When I first learnt about the riots that occurred in Tumu Senior High Technical School last week, and most especially, the circumstances that led to the riots, I felt highly disappointed and totally scandalised. Much so because a little research revealed that a situation repeated in less than 6 months after a teacher was assaulted for the same reason that led to Thursday’s riots in November 2018. Of course, this is not the first time SHS students have embarked on riots, and it may not be the last time we will hear of such occurrences. However, you would normally expect that students’ riot, may stem from reasonable and worthy cause rather than empty and stupid one such as seizure of students’ mobile phones by authorities. They even had the balls to vandalise school property? We are finished! Back in the days, poorly prepared meals could trigger riot. In most of the instances, students of yesteryears only protested and rioted for improvements in students’ welfare; decisions by authorities that posed a threat to students’ academic advancement; facilities deficit; inadequate resources, etc. I am by no means, justifying students riots, situation which must always be discouraged as much as possible and condemned in no uncertain terms, every time because it is can never be an option to resort to solving any problem. Well, maybe, we could somehow pardon students of TSHTS if the cause of the riot was a more purposeful one. Unfortunately, they chose to riot over one of the most condemnable causes one would ever find. This was a clear illegality which is backed by school rules and regulations as a palpable abomination in not only TSHTS, but in all SHSs in Ghana.
Admittedly, when an issue like this pops up in the country and especially in the Upper West region, where I grew up, it makes me ask myself what is it that has come over us in this country that has dispossessed us of everything that once was our sense of pride and hope? How come that discipline, which is the foundation of a successful and happy life, deserted us? Then, I become ceaselessly carried away by (and buried in) deep thought and wonder, seeking answers to numerous questions which answers can hardly be found to. It is hard to understand how we landed in this condemnation which has rid us of every value and norm. And completely so, to the extent that even our sense of morality has deserted us for good! But how did we arrive at this nail-biting situation? Lord speak, for your children seek your face.
One key question that I cannot find answers to is what sanctions did the authorities pronounce on those unscrupulous students who had the nerves to attack a teacher in the first instance that occurred in November, last year? If there was any sanction, why was it not widely publicised like the crime itself was, to deter other students from committing similar crimes? I am strongly convicted that a chunk of those students involved in the November, 2018 attacks on the teacher on duty might have been candidates in engineering this more catastrophic riot. I suspect that the School’s management has been overly laxed in their approach to discipline in the school. Their commitment to instilling same is questionable. One would think that any serious school management would take stringent measures to snuff out, altogether, an embarrassing misconduct such as attacks on a teacher, and subsequently gone ahead to widely publicise the sanctions so as to repair the damaged reputation of the school which got soiled by the act of indiscipline as showcased by the students. Yet nothing was heard about the sanctions in the media where the story gained prominence and caused the damage. That is why the management’s approach to instilling discipline in the school has to be questioned.
Besides, one revealing fact is that, TSHTS has, too often, been in the news for negative reasons. In 2014, teachers in that school, including the then headmaster, were reportedly caught up in incessant sexual abuse of the school girls. This was followed up with a story of 30 TSHTS girls being pregnant in 2016. In November 2018, 14 students of TSHTS were reported to be in police grips for allegedly beating up a teacher on duty for seizing their mobile phones. So where has the school management been, all this while? What have they been doing while the school wallows in utter indiscipline? Do they realise the magnitude of the task before them, at all? But if it is the same management that has presided over all of these negative developments why are they still at post? Has any head rolled in the last 5 years in the midst of this moral decadence being displayed in the school? Has any committee been set up and tasked to get into the bottom of the depreciating discipline in the school? Systems must work, the law must take its full course, and the right thing must be done lest TSHTS shall fall and never rise again.
Critical examination of the situation also suggested that this riot is the product of poorly implemented measures and a lack of discipline in the school over a period of time. When you look at the manner in which the riot was planned and executed, it is clear that anarchy has reigned supreme in the school for a while without any or with little effort made by authorities to curb the situation. This development has more or less institutionalised indiscipline to the extent that students deem it an absolute right to flout with abandon whoever stands between them and with self gratification, and more to the point, preventing them from using mobile phones in the school. The fact is that, the use of mobile phones remains an illegality in any SHS in this country. I know for a fact that mission schools such as Lassia Tuolu Senior High School, St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary, Nandom Senior High School and St Francis of Assisi Girls Senior High School where discipline is a nonnegotiable condition cannot and will never countenance this heinous act for a second. It is for no extraordinary reason but the fact that they accept that discipline is the key to success and should never be compromised. That is the stance that every single school must adapt, your background and management unit, notwithstanding.
Under no circumstances should teachers be indiscriminately indulged in amorous relationships with students in a free for all fashion. Under no conditions should students question the decision of any teacher to duly enforce a school rule and still walk around scot free. There must never be an instance where students are openly applauded, exonerated and/or supported when disciplinary issues come up. In fact, such disciplinary issues must be carefully and cautiously handled to ensure that the regard and respect from students to teachers remain impregnable. Dismiss nonconforming/indisciplined teachers because such teachers often display high levels of moral decadence that will mostly pollute the atmosphere and make it fertile for students to dip morally. Their behaviour is usually a recipe for casting a slur on the integrity of teachers while granting students the opportunity to disrespect teachers and hold grudges against them.
In the latest (2017) report on ‘Trends of Poverty and Inequality’, the Upper West region, the region which houses TSHTS, is said to be one of the poorest regions in the country with over 50% of its population being assessed to be poor. Since most senior high schools in the country, despite the Computerised School Placement System, usually have the majority of the students being natives of the region, it means that many of these students involved in the riots are most likely coming from impoverished backgrounds in the Upper West Region. This is the very reason why formal education is a must for them since it presents them with more realistic opportunities to emerge from the shackles of poverty. That is why I would support expression of grievances if they were not caught making calls with their mobile phones, when the phones were seized, but rather researching on internet connection. That would have been an honourable illegality worthy of some sympathies. And this is why it is imperative that contrary to public opinion that only the wealthy are arrogant, the poor too could become notoriously arrogant, lately.
Indeed, the Chief of Tumu Traditional area, during the celebration of the PaariGbielle Festival which is celebrated by the Chiefs and people of the area, indicated in his speech that there is cultural decadence bedevilling his area, at the moment. I would like to humbly suggest that recent events in TSHTS and even their sister school, Kanton Senior High School, are a clear indication that the decadence goes way beyond the cultural context. Moral decadence has also gained grounds in the Tumu traditional area. I have learnt, with happiness that Tumu is still one of the few towns in the Upper West region where their Chief still reserves and wields a lot of authority. If this is anything to go by, I humbly appeal to the chief to step in and take stringent measures to forestall the fast declining morality and discipline in the schools in his jurisdictional Traditional area. The TSHTS recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary which granted them the honour of hosting the Deputy Upper West Regional Minister, a son of their soil. When he addressed the gathering, he did not mince words in his speech as he pinpointed out that the standards of education are falling. He called on all stakeholders to up their game to enable us curb the situation. So, after hosting the minister and receiving this admonishment from him, is this the best way that students, staff and management of TSHTS can contribute to raising the falling education standards? That is surely a negative contribution because it only goes to further derail the efforts of key stakeholders towards improving the standards. In fact, the TSHTS has been performing abysmally in the WASSCE, a fact the headmaster of the school alluded to in his speech at the climax of the Silver Jubilee of the school but also promised to improve, only for the school to backslide, ostensibly, in this manner. That is certainly an unfortunate occurrence.
Going forward, there is no denying the fact that the riots that happened in TSHTS is only a manifestation of the morally decayed era that our society and schools have slid into. Too many things: misconducts, misbehaviours, and indisciplinary acts are taken for granted these days, and accordingly overlooked. What we fail to realize is that small acts of indiscipline that are left unpunished are the ones that will degenerate to heinous acts and crimes, and shock us. We are now busy praising bad behaviour than we ever get to promote good behaviour. Well behaved people are regarded as colloquial and backward people simply described as ‘Jon’. Parents deem themselves too busy to keep an eye on their children and their activities yet are always quick to be overprotective by taking sides with such children when they are made to face corrective measures. This is the bane of the country’s discipline. MoE and GES are preoccupied with enforcing policies and decisions that will guarantee electoral victory of ruling governments rather than protecting the collective interest of this nation which is why authorities can boldly say that certain punishments should be abolished when they know very well that the consequences of such a decision will definitely have far reaching effects on us. No stakeholder in our education system has done enough, lately, to protect and promote the discipline and morality in our education sector. The hard truth is that we have all slumped into deep slumber while we allowed moral decadence to fester in our society and schools, unabated. This has come back to sting us. The TSHTS riot is simply a rude awakening. TSHTS riot never happened in vain, it is rather an indication that stake holders are not properly pursuing morally upright standards. They are too busy caressing indiscipline!
David Angangmwin Baganiah
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