa-Kayi on Peace FM.

“There are always in these matters many complex issues that have to be determined and the conversation is ongoing and I am hoping that a solution is going to be found. It’s unfortunate. I am very disturbed by it and I am hoping that soon the cooperation of all the stakeholders will soon find a solution to this problem.

“All I can say is that God willing by next year, substantial progress would have been made in that regard. For the time being, there is no space in the law school for them, that is the problem and there are several others before them who have fallen in the same pit,” President Akufo-Addo lamented.

Background

On Wednesday, October 20, aggrieved candidates, as well as their sympathisers, who sat for the 2021 Ghana School of Law entrance examination, hit the streets over how some 499 candidates were denied entrance.

The protest organised by the National Association of Law Students (NALS) dubbed ‘Red Wednesday’, accused the General Legal Council (GLC) of intentionally failing a chunk of the candidates because of a new quota system.

The controversies over the mass failure in the Ghana School of Law entrance exams are a result of the GLC’s decision to apply a new rule requiring candidates to obtain a pass of 50% in each of the two sections, namely A and B.

Hitherto, candidates needed just 50% in the entirety of the exams to gain entrance to the School of Law. But the new rule, which was communicated only after results had been released, means that a candidate can make more than 50% in the entirety of the exams and still not gain entrance.

The new system led to the failure of some 499 candidates who sat for the 2021 examination and obtained more than 50%. The affected candidates have since been agitating and calling on the council to rescind its decision.

Clad in red and black attire on the morning of Wednesday, October 20, at the Black Star Square, the protesters were seen holding placards with inscriptions amid drumming and chanting.

Some of the inscriptions were “Stop traumatising law students, we did not fail”, “It’s not a crime to study law in Ghana”, “We are just being frustrated”, “Legal education is not a family’s property”, and many more.

The demonstration is also to demand reforms to the country’s legal education.

At a press conference prior to Wednesday’s demonstration, one of the leaders of the group, Tony Baah said they will exercise their right to be admitted.

“We owe it to ourselves, God, and our country that our broken legal education system is fixed. If we cannot fight to vindicate our own rights, then we have no business seeking to become lawyers. Once again, we remain unshaken and resolute in seeking redress to our legitimate grievances,” Baah said.

“We are accepting nothing short of admitting all the 499 students who passed the entrance exams. To this end, we are pledging our unflinching support to join the Red Monday campaign on Wednesday to protest against the injustice at the Ghana School of Law and to demand reforms to the nation’s legal education regime.

“Even as we hope that the relevant authorities will rise to the occasion and do right to our legitimate grievances, we are nonetheless not oblivious of exercising our right at the law court to vindicate our constitutional rights,” he indicated.

The protesters ended their demonstration by presenting their petition to parliament.

The 5-page document called for the GLC to “do right by these 499 candidates who passed the 2021 entrance exam and admit them immediately into the professional law course at the school”.

Legal education in Ghana has been fraught with a lot of misgivings on the part of hopeful legal practitioners who have complained of so much, from fees to admission into the Ghana School of Law, the only school that teaches for certification of lawyers in Ghana.

Two years ago, while failed candidates protested in Accra against how their examination was graded, they clashed with police who unleashed tear gas, warning shots and water canons.

This year, two thousand and thirty-four (2,034) Ghana School of Law entry candidates who sat for the 2021 entrance exams failed to enter into the country’s only institution for training professional legal practitioners.

Of the 2,824 candidates, only 790 students, representing 28%, passed the exams. The figure is a 10% drop from the total number of LLB candidates who passed in the previous year. Last year, 1,045 out of 2,763 students passed the 2020 exams.

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