Dean of the Faculty of Education, University for Development Studies (UDS), Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Gunu has stated that Wesley Girls Senior High School management’s attempted ban on Ramadan activities there was in contravention of efforts aimed at building tolerant and integrated communities.
He condemned the decision that triggered widespread criticisms and advised like-minded school authorities to avoid it.
According to him, the sensitive nature of this issue required that the Ghana Education Service (GES) and management of the school should be circumspect about their utterances and public statements.
“Historically, some school authorities have been poor at tolerating practices of other faiths. Ghanaians need to do away with tendencies that continue to perpetuate division and sectarianism.”
Dr. Gunu in an article referred to the United Kingdom where in 2016, popular examinations at the secondary school level such as GCSE and A-Level were rescheduled during Ramadan for three years to avoid clashing with the holy month.
The article reads as follows:
Globally, educational systems are drifting towards building integrated and tolerant educational systems that promote creativity and national cohesion. Wesley Girls Senior High School management’s ban on Ramadan activities there is a big dent on efforts aimed at building tolerant and integrated communities.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents examination boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland often hold talks with Muslim groups and aims to avoid holding examinations in the most popular subjects during the Ramadan period. This is just one of the examples to demonstrate the goodness of a tolerant society.
Acts of worship such as prayers, fasting etc should not be confused with dress codes and hair styles. Schools should show sensitivity when dealing with non-negotiable religious issues such as prayers, fasting etc. Schools should adjust to accommodate the needs of students fasting.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) should be commended for directing the school’s management and other institutions to allow Muslim students to partake in the ongoing Ramadan fast.
But there should not be a conditional clause that parents of such wards are to write to the respective schools relieving it of any obligation should such students suffer health complications. This directive is suggestive of the fact that parents might as well write to schools regarding their feeding, sleeping places and the likes.
Muslims are aware fully of those who are expected to fast and those who are exempted. This directive therefore does not sit well with the cultural sensitivity of the Muslim populace and must be withdrawn.
The school management’s conduct regarding tolerance would motivate and teach other students to accept their colleagues without dehumanising them.
School management teams have the power vested in them as enshrined in the Code of Discipline for secondary schools to deal with disciplinary issues.
The Ghana Education Service (G.E.S) Unified Code of Discipline is the document that regulates the activities of behaviour management in Ghana’s schools.
However, this document is outmoded and does not deal with issues like this.
The Code of Discipline for secondary schools (Unified Code of Discipline, n.d.) also serves as the parent policy document for the Senior High Schools to use to develop their own policies to manage student behaviour but this Unified Code of Discipline needs reconstruction.
The GES should engage policy engineers to support its construction. What is happening currently in Ghana’s SHSs warrants changes in our education policies.