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Creating an Inclusive Society: The Role of Ethnic Social Movements in Promoting Equality
and Inclusion in Ghana
Anthony Kwame Morgan
1
* Ibrahim Rahinatu
1
Beatrice Aberinpoka Awafo
2
Abstract
Social movements are known to be great advocates of inclusivity. With the world’s considerable
commitment to promoting social inclusion as contained in the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs), the importance of social movements has been reinvigorated. Absent in the literature,
however, is student minority ethnic movements’ role in promoting social inclusion in Ghana.
This qualitative study provides an exploratory assessment of the roles of functional student
minority ethnic groups in promoting equality among students of Kwame Nkrumah University of
Science and Technology, from the perspective of movement members and their patrons. By
relying on the qualitative-exploratory research design, in-depth interviews were conducted with
8 participants [comprising of members (3), executives (3) and patrons (2)] of three selected
functional student minority ethnic groups (National Association of Nzema Students [NANS],
Volta Region Students’ Association [VORSA] and Dagomba Students Association [DASA]) in
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology between April 24, 2020 and May 7,
2020. Data were thematically analysed and normative standpoints of participants were
presented as quotations. The main findings were that the groups were formed to engender
development and promote inclusion in varied forms across the different ethnic groups they
represent. They have accomplished these through promoting gender, income, ethnic and spatial
dimensions of inclusion by undertaking an array of activities. The ethnic social movements hold
prospects for the development and promotion of inclusivity and equality. Nonetheless, these
groups are confronted with issues of member apathy and financial constraints, thus hindering
their efforts in implementing their programmes and activities. In tandem with the framing theory,
leaders of the movements have a task to present or “frame” the core values held by people it
seeks to recruit by branding the movements in a way that appeals to them and fulfils their deeply
held values.
Keywords: Equality, ethnic minority, KNUST, inclusive society, social movement
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
1
Department of Geography and Rural Development, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and
Technology (KNUST), Ghana
2
Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST),
Ghana
*Correspondents’ Email: anthoniomorgano280@gmail.com
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1. Introduction
Ethnic groups were constructed around the world in the wake of the dissolution of empires and
ensuing migration (Wimmer, 2013; 2008; Brubaker, 1998). Only a few societies are ethnically
homogeneous, with the larger society varying greatly in size, number and the degree of cultural
difference among ethnic groups, and their extent of economic and political power. Ethnicity
comes with dividends and debits. While ethnic diversity debit is far from universality, ethnic
diversity dividends are also real (Kirk et al., 2018). These diversity dividends are best explored at
the sub-national level, in regions, administrative areas, cities, neighbourhoods and firms; because
interactions within these units are devoid of problems of artificial national borders and make it
easier to control for potentially conflating variables (Kirk et al., 2018). Ethnic diversity is thus a
coin with two sides; ethnic diversity dividend engender growth and development and ethnic
diversity debit especially when states distribute resources and repression along ethnic lines
engender inequality (Loveman, 1999; Alonso, 1994; Barkey & Parikh, 1991; Enloe &
Ellinwood, 1981; Enloe, 1978). This diversity debit requires concerted efforts for its
minimization.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflects one of those concerted efforts on the
need to move towards more egalitarian, cohesive and solidarity-based societies by calling for “no
one to be left behind” on the road to development (Economic Commission for Latin America and
the Caribbean [ECLAC], 2016). The Open Working Group’s 2030 Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs) 8, 10, 11, and 16 all refer to inclusion. Targets 17 and 18 of the SDGs propose
increasing “significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data, disaggregated
by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and
other characteristics relevant in national contexts” by 2020, denoting emphasis on “inclusion”.
As a consequence of globalization, liberalization, and democratization, increasing international
attention has been devoted to promoting inclusion (Silver, 2015). “Ethnicityis used as a tag of
relationship that denotes caste or tribe or language group that may have similar characteristics.
There is an active, mass-based demand for an end to patriarchal power in all purviews of our
social, economic, political and cultural lives so long as aggrieved populations with insatiable
needs exist. Social movements as an “organised set of constituents pursuing a common political
agenda of change through collective action” (Batliwala, 2012: 3), play important roles in global
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struggles for equality and inclusion. Race and ethnicity are crucial aspects of social movements
(Oliver, 2017). Morris and Braine (2001) distinguish three types of social movements: liberation
movements, equality-based and social responsibility movements. Jasper (2008) distinguishes
between “citizenship” movements of groups excluded from full political participation and “post-
citizenship” movements of groups who are included in political systems. Both typologies point to
differences between social movements of oppressed groups and “issue” movements. However,
neither classification recognizes group-focused movements arising from dominant groups, nor do
they explicitly recognise “race” the so-called “social responsibility” or “post-citizenship”
movements that are empirically grounded in dominant majorities. Morris and Braine (2001)
argued that differences exist between social movements of embedded subordinate groups whose
distinctions are externally imposed and movements by comparatively privileged people pursuing
“social responsibility” issues.
The social construction of ethnicity emphasizes how political processes create ethnic groups. As
a result, the ethnic character of a social movement is important in ways that “mainstream”
studies on social movements (Saperstein et al., 2013; Brubaker, 2012; 2009). Social
constructions are neither optional nor superficial. As Morris and Braine (2001: 25) put it, “social
constructions themselves are products of power relations and historical forces, not neutral
negotiations among individual or collective actors of equal social resources and standing”.
Ethnic majorities and minorities are products of a society’s history and formation and tied up
with definitions of nation and citizenship which create homogeneity out of prior diversity. Social
movements are entangled with ethnic group formation and boundaries are products of state
actions (Vermeersch, 2010; Berbrier, 2002; Marquez, 2001). Ethnic minority movements are
movements that are led by and empirically have a majority of participants who are from one
ethnic minority. They differ in whether they frame themselves as group-oriented or issue-focused
movements.
The formation of social movements has also been linked to student activism. Student activism
ranges from protests against university administrations to mobilizations that have contributed to
the downfall of governments. Many students, brimming with idealism, have initiated social
movements or joined existing ones. The social movement box describes an important social
movement action that began with a sit-in at a lunch counter by four college students in 1960. In
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the years that followed, hundreds of thousands of students became active in the civil rights
movement, as well as the anti-war, women’s, environmental, and gay rights movements. It is in
light of these student movements that student minority ethnic social movements have been
established and operational in several tertiary institutions across the globe. Ghana and for that
matter, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is inclusive in
this list. While ethnic social movement research has received research attention in Ghana, the
focus of previous research excluded student movements. Previous research span politicization,
conflict, and political participations’ influence on ethnic social movements (Chazan, 1982); how
proletarian, class struggle and splintered urbanism engender ethnic movements (Asante &
Helbrecht, 2018); partisan politics and the rise of women's movements (Fallon & Fallon, 2008);
and the risk, motivation and cost of social movement activism (Afagbedzi, 2019).
Notwithstanding the long-standing operationalization of different student minority ethnic social
movements among students of KNUST, there is no evidence of literature on these movements’
roles in promoting equality among students. The world has never been more concerned about
reducing inequality than what is outlined in the 2030 agenda of the SDGs. This goal is only
achievable through an amalgamation of small but interconnected efforts of different groups
around the world. Exploring the role of student minority ethnic social movements in promoting
equality using KNUST’s case provides insight into the successes of these movements and areas
that must be augmented. Relating to this, the study investigated the role of student minority
ethnic social movements in promoting equality in KNUST. The study hypothesized that the
activities of student minority ethnic social movements have greatly promoted equality among
students of KNUST but limited member enthusiasm in the activities and financial constraints
hinder the effectiveness of these ethnic minority social movements. The next section of the paper
presents the theoretical framework, followed by the profile of the study area, methods, results
and discussion, while the final aspect deals with the conclusion.
2. Theoretical Framework
The study is underpinned by the Framing Theory. This theory describes the processes through
which an individual embraces an ideology, supports and participates in a social movement
(Hurtikova, 2013; Snow & Benford, 1988; Snow et al., 1986). The advocates of the framing
theory conjecture that leaders of social movements have a task to present or “frame” a social
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movement in terms of the core values held by people the movement seeks to recruit. Therefore,
whatever social structural conditions that might be present, grievances do not become social
movements unless social movement actors can create viable organizations, mobilize resources,
and attract large-scale followings. Framing is the process of describing the movement in a way
that makes sense, appeals to people, and fulfils their deeply held values. Therefore, framing is
similar to making claims. Snow and Benford (1988) explained that social movements interpret
and provide meanings for conditions, actions, and events in a manner that mobilize potential
participants.
Framing accomplishes three tasks: diagnosis, prognosis and motivation. Diagnosis framing
explains why a condition or pattern of behaviour is a problem and what or who causes it;
prognosis framing proposes a solution and a plan of action, including strategy and tactics, for
social movement participants; and motivational framing explains why people need to act to deal
with the problem. The leaders of social movements try to shape their public image to show that
their goal and underlying ideology align with deeply held cultural values. In summary, the thesis
of the framing theory is the idea that social movements emerge because of framing: the process
of describing a social movement in such a way that appeals to people. From the perspective of
this theory, this study examined the objectives of the student minority ethnic groups as well as
the impacts they have made on promoting inclusion.
3. Description of the study area
KNUST is situated within the Oforikrom Municipality in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. KNUST
first started as the Kumasi College of Technology by a Government Ordinance on October 6,
1951. Formal operations started on January 22, 1952, with 200 Teacher Training students who
were relocated from Achimota College to form the pioneering students of the College. The
Government of Ghana in December 1960 appointed a University Commission to advise it on
“the future of University Education in Ghana, in connection with the proposal to transform the
University College of Education and the Kumasi College of Technology into independent
Universities in Ghana”. Consequently, the Kumasi College of Technology was converted into a
full-fledged University by an Act of Parliament on August 22, 1961 (International Programmes
Office, KNUST, 2015). KNUST was formally inaugurated on Wednesday, November 29, 1961
and ascended to a University status till present. The university (KNUST) has undergone major
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transformations. The vision of KNUST is to advance knowledge in science and technology for
sustainable development in Africa.
The mission of KNUST is also to provide an environment for teaching, research and
entrepreneurship training in science and technology for the industrial and socio-economic
development of Ghana, Africa and other nations. It is worth noting that the University also offers
service to the community, is open to all people and positions itself to attract scholars,
industrialists and entrepreneurs from Africa and the international community. Currently, the
school has a student population of more than 50,000 students from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
With cultural domination sometimes erasing or blurring group differences when ethnic
minorities are required to adopt the cultural practices of the dominant groups; the situation of the
school (KNUST) within the most dominant ethnic group in Ghana (the Akan ethnic group) has
the tendency of producing cultural dominance. This might have led to the formation of the
various ethnic social movements to preserve the identity of the minority ethnic groups and
possibly increase social inclusion and harmonisation.
Figure 1: A map of KNUST
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4. Materials and Methods
4.1 Research Design
A colossal decision in the research design process is the choice of the research approach since it
influences how data is gathered and analysed (Aaker, Kumar & Day, 2008). Bearing in mind the
exploratory nature of the study, a qualitative, exploratory research design was adopted. The
qualitative approach offered a maximum interaction between the researchers and the
interviewees which generated a meaningful collaborative effect (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). As a
result, the researchers and participants were interdependent and mutually interactive and
remained open to new knowledge throughout the study. The adopted approach was in line with
the study’s objective of gathering in-depth information and providing a comprehensive and
discerning understanding of members’ and patrons’ opinions on the role of ethnic social
movements in promoting equality; with a focus on student minority ethnic social movements in
KNUST. Specifically, the hermeneutic phenomenological design to qualitative studies was
employed to focus on the cohesion of a lived experience within a specific group. The goal of this
approach is to obtain a narrative on the particular phenomenon (the role of ethnic social
movements in promoting equality) and to gain new insights and understanding of that experience
(Bynum & Varpio, 2018; Creswell, 2013; Laverty, 2003). The study results were reported using
the consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ) (Tong et al., 2007).
4.2 Sources of Data
Within the scope of research, data sources comprise both primary and secondary sources.
Primary sources of data constitute data gathered by the researcher directly from the respondents
or unit of analysis of the study. The secondary data, however, denotes data provided to the
researcher by another entity. In other words, secondary data is collected by someone else other
than the researcher. Data for this study was obtained from primary sources only, specifically
from members and patrons of operational student minority ethnic social movements in KNUST.
Therefore, the data used in the analysis was generated by the authors through interaction with the
study participants.
4.3 Unit of analysis
The study comprised two different participant groups: members of the ethnic social movements
and the patrons of the ethnic social movements. In total, 10 participants, comprising 8 members
of the ethnic social movements and 2 patrons [one of the groups could not provide a patron] of
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the movements participated in the study. The units of analysis were considered appropriate due
to their direct relationship or connection with the issue under consideration, thus placing them in
a better position to provide insightful information on the role of ethnic social movements in
promoting equality.
4.4 Sampling technique
Firstly, the administrator in charge of student’s affairs at the Dean of Students Office of KNUST
provided a list of registered ethnic social movements operational at the time of the study. A
purposive sampling frame was used to recruit members and patrons from three different ethnic
social movements (Dagomba Students Association [DASA], National Association of Nzema
Students [NANS] and Volta Region Students’ Association [VORSA]) that were operational on
KNUST campus. By employing the purposive sampling technique, only persons deemed to be
relevant to the study based on their potential to provide worthy information on the subject matter
were selected (Falade & Adebayo, 2020). The selection of the three aforementioned student
minority ethnic groups was also hinged on the vibrancy of these groups in championing equality
and inclusion, as ascertained in a pilot study. Pilot experiments help to evaluate the feasibility
and improve upon study designs prior to undertaking the main research (Apuke, 2017). Emails
containing an introductory letter and request for participation in the study were sent out to the
executives of the three selected ethnic social movements. Follow-up phone calls were made to
verbally explain the overall purpose and motivation of the study to the respective groups. Each
ethnic social movement was asked to present at least five respondents (a patron, one executive,
and three members) to participate in the study. However, all the ethnic social movements were
unable to provide five respondents each. But together, they presented 10 respondents, made up of
patrons, executives and members of the movements. A detailed explanation of the objectives and
benefits of the study was given to the 10 persons presented by the groups and 8 of them willingly
agreed to participate with the remaining two opting out. In addition, the groups were entreated to
ensure gender representativeness in the contacts that were provided. The participants were,
therefore, given a date for the phone interview. The choice of phone interview was appropriate,
due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana (Morgan, Awafo & Quartey,
2021; Morgan, 2020; Morgan and Awafo, 2020) of which the closure of schools was a
consequence. As a result, phone interview was adopted as the means of interacting with the
respondent, since school was not in session and the respondents were in distant locations
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(coupled with the restriction on movements). Although telephone interviews are less desirable
alternative to traditional face-to-face interviews (Irvine et al., 2013; Novick, 2008), telephone
interviews are gradually becoming a more favoured form of conducting interviews (Carr &
Worth, 2001). Its weakness of the loss of nonverbal data and contextual data, as well as data
distortion, is refuted by non-incorporation of nonverbal cues into the transcripts, but relying
solely on verbal transcripts during data analysis (Lechuga, 2012). It also ensured convenience,
cost reduction and less pressure on the authors (Lechuga, 2012).
4.5 Data collection instruments
In-depth interview guides were used to obtain data from the respondents. This offered the
respondents the opportunity to express their opinions and beliefs about the research objective
(Saunders et al., 2009). The guide was designed in English. The guide was also field-tested with
three participants who were outside the study sample but from the study site. Overall, the field
testing informed the researchers of some necessary modifications especially in the guide format,
sequence and concepts. After the changes from the field test, the final in-depth interview guide
captured information relating to motivation for establishing the ethnic movements, the roles of
the ethnic movements in promoting equality, the impacts of the ethnic movements in promoting
equality and the challenges faced by the ethnic movements in promoting equality.
4.6 Data collection process
All interviews were conducted in English via phone calls and each lasted for a minimum
duration of 40 minutes. The interviews were conducted by the first author who has a social
science background as well as the second author. In all, 8 in-depth interviews were conducted,
comprising members (3), executives (3) and patrons (2), between April 24, 2020 and May 7,
2020. With prior consent from the participants, all the interviews were audio-recorded. As
required, ground rules were established to regulate the conversation; the purpose of the session
was reviewed and informed consent was obtained at the start of each interview. The opening
question asked participants to give an account of the background to the formation of the ethnic
movements. Participants were also asked to provide details of the roles of the ethnic movements
in promoting equality. The final question offered the participants the opportunity to describe the
impacts of the ethnic movements in promoting equality and the challenges faced by the ethnic
movements in promoting equality and inclusion. These questions generated further arguments
and discussions which yielded in-depth data for the study. At the end of every conversation, the
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authors recapped the salient points raised and the views articulated by the respondents for their
affirmation or rebuttal.
4.7 Analytical framework
The audio-recorded tapes were transcribed. The transcripts were subjected to an iterative
thematic review, where each member independently read the transcripts and took note. The data
were screened and reviewed for understanding and where discrepancies occurred, consensus was
negotiated until a unanimous decision was reached. The domineering themes identified were
analysed using the thematic approach. The thematic approach provided an impetus for the
identification, analysis and reporting of patterns within the data. Direct quotations were used in
reporting the findings.
4.8 Trustworthiness
Trustworthiness in this study was established according to the four criteria recommended by
Gunawan (2015): credibility, dependability, confirmability and transferability. For credibility, all
the interviewees were allowed to provide comments or feedback on the authors’ interpretation of
the data. To achieve both dependability and confirmability, the authors listened to the audios
several times and scrutinised the transcripts. In enhancing transferability, the group made a
strenuous effort to include participants unrelated to one another as this was one of the inclusion
criteria outlined for the ethnic movements in submitting the persons to be interviewed. To ensure
that the questionnaire and the interview schedule contain the right kind of questions, and to
ascertain whether the chosen methodology would help meet the objectives of the study, a pilot
experiment was carried out. According to Apuke (2017), pilot experiments help to evaluate the
feasibility and improve upon study designs prior to the carrying out of the main research. The
pilot experiment included three participants who were outside the study sample but from the
study site. Overall, the field testing informed the researchers of some necessary modifications
especially in the guide format, sequence and concepts. In line with Bashir et al. (2008), the
validity of the study was enhanced through reliance on literal statements of the participants,
groups’ agreement on the descriptive data collected, and informal check with participants for
accuracy, in addition to participants’ review of the synthesis of interviews.
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4.9 Ethics
The nature of this general survey among voluntary members of the ethnic social movements did
not require any formal ethical approval. All participants provided informed consent prior to
participating in the research activities. Written and oral informed consents were obtained from
each respondent for submission of this manuscript for publication. Additionally, the responses
were conveyed in a way that ensured the anonymity of the participants.
5. Results
In this study, the aim was to understand the role of ethnic social movements in promoting
inclusion. This section, therefore, presents the results of the thematic analysis. The participants
expressed general enthusiasm towards promoting inclusion through their activities while they
lament member’s apathy and financial constraints. In all, four (4) themes emerged from the
analysis and are thematically reported below.
5.1 Motivation for Establishing the Ethnic Movements
As a warm-up question, participants were asked to provide information on the period or the year
their associations were formed. The discourse revealed that the associations have been in
existence since the late 1990s to the early 2000s as non-formalized groups. They have been
drafted into formalized groups, recognizable by the school authorities between 2015 and 2016
per groups and associations regulations of the University as outlined in the Students’ Guide and
Code of Conduct (KNUST, 2017).
VORSA has been in existence for some time now but became a fully-fledged association
recognizable by the university authorities in the year 2016 after we went through vetting
and were given a certificate to operate. [Participant 2, executive, VORSA]
NANS was formed in the late 1990s to the early 2000s but we regularized it with the
university directives in 2015. [Participant 7, member, NANS]
The results indicate that the associations existed and operated in two phases. The unofficial
phase [prior to 2015] and the official phase [2015 to date]. For this work, the focus is not on a
specific time frame but rather the collective actions of the groups towards promoting inclusion
within the Ghanaian society. It was discovered that the goal of the groups was to create a
platform for students from their specific ethnic backgrounds to give back to their region as well
as serve as a united front in championing the development of their respective ethnic groups and
areas. On the specific reasons for establishing these groups, it was uncovered that there was the
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need to embark on educational activities in the regions (source) of these ethnic minorities since
they lagged behind in terms of literacy and human capital development. As a result, these tertiary
students were intended to serve as “drivers of passion”, “motivators” and role models to the
younger generations of their ethnic groups to engender the needed interest among the younger
generation for the educational quest, thirst and hunger. This was supposed to be accomplished by
gathering material, intellectual and spiritual resources for developing the region and broadening
the ethnic groups in their entirety. Here are excerpts from some participants.
As an ethnic group, we’ve realized how important education is to socio-economic
development, but in contrast, there is high illiteracy among our members. So we decided
to pull our efforts together and let the tertiary students lead that process since they have
the ideas and passion. [Participant 5, Patron, DASA]
Our ethnic group and by extension our region lags behind when it comes to development.
So we came together as students from that ethnic group to join forces and see how best
we can transform our locality and reduce the geographical disparity of development that
has saddled the country since the colonial period. [Participant 3, Patron, VORSA]
Also, it was uncovered that these groups were formed to promote unity among members on
campus and other associations in the country as well as cooperate with other groups whose goals
are in tandem with theirs. Thus, these groups were formed to promote development in varied
forms [both directly and indirectly].
5.2 Roles of the Ethnic Movements in Promoting Equality
The specific roles performed by the associations revealed three core functions: educational
outreach in their respective areas of origin, community services to vulnerable groups and
ancillary services. As reported earlier one of the reasons for birthing these groups was to promote
education within their communities. They accomplish these through educational outreach and
campaigns. For instance, the president of VORSA indicated this in furtherance of his exposition
on the specific roles performed by the association:
Every other summer holiday, our association organize our members and send them to
specific districts in dire need of teachers. As part of their internships, they teach in
schools in the district [from crèche to senior high schools]. This has two sides, on one
side we are imparting knowledge and on the other side, we motivate them to learn and be
better achievers than us. Aside from these, we organize inter-school quiz and debate
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competitions for schools in our communities, especially the deprived ones. This has
helped improve their oral and written English. [Participant 2, executive, VORSA]
As part of the effort towards gathering material, intellectual and spiritual resources for
developing the regions of the ethnic groups, the movements indicated that they undertake
community services. Specifically, the respondents indicated that they assemble students from
diverse fields [health, agriculture, sociology among other disciplines] that help in community
services especially during the summer breaks. It was discovered that these activities were
directed at the vulnerable and the marginalized in society [the aged, the disabled, women and
children]. One interesting thing discovered here was that these activities are not necessarily
exclusive to the members of their ethnic background but are sometimes open to the Ghanaian
populace, depending on the funding regime.
Year in year out, we send a lot of our members to do community services depending on
their field of study and their interest among other factors. We do community sensitization
on health, sanitation and environmental management. Students reading agriculture-
related courses help small-holder farmers. [Participant 8, executive, NANS]
We give back to society whatever we’ve learnt in school. So as a leader of the
association, I arrange for members who are willing to contribute their knowledge and
expertise to community development. This has helped several communities. [Participant 1,
member, VORSA]
The last but not least role performed by these groups comprise ancillary services like overseeing
the welfare of their members amidst a host of other roles. The groups have developed a welfare
system with a means that identifies needy members and provide them with the needed assistance.
Most of the respondents indicated that some of the students [members of their ethnic groups]
would not have been able to pay their fees without this arrangement. Thus, the groups are
helping the less privileged to participate in higher education. These excerpts throw light on this
point:
We have a funding arrangement for a limited number of needy students. We often reach
out to prominent persons from our ethnic group for funds to support this initiative. Also,
we contribute semester dues which are used for running the operations of the group
amidst supporting needy students. [Participant 2, executive, VORSA]
Some organizations have decided to support the education of persons from our ethnic
groups and they have given us the onus to identify such needy persons among us. So with
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their help, I can say we have been helping and would continue to help the less privileged
access tertiary education. [Participant 8, executive, NANS]
These varied roles the respondents indicated are geared towards accomplishing the missions of
the groups as enshrined in the reasons for their formation.
5.3 Impacts of the Ethnic Movements in Promoting Equality
The third theme identified in the study was the impacts of the activities of the student minority
ethnic groups in promoting equality. The thematic analysis revealed four major sub-themes
under which the impacts can be classified [gender, income, ethnic and geographic inclusion].
Throughout the interviews with the participants, it was revealed that their activities and
undertakings have implications for promoting gender-based activities. One of such gendered
impacts is the promotion of young girls’ education. Educating a girl for a nation’s health and
economic development is emphasized in their activities and this achieved significant results
according to the respondents. While they are not oblivious of other campaigns on young girls’
education, they added that their voice is part of the array of entities championing female
education in Ghana.
If you educate a woman, you educate a nation is a commonly used expression in Africa
reflecting the need for girls’ education. Awareness of these benefits of female education
has engendered actions at the micro and macro (global) level towards enhancing female
education. These we have also contributed to in our small ways. In some communities in
which we run educational campaigns, most of the girls who dropped out of school are re-
entering. Also, we have campaigns targeted at reducing teenage pregnancy-an enemy to
female education. [Participant 5, Patron, DASA]
Also, it emerged from the interaction with the respondents that their activities impact on
activities of small-holder farmers. Through extension and educational programmes undertaken
by some of these groups, farmers in the communities now employ modern methods of farming
which increase their yields and by extension their incomes. Here is a quote from one of the
participants:
Last two years, [by then I was in the first year], we visited some villages up north to
undertake extension services. They accepted us and pledged to practice whatever we’ve
taught them. On a fact-finding missing last year, we’ve seen improvements in their
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activities and they attested it the improvements themselves. I’m glad we’re making the
necessary impacts we desired as an association. [Participant 1, member, VORSA]
The findings again revealed that the impacts of their activities on promoting inclusion also span
ethnic inclusion and geographic inclusion. As their names suggest, the groups are ethnic social
movements, by this definition, ethnicity underlies their activities. They do this by pushing the
frontiers of inclusion as far as their ethnic backgrounds are concerned. Similarly, they ensure that
geographically separated communities are also included by extending their activities to these
areas. In fact, the operations of these groups are largely vibrant in bridging ethnic and
geographical barriers since their activities are mostly targeted at deprived communities.
5.4 Challenges Faced By the Ethnic Movements in Promoting Equality
All the participants held the view that their associations faced some challenges in their quest to
promote inclusion amidst other functions for which they were formed. Paramount among these
challenges were the issues of member apathy and financial constraints. On the apathy of the
members, the respondents lamented some of the members’ unwillingness to participate or even
affiliate with the groups. According to the executives, data from the Dean of Students suggests
that they have a lot of members but in practicality, only a minute segment actively participates or
associates with the groups.
From the Dean of Students Office, there are several VORSA students but less than one-
tenth of them have registered and even that, only a handful of them come for meetings.
This affects our activities a lot. [Participant 2, executive, VORSA]
As a consequence of the apathy, financial constraints emerged. The outreach programs and other
activities undertaken by the associations are expensive and they have difficulty funding such
programmes. The semester dues [GHS 5.00] per member are always not forthcoming since they
are not actively involved in the activities of the association. This has somehow and sometimes
rendered the association operational on a cyclical basis [only functional when it has funds to
undertake activities and programmes].
We rely on dues to fund our activities. But my brother [making reference to the
interviewer], where would you get them to pay? They do not come to meetings. When you
come across the ones you know, their rhetoric is what would I gain from the association?
It is frustrating enough to lead this association. [Participant 8, executive, NANS]
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18
Despite of the challenges, the participants indicated that they do their best to hold the association
together while asking benevolent citizens of their ethnic groups to support their courses on
campus.
6. Discussion
The study used a qualitative, exploratory interview approach to examine the role of minority
student social movements in promoting equality. The findings indicate that associations were
formed to promote the development of the ethnic groups amidst tackling other societal problems
like education. This is in tandem with the views of Batliwala (2012) that social movements
pursue a collective action in the global struggle for equality and inclusion. The prevailing social
systems constitute a satisfactory basis for social action (Della Porta and Mattoni, 2015; Turner &
Killian, 1957) and drive the formation of the groups. The findings support Staggenborg’s (2015)
arguments that where equilibrium situations are far from existence, social movements emerge to
drive society towards some level of equality and equity. Our findings also agree with that of
Olzak (2007) who stated that social movements generate collective action advocating
fundamental changes in the political or economic and/or ethnic arrangements in society.
However, in contrast to the assertion of Olzak (2007) that nationalist movements are likely to
come into conflict with existing state authorities and international systems, our findings did not
establish any instance where the ethnic social movements conflicted with state authorities or
international systems. Additionally, in contrast to violence which is often associated with a
critical number of ethnic social movements (Wolff, 2007), our study did not discover any trait of
violence in their activities. To achieve the myriad goals of enhancing the courses of the various
ethnic groups the movements represent, they relied on non-violent tactics and approaches.
The results show that issues of gender equality and the education of girls were often on the
priorities of the ethnic social movements. The findings bear credence to the long-held belief that
social movements often champion issues that affect women and children. Epple and Schief
(2016) found that the rights and privileges of women are the core issues pursued by some social
movements. In addition to promoting gender equality, social movements also promote income
equality by demanding improvements in the conditions of the groups they represent. This
supports the viewpoint of other researchers on the role of social movements (Gaby and Caren,
2016; Bapuji and Neville, 2015; Vermeersch, 2013). Specifically, Vermeersch (2013) noted that
The Ethiopian Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1, May 2021
19
some social movements find it useful to organize a group around a common ethnic identity when
they sense that this group has been placed in a specific position in the workplace, experiences a
common form of discrimination, or suffers from income inequality. This points out the fact that
social movements play vital roles in ensuring the groups they represent are better off and rise
above certain vulnerabilities that dissuade them from progressing and advancing as individuals
of that group or collectively as a group.
Participating in a collective action or social movement comes at a cost and/or risk that can
eventually deter people from active participation (Ruz, 2015; Fernando 2012; Jones 2010). It is,
therefore, apparent that the ethnic movements will encounter challenges in their quest to
champion issues that affect them. Apathetic membership and financial constraints were identified
as the major hindrances to the vibrancy and activism of the ethnic social movements. The
findings were in tandem with that of Afagbedzi (2019), who studied the risk, motivation and cost
of social movement activism. In the study, it was established that apathy and fiscal constraints
were major challenges confronting social movements. Member apathy and financial constraints
of the groups validate the claims of the framing theory that social movements are redundant
without an appropriate “frame” in terms of the core values held by people it seeks to recruit
(Snow & Benford, 1988). There are some limitations in this study that should be highlighted.
Though this is the first known study that provides evidence of how student minority ethnic social
movements promote inclusion in Ghana, the findings of the study are not representative and
generalizable due to the study methods particularly the small sample size and the sampling
approach. Again, social desirability biases are inevitable due to the reliance on participants’
accounts and narratives.
7. Conclusion
In this exploratory qualitative study, the roles of student minority ethnic social movements in
promoting inclusion in Ghana was explored by conducting probing interviews with patrons,
executives and members of three of such movements in KNUST. The main lesson from the in-
depth interviews is that all the participants agreed that the ethnic social movements have
undertaken activities geared towards promoting social inclusion of varied forms. Specifically, the
activities have impacts on the gender dimension of inclusion, income, the ethnic and spatial or
geographical dimension of inclusion. The majority of the participants, however, lamented
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20
member’s apathy and financial constraints in implementing their programmes and activities. In
tandem with the framing theory, leaders of the movements have a task to present or “frame” the
core values held by people it seeks to represent. This is because the formation of social
movements is under finite competitive conditions which require the leaders to create viable
organizations, mobilize resources, and attract a huge following to remain functional.
Acknowledgement
The authors are grateful for the voluntary participation of all participants in this study and their
cooperation.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.
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