Riots By Candidates In WASSCE 2020: Causes Of The Indiscipline And Suggested Remedies
Benjamin Yao Anyrator writes his usual long essay...
The West African Senior School Certification Examinations (WASSCE) 2020 has begun and its initial days have been greeted with students' agitations, riots, vandalising of school properties, threats of boycotting the papers, insulting public figures out of what I would describe as lack of moral conscience.
Teachers, journalists, examination supervisors and even security officers had been physically attacked by students; the invigilators and the West African Examination Council (WAEC) supervisors had to flee the examination centres in order to save their lives.
After the Integrated Science paper on Monday, August 3, 2020, video recordings and pictures of these incidents from various Senior High Schools (SHSs) across the country have gone viral in the social media. Candidates from some schools have accused their school heads and teachers of being too strict in invigilation. While some have blamed the invigilators for preventing them from copying (cheating), as if cheating in examination is now a right, the anger of others were born out of the assertion that the government, through school authorities, gave them "past questions and answers" of specific content to study for the examination but the independent nonpolitical examination body - WAEC - swerved them as it failed to give them their expected questions. Also, some candidates complained that the questions were too difficult and that is what warranted their disturbances. Added to the above, allegations of issues on deliberate examination malpractices have been raised against a few schools.
Some of the schools which are in the news for these unfortunate incidents are: Tweneboa Kodua SHS, Ndewura Jakpa SHTS, Juaben SHS, Zebilla SHTS, Battor SHS, Secondi College, Kade SHS and Bright SHS.
Also, it has been alleged that some teachers and private school administrators also took money from their candidates and promised to help them pass their WASSCE come what may.
Some people's comments on the incidents so far have suggested that our President once said these candidates should pass to shame his detractors. Hence, such commentators are of the view that this statement had probably created the impression in the minds of the students that the President will have an influence on the WASSCE and make things easy for them to pass, knowing very well that it is only Ghana which is writing this year's WAEC examinations. Therefore, when things did not go as they had anticipated, they were angry. Whether their arguments are valid or not, I leave it to your judgment.
One would rhetorically ask: Why would this year's WASSCE candidates not allow us our peace and order in this country? Why were the students physically assaulting the teachers and other examination officers - pelting them with stones and chasing them out of the examination centres? Why should they complain of too much space between and among them? Is the WASSCE a group-based work now? What could have given them the effrontery to hurl insults at even the President of the Republic? What could have motivated them to send such derogatory unrefined comments to the highest office of Ghana? Eii! Our society is turning into something terrible. Are these the youth into whom we're investing the nation's scarce resources for a brighter future of Ghana? Indeed, we are not in normal times.
As a Social Scientist, I wish we all could confront these reprehensible acts of these ill-mannered lazy candidates as character and moral issue of national concern and not a political one. There is no need for tagging NPP and NDC in this matter. If there is anything we could do, we should analyse and discuss the issue within its peculiar bounds with respect to our modern social cum educational system. What is obviously white should not be described with socio-politically prejudiced lenses as being black. What I am trying to put across is that at the first approach to addressing these issues, it is uncalled-for for one to be constructing such sentences as "It is NDC teachers and politicians who instigated the students."; " It is H.E. Nana Addo (The President) and his NPP government who have trained the students to behave in the manner in which they are doing."; etc. Do we have "NDC and NPP teachers" in this country at all? Unfortunately, this is what a section of the citizenry is doing. Is that the weird dimension our politics has assumed now?
As I alluded to earlier, the behaviour of these students is deviant, absurd, barbaric; it is an act of indiscipline, insubordination and lawlessness at their peak; it is unfortunate, intolerable; it is uncouth, awkward, clumsy, unmannerly, detestable, disrespectful, morally deranged and all the other relevant adjectives you can find with their synonyms. We all, therefore, must condemn the misconduct as such.
However, if you want to kill a tree that is a nuisance, you do not start from the leaves and branches. The root causes of this indiscipline on the part of our SHS students must be unraveled and tackled from source. The root causes are not far-fetched so we cannot pretend we do not know what they are. It is against this background that I would like to use this medium to outline a few possible causes of the overwhelmingly high level of indiscipline amongst the SHS students and suggest remedies without beating about the bush.
1. SCHOOL AUTHORITIES INCLUDING HEADMASTERS OR MISTRESSES AND TEACHERS IN OUR SHSs CAN NO LONGER ROLL OUT MEASURES TO MAINTAIN DISCIPLINE WITHIN THEIR PECULIAR SCHOOL SETTING.
To begin with, school authorities cannot punish students for misconduct any longer. Nowadays, students perceive their teachers as their colleagues. Punishments and disciplinary measures in the form of suspension, withdrawal, corporal punishment, assigning given tasks such as weeding, scrubbing, uprooting tree stumps, fetching gravel, sand and water, signing of bond to be of good behaviour and the like have become a thing of the past. These forms of punishment are the ideal for conforming the African child to discipline but they have been thrown away to the dogs and what are meant for correcting the Whiteman's child have been adopted, forgetting that our socio-cultural setting is different from the foreign ones. In fact, some of our ways of doing things suggest that we are still under colonialism.
In situations where the school heads, pushed to the wall, subject any students who give to gross misconduct, to some form of deterring punishments, human rights activists descend on the school heads; the Ghana Education Service (GES) issues a warning note to the school heads and instruct that they reverse the punishment. Parents and guardians, who should support the punishment for the good of their own wards, rather join the opposition team against the disciplinarians. Upsurge in indiscipline is the result where these adolescents have the audacity to insult even our President.
Again, we now have things like "common code of conduct", "common timetable", "common prospectus", etc. The initiatives of school heads and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) are suppressed. Daily activities in our SHSs are largely regulated from the "top".
We have discarded a system that was working well for us and have gone for what would work against us. Can a football coach substitute his top-scoring striker with a defender that scores "own goal" and still look forward to carrying the day in the match?
2. SCHOOL AUTHORITIES - HEADMASTERS OR MISTRESSES, HOUSEMASTERS, HEADS OF DEPARTMENT, SCHOOL COUNSELORS AND TEACHERS - ARE FORBIDDEN TO SPEAK THROUGH THE MEDIA TO THE PUBLIC ON DEVELOPMENTS WITHIN THEIR SCHOOLS, ESPECIALLY WHEN SUCH DEVELOPMENTS ARE UNPLEASANT.
The school authorities can only praise but not criticize and complain. When an incident occurs in a Senior High School in any part of Ghana, you hear, on radio and TV stations, Ministers, Members of Parliament (MPs), Public Relations Officers (PROs) of state institutions and all classes of politicians in the ruling government reporting on the incident that they didn't witness. They are the only ones who speak while the tongues of the immediate school managers and real eye witnesses on the ground are under strict ban.
In recent years, school heads do not brief parents on unpleasant happenings in their schools as it used to be. If they dare do so, these school heads unfortunately come under serious threats of sanction by the GES powered by the government of the day. The consequence is that some of these school authorities, for fear of losing their means of livelihood, remain silent and almost indifferent to unpleasant issues. Furthermore, our SHSs have become the leading origin of videos and pictures of sexual immorality, insults, riots, unnecessary demonstrations, physical assault on staff, vandalism and other social vices. No one should blame Satan.
3. THE 2020 BATCH OF SHS GRADUATES HAS BEEN PAMPERED AND OVERPAMPERED.
I think this is the first time ever in the history of the WASSCE where such unbearable degree of indiscipline has gone beyond school heads, teachers and invigilators and reached the Office of the President as the major victims. I have never heard of candidates pointing accusing fingers at the President for being the cause of their frustrations in the exam hall when the questions did not coincide with their expectations.
As a premise for my assertion, it has been observed that children who are highly pampered are likely to imbibe little good morals like values and norms which serve as the standards in society. Pampered children fear nothing; they take anything for granted. They treat their parents in funny ways out of unconsciousness. Basic acceptable societal norms do not make sense to them. Their ability to discern right from wrong is very low.
To justify this opinion with undisputable evidence, the 3-year school fees of these candidates were paid by the government. These students enjoyed free food, free school uniforms, free materials and equipment for practical courses and free textbooks. The government procured and distributed free "Past Questions and Answers" books to them while their younger ones in the basic schools are battling with the challenge of inadequate textbooks. The government, for the first time in the country's WASSCE history, absorbed the WASSCE registration fees for these 2020 candidates. The incentive levy that parents used to pay to motivate teachers has been absorbed by the government and renamed as "Teacher Motivation Allowance". The usual extra hour and vacation classes that we used to attend at a fee were organized free for them by the government. "Academic Intervention Classes" is its catchy name. These students and their parents never toiled and paid any of the direct bills even though they have undoubtedly incurred some of the total cost of the students' education in various ways.
One of our local proverbs says: "Once you carry your own pot, you value every single drop of water." What this means is that naturally, people tend to show great care and protection for what they come by through their own sweat and vice versa. In years gone by, you would hear statements like "Learn hard and behave well in school so that your parents will feel proud of spending on you, so that you don't waste your money; don't violate the school rules and get suspended or withdrawn from the boarding house and school", etc. These statements psychologically created some intrinsic self-awareness in students and they tend to be very meticulous in the steps they took.
The person who paid his major school bills was been punished to prevent repetition of his action and to serve as deterrent to others. However, the contrast is what we see now! This young generation of Ghanaian children whose education is funded by the government was over pampered to the extent that very serious and absurd behaviours of some could not attract punishment in the form of suspensions and withdrawals to prevent possible future repetition of their actions and to deter potential offenders.
One could recall that some of these 2020 WASSCE candidates were placed in their SHSs, with Aggregates 50, 49, 48 and other poor BECE results that wouldn't have landed them there if it were "those days". They, therefore, have the impression that from the way things are changing in the country, success can be achieved by anyone on a silver platter, hence they wouldn't study hard.
Moreover, few weeks to the commencement of this year's WASSCE, an unprecedented brand - "Akufo-Addo Graduates " - was put on the candidates. Never in the history of the WASSCE in Ghana had a brand or tag bearing the incumbent president's name been put on the candidates.
Another point worth mentioning is that some politicians in government, who do not sit in the classroom with the students, have expressed unjustifiable confidence in them as regards how outstanding their performance in the yet-to be-written WASSCE would be as against those of previous years' batches. As a result, these students believe that the pamper and free stuff would be extended to the examination hall and that they could be awarded free certificates also without corresponding hard work to merit the certificates. Ideally, and as the norm has it, these 2020 WASSCE candidates should be rendering unqualified gratitude to the government but when the examination questions came to their chagrin, what we see is a crime.
I must put on record that I am not an anti-Free SHS crusader; as a concerned citizen and not a spectator, I am expressing my candid opinion on the riots at the 2020 WASSCE in various schools, its causes and remedies for the future. The benefits of the flagship program cannot, for any reasons, be underestimated but its nature, accompanying directives and implementation arguably do not go without shortfalls.
4. OUR SYSTEM OF EDUCATION HAS PLACED EMPHASIS ON KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS ACQUISITION TO THE NEGLECT OF CHARACTER FORMATION AND MORAL TRAINING.
Education must be comprehensive, thus it must be structured to cater for the three domains - cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains. Education is not only about passing exams; it is more about shaping the character of individuals so as to enable them fit into the society. No one fails to realize that skills and knowledge are key factors for a nation’s socio-economic growth. However, inasmuch as we train our youth to acquire skills and knowledge, we must not fail in imparting our cherished societal values in them as these would provide the conducive social framework for the utilisation of skills.
Subjects like Social Studies, Religious and Moral Education, Christian Religious Studies, Ghanaian Language and Culture and others are given little space on the school time table as compared with Mathematics, Science, English Language, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Business courses, just to mention a few. Religious activities have woefully lost their value in our schools. Religious denominational meetings are given little attention while clubs and societies are almost nonexistent in our SHSs in recent years. The result is that we are promoting wholesale or mass education that produces social deviants and delinquents who are desperate for academic excellence on paper without hard work.
Another major contributing factor to the deterioration, if not extinction, of our moral standards is that the vehement use of abusive statements and peddling of falsehood by politicians on live radio and television programs have become a norm in Ghana. We have already infused dirty blind politics in these adolescents, majority of whom are even politically illegal citizens - they cannot enjoy franchise. Adult citizens, whom the younger generation should see as role models, have perpetrated violence and have given to various forms of misconduct in this country but have been left off the hook. The new order of the day is that actions of persons in higher positions which are apparently wrong are condemned by only citizens belonging to the other side of the political divide whereas those who have wrapped themselves in the same political party cloths as the misbehaving individual justify the misbehaviour and see nothing wrong with it. Our moral standards have fallen; we ourselves have collapsed them. The outcome is what we see now. We reap what we sow. We can't correct the young ones effectively if we the older generation constantly do the opposite of what we tell them. We must lead exemplary life by walking the talk.
5. IN RECENT YEARS, THE RECRUITMENT OF STAFF INTO OUR SHSs AS WELL AS OTHER PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS IS INFLUENCED LARGELY BY POLITICS, CHARACTERIZED BY BRIBERY, CORRUPTION AND NEPOTISM AND NOT BY ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS.
In the good old days, we were told to study hard in school so that: we could get a better place to be in future; we could get a better employment; we could be fixed in respectable positions in society and the like. It, therefore, sounds to reason that even though one could be his own entrepreneur after hard work in school, when it comes to recruitment or employment at the public or government sector, government as an employer would select those who excelled in their courses in school, evidenced by their certificates, other credentials and capabilities, first before their less performing graduate counterparts. Sadly, the order has not been as it was preached to us.
Employment into the GES, particularly the SHSs, has thrown away academic specialization with certificates and capabilities as one of, if not the main criteria. Political figures in government - Members of Parliament (MPs), District/ Municipal/Metropolitan Chief Executives (MMDCEs), Director-Generals, Ministers, all categories of government agents and political party leaders are the ones determining who should be given appointment letters. The eligibility criteria is based on political party affiliations, ethnicity, family relations, one's ability to pay a whooping amount of money as bribe, other merits and not necessarily academic credentials. No wonder a recent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) report revealed that the Ghana Education Service (GES) is one of the most corrupt institutions in Ghana.
A large section of the hardworking graduates with outstanding achievement in school who do not have any "links", as we say in our local parlance, therefore, do not meet any of the above-mentioned conditions are left to their fate at home. The favoured recruited teachers are under the moral obligation to implement, hook, line and sinker, the directives of the government that gave them the job. They do the exact will of the source of their employment and ignore simple disciplinary actions that they themselves could initiate to correct misconduct in the schools. The hands of the school heads and the teachers are tied to their backs; they cannot condemn and reject a policy that would not augur well for our society. They want to protect their jobs and for some, their political party and or government while simple disciplinary measures that will keep our society in safety and security is thrown to the dogs. As a consequence, discipline is relegated to the background and moral degeneration gains its ground.
To save the readers' time, other factors which have contributed significantly to the indiscipline amongst the students are listed without explanations. They include but not limited to the following:
6. IRRESPONSIBLE PARENTING
7. NEGATIVE INFLUENCE OF THE MASS MEDIA
8. BAD PEER INFLUENCE
9. MISINTERPRETATION AND MISAPPLICATION OF THE CONCEPT OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF CHILDREN
10. INFILTRATION OF FOREIGN CULTURE
In conclusion, I suggest the following recommendations for dealing with the menace:
The main workable panacea to curbing the alarming level of indiscipline amongst students as well as resolving some of the numerous challenges confronting education especially, second cycle education in Ghana is de-politicisation of education in the country. School authorities should be allowed to institute and enforce disciplinary measures and others that will be effective in maintaining discipline in the peculiar socio-cultural climate of their respective schools. The government, political parties and all stakeholders are entreated to see education as a nation building project and not a project for scoring political points. We must stop scaling political party interest above national interest and security. Political parties and governments will come and go but Ghana remains. It is said that the fresh green leaf falls and the dry leaf also falls. That notwithstanding, based on natural demographic phenomena, it is logical if one says the current older generation in the helm of affairs will, in years to come, pass away and leave Ghana in the hands of the younger generation of citizens we are raising now. We should, for that matter, do what is more helpful in the socialization process, else we put our future in jeopardy.
Again, some of our key educational policies need to be reviewed; serious educational reform agenda should be rolled out and implemented immediately. There is an urgent need for "Sankofa" thus, we need to go back and pick some of the useful elements in the secondary education system that produced the men and women who are leading us today and a large section of the middle class.
Pampering of SHS students is needless. It must cease! The students we have there today are as human beings as their predecessors. Over-pampering them will do nothing better for us than endangering the future of our dear nation. These SHS students are adolescents; since adolescence is a crisis stage, the students cannot be allowed to do what pleases them in the disguise of exercising their human rights. There is the need for parents, teachers and all agents of socialization to employ serious tactfulness in handling them. Deterring punishments should be meted out to children who treat the laws with disdain. In checking their behaviours and instilling discipline in them, parents and school authorities, however, should blend strictness with flexibility.
It is not all aspects of the Whiteman's culture that we should be assimilating, for what works in a foreign land may not work in Ghana.
In addition, the mass media should be monitored and controlled by the National Media Commission, the Ministry of Communication, the security agencies and other regulatory bodies. The content of films and other programs exposed to the consumption of people, especially children should be carefully vetted.
There should be improvement in parenting skills. Also, our human rights laws and what constitute violations should be revisited. Child rights activists should revise their activities to be in a way that would not compromise discipline in their worthy course of protecting children's rights.
Religious bodies, civil society organizations, traditional leaders, educationists, PTAs, teacher unions and non-governmental organizations should rise and find their voices.
Another important remedy that cannot be overlooked is that the youth and young ones should cultivate the habit of organising their peers for worthwhile activities rather than engaging themselves in acts of lawlessness under the conviction that someone will protect and defend them.
Lastly, each and every individual in the leadership of government, the Ministry of Education, the Ghana Education Service, the staff of the Senior High Schools, political parties and all adult citizens of Ghana should ask themselves this question: "Is this the kind of second cycle education system I went through to reach where I am today?".
"Fill our heart with true humility; make us cherish, fearless honesty;
And help us to resist oppressors' rule;
With all our will and might forever more."
The writer of this article, Benjamin Yao Anyrator, is an unemployed male graduate. After passing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) with Aggregate 7 at the Sogakofe Senior High School, he proceeded and studied the 4-year Bachelor of Education (Social Sciences) program at the University of Cape Coast and graduated with First Class Honours in Economics and Geography in May 2017. He further sat the maiden Teacher Licensure Examination conducted by the National Teaching Council in September 2018, passed all courses and obtained a Teaching License (SHS/JHS Category).
He is an educationist, a professional teacher, multiple award winner, a driver, a social commentator with excellent communication and writing skills in English Language and Ghanaian Language (Ewe). He is a proactive and smart team leader with excellent interpersonal relation skills who upholds integrity, accountability and transparency. He is of initiative, drive and passion. Benjamin has good problem-solving skills and the ability to act responsibly and ethically. He also possess accuracy in statistical computations and data entry with attention to details. He works diligently with little or no supervision.
Benjamin has contributed his harmless views, through many a discourse, to various issues of national interest.
The author also doubles as a Choral Musician, a Composer and Trainer who has served as the Choral Music Director for a number of branches of the Global Evangelical Church, Apostles Revelation Society and Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana for the past seven (7) years.
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Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."