12.08.2004 Feature Article

GES endorses dismissal of 10 students – Rejoinder

GES endorses dismissal of 10 students   – Rejoinder
12.08.2004 LISTEN

Ghanaweb on 07/08/04 reported the dismissal of some ten Senior Secondary School (SSS) students. The report only mentioned six students from Aggrey Memoral College in Cape Coast. These students are said to be 'causing violence to life and property.' The dismal of the said students is said to have been endorsed by the Ghana Education Service (GES). The GES Director-General for Ashante region, Mr. Michael Nsowah announced this at the 50th anniversary prize-giving day at Ashanteman Secondary school. Mr. M. Nsowah further added, “GES had also directed school authorities to take steps to reduce their student intakes to about 1,500 to ensure efficient monitoring of student activities” (ghanaweb 07:08:04).

This writer and perhaps, many Ghanaians would share the joy of maintaining strong discipline in Ghanaian schools, particularly in recent times when there has public outcry of indiscipline among the youth. Besides, the Ghanaian community has long held on to a tradition of good moral behaviour par individualistic convictions but a commendable social etiquette, a cherished and acceptable standards that cannot be 'blown away' by youthful ideas on the silver platter. However, the Ghanaian society has also grown that much today and certain mores, norms and cultural ideals, which are not reflective to the core of a Ghanaian culture should also be given the respire. More so will it be, when all countries are building and integrating global standards for human behaviour.

No matter the crime committed, the dismissal of the students as claimed to have been endorsed by GES is without any strong social conscience, acceptance and comprehension. Such a disciplinary step actually runs against Ghanaian culture that has a long history of child education, the aspiration of families for their children, national manpower development, and the policies of GES (as a body charged with the implementation of educational policy by Ministry of Education). It is also an affront on global laws such as the adopted millennium goals and UNESCO's policies, of which Ghana is a recognised member.

Every Ghanaian child has the right to education. The structure of the educational system in Ghana shows that students will complete SSS at the age of 18years. By virtue of constitutional rights, such students are within the category of children and cannot be employed or imprisoned on certain crimes. If the educational system has integrated all the façades of its reform objectives (e.g. matching age with class levels and progress) as visualised, it is only after completing SSS will students be considered as matured or adults. Adults who could be absorbed either into the formal market sector or tertiary institutions. Until such age therefore, SSS students are still minors who must be guided and given the support or punishment that befits them and not the one which will deny their right of education.

In dismissing them from school, such minors are being denied their rights to education as Ghanaians and throwing overboard of some universal human rights conventions. While the report did not state which level these student were, they are still below 18 years and such dismissal is profoundly an unacceptable punishment to every Ghanaian child and certainly, the victims.

By the nature of moral disciplinary training, the Ghanaian teacher is perhaps, given more authority and support by families and the state, to train and punish students than most western and developing countries. Up till today, the 'village teacher' is still the most respected personality among parents in Ghana. They have the full support of most parents and the government when it comes to child discipline. In view of this, the dismissing of the students from school invigorates many thoughts. For example, if GES and teachers in various schools have not been able to discipline students in that small school communities – secondary schools – where rules are specific and easily implemented, how can the society handle such 'recalcitrant students' in the open and larger social Ghanaian communities?

In Ghana, schools are small replicas of larger communities. Most students, or say over 70% of SSS students stay on campus during academic terms. Apart from the government and GES laws, individual schools have also set up their own regulations all for the training and educating students and ensuring morally trained graduands into the wider and social community. It must be stated that of the 12 years a student spends in completing schooling from class or grade one to SSS 3, a student spend roughly 65-70% (and far greater numbers for SSS students) of his/her day-time life in school. It is perhaps due to this reason that much authority is given to teachers as well in training, controlling and maintaining good morals among students. In this sense, teachers have much influence in the daily lives of most students or Ghanaian youth. Lightly acknowledged though, they (teachers) are expected develop certain effective disciplining measures to control students' activities while they are in school. Such effort will go a long way to help the students, parents and the Ghanaian taxpayer than dismissing them from school.

Punishment befitting students are diverse, however, creativity and caution must be guided principles in selecting appropriate ones. Creativity demands a punitive measure, which merit offences committed by students. Secondly, caution is necessary to ensure that punishment do not destroy the future of such youthful Ghanaians. Punishment should rather correct certain morals and also to discourage others from picking up such bad morals displayed by other students. For example, it would be worthwhile to repeat a student in a class (this is even a questionable measure in terms of cost to parents and not the student per se). Again, a student could be given long hours of after-school work such weeding, sweeping and cleaning, etc and supervised strictly by the school's authorities.

It is also not amusing to hear that “GES had also directed school authorities to take steps to reduce their student intakes to about 1,500 to ensure efficient monitoring of student activities.” GES states as curved from Ghana's Vision2020, an educational objective at its official homepage, 'Higher education for the development of middle and top-level manpower requirements,' 'Facilities to ensure that all citizens are functionally literate and self-reliant.'( The implementation of the government's fCUBE program, Girl Education promotion program and the total educational reform program are all efforts aimed at increasing education intake and literacy rates in Ghana with unintentional or intentional benefits to increase, beef up and enhance the quality of manpower training for development.

Mr. Nsowah's statement that GES is now resulting to limiting intake numbers of students in schools (to 1500) on the reason that it will help in monitoring student activities is very contradictory indeed. It is even hard to imagine such conflicting 'thoughts or Policy' since the Vision 2020 and fCUBE programs are still being implemented in Ghana. Besides, if the growth in school intake has caught the GES hands-down and the only way to deal with such problem is to simply cut numbers of intake at SSS level, then it is a reflection of gross ineptitude of the top level management planning of GES and the government. For, it is hard to imagine a policy, which in totality is to encourage growth in education, with emphasis on quality and numbers at the basic level and discourages intake of students at SSS level. If growth in educational numbers at SSS level is the problem or the blockade to GES in 'monitoring student activities', then there are many ways to monitor student activities than to simply prevent Ghanaians from gaining access to education at the SSS level.

In the view of this writer, the comments by the Ashante Regional Director-General of GES are just an under-tone of in-house and complex problems confronting GES and teachers. Typical of Ghanaian moral and cultural training, parents and leaders scarcely admit defeat or failures. This attitude is transported to civil and public service where top-level leaders often are tight-lipped than to publicly 'wash' their problems for national awareness for consensus building on strategies to curb such emerging problems. It is often when problems become extremely complex and irresolvable that people or public is put in the know.

If GES thinks it has problems with discipline, it can count on Ghanaian parents to chip in ideas on solving such issue, as most parents would abhor to have undisciplined children. On the other hand, if the problem is monitoring of student activities (and may be for efficiency), there are several ways to tackle that. Besides, there are Ghanaians and professionals who are willing to help develop schemes to assist in the good course of nation building. This writer would certainly be prepared and willing to assist.

What is needed now is for GES to make its problems public, poised to admit them and willing to appreciate and integrate views put forward by stakeholders and individuals. It has to be a two-way deal implanted in a constructive reengineering platform. Otherwise, comments as note in this rejoinder are conflicting ones from no mean a Director-General of GES to the educational policy of Ghana (and GES) which is being promoted at the same time in the country.

I welcome criticism and comments.