Following reported student unrests in some Senior High Schools (SHS) in Ghana, some Catholic educationists in the West African country have called on the government to consider handing back faith-based schools, saying that quality education and discipline were imparted by the religious entities when they managed their respective learning institutions.
“I don’t think it would be out of place to request the Government to consider handing over the schools to the Mission to manage since churches will always ensure that quality standards are maintained rather than quantity,” Gloria Kwasie, a Catholic educationist in Ghana, told ACI Africa Correspondent in an interview Tuesday, August 25.
Mrs. Kwasie added, “Senior Secondary Schools were established by churches during the colonial era as part of their missionary objectives among other things to instill moral discipline. As a parent and an educationist, I was dumbfounded and appalled when I saw the clips of these teenagers engaging in serious acts of indiscipline.”
Reacting to an August 3 online videos, which showed students of some SHS in Ghana destroying school furniture, smashing bowls containing food in the school dining hall, attacking exam invigilators and journalists, and issuing threats to school authorities for being firm on invigilation during the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), Mrs. Kwasie described the conduct as “despicable, shameful and ridiculous.”
“I just couldn’t comprehend that students who are being prepared to be responsible citizens for the future, could resort to destruction of school properties and some went to the extent of raining insults of unprintable words on the President of our country,” she said.
She called for the condemnation of the behaviour of the students by well-meaning Ghanaians especially parents and the possible handing back mission schools to churches, which she said would instill the discipline and morals in the educational sector.
“On further reflection, I asked myself what might have precipitated such acts, which, to me, could be perceived as the height of indiscipline?” Mrs. Kwasie, who is also a Grand National President of the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Ghana, posed.
She further posed, “Could all these have happened because they failed to prepare adequately for their final exams? Is it a reflection of our society today or could this be described as isolated cases? Do we have to tackle the issues at stake, nationally by examining the role of parents, schools, teachers and the society at large in moulding of these teenagers?”
The Ghanaian educationist wondered whether the cause of the indiscipline could be that parents have distanced themselves from the moral upbringing of their children due to other commitments to the extent that the kids grow up picking up certain vices from social media.
A 2017 statement by Ghana’s Minister for Education, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh that hinted on the possibility of the government handing back mission schools in Ghana to churches was welcomed by stakeholders of faith-based schools including the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) through its Episcopal Chair of Education, Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie.
Later in the same year, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Trinity College in Accra, also promised a historic handing over of mission schools with the hope it would help arrest declining moral standards in schools.
“The tradition of discipline, hard work, and integrity that characterize the churches…are needed in our country,” President Akufo-Addo was quoted as saying.
On his part, Mr. Emmanuel Dogodzi, the National President of the Association of Catholic Teachers (ACT) in Ghana told ACI Africa Correspondent that as a cradle of quality education, parents and guardians had always ensured that their children attend mission schools irrespective of their religion.
“Even in our current state of declining quality of education, some mission schools that still have much influence in the management of their schools are the most sought for,” Mr. Dogodzi said.
He lamented, “In recent times, however, it has become alarmingly clear that the anchor to quality graduates which is discipline has been thrown to the dogs with reasons being the so much political interruptions with school management for political control and policies that are detached from our cultural values among others.”
When missions run their own schools based on their teaching, mostly ensuring that the dignity of the human person takes center stage, learners and their parents and guardians are persuaded to conform to the norms or be left out of the privileges found in the education in mission schools, he further said.
He added that the three components of human development including the human intellect, the human heart (compassion for fellow man) and the human hand (zeal to work passionately) are upheld in mission schools.
Mr. Dogodzi, a teacher at the St. Thomas Aquinas SHS in Ghana’s capital, Accra also told ACI Africa Correspondent that mission schools can only function well if the government supports the infrastructural development of the schools.
Ghana has about 872 second cycle schools of which 66 percent are government controlled.
If handed back to faith-based entities, the Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Anglican churches would control a majority of the 575 schools now under Ghana’s government.