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15.08.2012 General News

NGO's petition for freedom of religious worship in schools

By GNA
NGO's petition for freedom of religious worship in schools
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Accra, Aug. 15, GNA - Two non-governmental organisations have petitioned the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) against compulsory religious worship in public schools in the country.

The Network of Muslim Youth Organisations – Ghana (NEMYOG), and Innovative Teachers have in separate petitions to CHRAJ noted that the act whereby Muslim students are forced to attend compulsory Church service and other religious gatherings against their will and beliefs was unconstitutional and undemocratic.

NEMYOG in the petition to the Commissioner of CHRAJ said that their grievance stems from the fact that Muslim students in some educational institutions are compelled to attend Saturday/Sunday Church services, morning and evening devotions, worship and all night services.

It said it had been argued by the school authorities that most of the schools were built by Christian Missionaries and that Church service constituted school gatherings for the purpose of moulding students character in accordance with the church's doctrinal beliefs whilst serving as platforms for delivering important announcements.

Mr Abass Mohammed, national Coordinator of NEMYOG said, “We take a vehement exception to these justifications because they have been used as fertile grounds to convert Muslim students to Christianity against their wish, which is also against the provisions of the Ghana Education Act and the country's constitution”.

The Muslim Youth organizations cited numerous incidents of Muslim students being denied the right to pray on campuses, especially in boarding schools, coupled with attending and writing of exams on Islamic festive days like the Eid, seizure of praying mats, ablution kettles, fasting during the month of Ramadan and hair veils as well as formation of Muslim Students Associations.

Mr Mohammed said in response to the human rights violations, the leadership of the Ghana Muslim Students Association, Ghana Muslim Academy, Coalition of Muslim Organisations and other Muslim groups had petitioned the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service and the government on several occasions but to no avail, thus the need to direct the petition to CHRAJ.

Mr Stephen Desu, Acting President of Innovative Teachers also said the use of coercion by authorities of Mission schools over the years to shove their religious faiths down the throats of Muslim students and students of other religious faiths was alien in any democratic society.

It said Ghana was a secular state and it was therefore illegal for the state to promote a particular religion through compulsion using public schools, either covertly or overtly.

“As teachers, we fully accept the responsibility to inculcate democratic habits in the pupils /students we teach. Discharging this constitutional duty places on us a responsibility to be assertive for our pupils to learn from us”.

“Unfortunately, some overzealous school authorities and teachers have allowed themselves to be used as implementers of compulsory religious activities in public schools, with Muslim students being banned from praying and reading the Holy Quran in some public schools”.

Mr Desu recommended that all rules and regulations that made religious activities in public schools be compulsory for all pupils/students irrespective of one's religious affiliation, advocate that all social gatherings in which all students in a school must attend should be devoid of Bible or Quran reading or recitals, preaching, prayers songs and acts that have religious connotations.

He added that educational institutions be made to rule that every pupil or student can practice his/her religion in public schools without any hindrance and to recommend as illegal the signing of agreements that seek to force students to worship in secular schools funded by the State.

GNA

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