By Isaac Tuggen, Class of 2005

Students on the steps of the Parliament House with the Minister of Education, Youth & SportsAshesi's goal of training students to become responsible leaders and well-informed citizens was taken a step further when the Class of 2005 took a trip to Ghana's Parliament House on June 20, 2003. As part of a leadership seminar, Mr. Mark Poynter, a lecturer in liberal arts led the students to the distinguished "House of Honourables". The prime objective of the visit was to enlighten students on how laws are passed by the legislative arm of government following two weeks of instruction in Constitutional Law.

For many students, it was their first experience of parliamentary deliberations. The House was scheduled to commence proceedings at 10.00 am; however, the Speaker was ushered in by the "Marshall" at 10:10am. After leading the house in prayer, the Speaker went through the minutes of the previous deliberations, article by article, pausing at each article for possible correction or amendment by any member of the House. The Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs then took the floor to read out the day's agenda for discussion. Next the Minister for Communications and Technology was subjected to a series of questions about Ghana Telecom Limited, the nation's telecoms provider, and its efforts and plans at extending telephone services to various parts of the country.

Conspicuously observed was the poor attendance by members of the House. At 10.45 am, the House was still less than three quarters full. Moreover, the constant movement in and out of the chamber by the members made a visitor to the house for the first time wonder how they could meaningfully contribute to Parliamentary Bills under discussion. The Speaker displayed brilliance in his handling of the house, insisting on clarity of expressions and proper phrasing of questions. In their contributions, members easily accepted corrections from their fellow members in good faith, which was laudable. Members from the minority side subjected their colleagues on the opposite side to some hooting on certain issues. Some students came away with the impression was that the Speaker had more power than was necessary. Another striking observation was the interest shown by the general public in parliamentary deliberations.

Additionally, students were privileged to have an informal interaction with the Honorable Minister for Education, Youth and Sports and his deputy who happened to be in the house at the time. The Minister expressed his appreciation to the students for the visit to the house and promised to pay an "unannounced" visit to the campus of Ashesi University as required under the Ghana Constitution. He advised students to discard the conventional attitude of looking for public-sector jobs after graduation and rather to be creative and innovative in their approach to job seeking. His said business opportunities abound in Africa and graduates must take advantage of them by exploring the various opportunities.

The visit enabled the students to gain a better appreciation of parliamentary proceedings. In addition, it afforded the students the opportunity to interact informally with the Minister for Education, Youth and Sports.