Date published: February 10, 2014
By I. K. Gyasi
MR. PETER Nortsu-Kotoe, the Honourable Member of Parliament for Akatsi North, thinks that there is the need for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to engage the religious bodies in a dialogue aimed at handing over the management of mission schools to the various religious bodies. ( DAILY GUIDE – Wednesday, January 29, 2014).
Why? According to THE CHRONICLE issue of Wednesday, January 29, 2014, Mr. Nortsu-Kotoe said in Parliament, ‘Nobody seems to be concerned about the moral upbringing of children to instill discipline and the respect for authority in them.’
The paper further reports Mr. Nortsu-Kotoe as saying, ‘There is so much waywardness now that as a nation we need to rise up to our responsibilities before we are overtaken by events.’
The Honourable Member of Parliament also expressed the view that there is no longer any healthy competition in academic work between schools, that moral decadence is on the rise and discipline has been sacrificed.
Mr. Nortsu-Kotoe is not just a Member of Parliament but also the Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Education in Parliament.
If we are not careful, his misdiagnosis of the problem and consequent wrong prescription will infect us all. If we have waywardness, indiscipline, lawlessness and crimes of all kinds, is it because of the State take-over of schools formerly founded by the various religious missions?
Paraphrasing the expression, ‘more Catholic than Pope’, I ask, ‘is anyone more Catholic than the Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, the Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Accra?’
Sometime in 2005, when there was a chorus of agitation by the Missions to have their schools handed back to them, Archbishop Palmer-Buckle sounded a note of caution and also gave very useful advice to his clerical brethren.
According to THE GHANAIAN TIMES issue of Friday, August 20, 2005, after the official launch of the Golden Jubilee of the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra, the Archbishop ‘cautioned the Church against hastening to take over the running of the Mission Schools from the State.’
The Archbishop reportedly said that there should be a proper arrangement before any take-over occurred. He added, ‘We definitely have a problem to solve about our schools.’
He advised, thus, ‘While we are bargaining with the State over the administration of the Mission Schools, parents should be firm and participate in the process by inculcating good morals in their children.’
Archbishop Palmer-Buckle had particular advice for Catholic parents. He called on them to influence the morals of their children so as to curb the spate of indiscipline and moral decadence among students.
In 2007, when there was a lot of noise over the dropping of Religious and Moral Education (RME) from the curriculum, Dr. (Mrs.) Margaret E. Nkrumah, the then Principal of SOS Hermann Gneimer International College, Tema, stated as follows:
‘It is first and foremost the job of parents to bring up their children, to teach them their cultural, moral and religious values, and to demonstrate these values by example from the way they live and what they do.’ ( DAILY GUIDE – Monday, December 10, 2007. p. 19).
Between them, what Archbishop Palmer-Buckle and Dr. (Mrs.) Nkrumah were saying at different times was that on the shoulders of parents rests the first and ultimate responsibility of bringing up children to be honest, upright, God-fearing, incorruptible, patriotic and highly moral adults that the country needs.
Of course, other factors come to play in the proper upbringing of children. The school, the church (religion) and society at large all have roles to play.
However, it must be realized that children are born into homes in the first instance. Consequently, therefore, the foundation for morality and good conduct is to be found in the home, and NOT in the Church, or the school or the society at large.
After all, even religion has to have morality as the foundation on which it is built, and not the other way round.
How many Ghanaian children have the opportunity to go to school? How is the character of those who do not go to school formed? If society is to benefit from religious upbringing, then everybody must have it, and not just those who go to school.
Is it the contention of Mr. Nortsu-Kotoe that all those who went to school at a time when the Missions totally managed the schools became the epitome of moral rectitude, while those who went to school after the state had taken control are society’s bad nuts because they did not have the benefit of any religious instruction?
On a daily basis, and on special days, our houses of prayer are filled with Christians, Muslims and others. Yet among these worshippers of God or Allah or Yahweh are those who have decided to conspire to destroy the country through plain stealing, embezzlement, fraud, corruption, misapplication etc. Is Mr. Nortsu-Kotoe saying that these crimes are committed only by those who never had the opportunity to attend school when the Missions controlled their schools?
When even so-called people of God engage in rape, paedophilia and other criminal activities, is it because they never had the benefit of moral education in school?
I admit that something is seriously going wrong with our educational system. Overcrowded classrooms, quantitatively and qualitatively inadequate supply of teaching staff, teachers having to combine classes, crumbling school buildings, lack of teaching and learning materials, poor supervision and very poor funding are among the factors leading to the falling (if not fallen) standards of education in the country. Will all these problems be solved as soon as the Missions take back their schools?
And what kind of arrangement will be there? Will it be such a complete take-over that the Missions will fund their schools, pay salaries and look for their own teachers and non-teaching staff?
Will they admit students of other religious beliefs and force them to renounce their religion and become members of a different faith, such as Christians becoming Muslims and Muslims becoming Christians?
Will the Missions pay back to the State all the money sunk into those schools by way of infrastructure, equipment and materials?
It is pathetic and unfortunate when Mr. Mahama Ayariga, a Member of Parliament and Minister of Information and Media Relations can reportedly say that private basic schools are doing better than public basic schools.
As a former Deputy Minister of Education, did Mr. Ayariga bother to find out why, in his opinion, the private schools are doing better than the public schools?
Let me reiterate that education in the country, especially education at the basic level, is in real crisis, due to some of the reasons given above.
But for Heaven sake, let not this Government or any other Government take the easy way out of the crisis by shifting responsibility for the provision of education unto the Missions or any other group.
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