Tuesday, 22 June

Add Muslims to Wesley Girls' school board, sack headmistress – Muslim Coalition

Education
Headmistress of Wesley Girls’ High School Mrs Kay Oppong Ankomah

The Board of Wesley Girls’ High School must be reconstituted to ensure religious balance by adding some Muslims as members, the Coalition of Muslim Organisations, Ghana (COMOG) has suggested amidst the raging controversy over the school’s decision not to allow a Muslim student to fast during the Ramadan period.

“We urge the Ghana Education Service (GES) to reconstitute the Board of the Methodist schools to include two Muslims, in order to keep track of any such occurrences and report same when appropriate”, COMOG said in a statement.

Apart from adding Muslims on to the Board, COMOG also recommended that the school “proscribe the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church from being on any board of governors of any so-called mission school”.

The coalition also suggested that the GES, “should, as a matter of urgency, remove the headmistress of Wesley Girls’ SHS from the school to assuage the adverse psychological effects of her presence on the Muslim students, and further sanction her for the violation of the religious rights of Muslim students of the school in defiance of the directive from the GES”.

Read the full statement below:

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE MOST GRACIOUS THE MOST MERCIFUL

PRESS CONFERENCE OF COALITION OF MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS, GHANA (COMOG) ON RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BY SOME SCHOOLS AND INSTITUTIONS IN GHANA

11TH MAY 2021

Ladies and gentlemen. As an Islamic organisation, we wish to begin with the Islamic greetings of peace and that is, "Assalaamu Alaikum warahmatu Lahi wa barakaatu Hu"; and good morning to you all.

We once again wish to thank you for responding to our invitation, even though at short notice.

We represent the Coalition of Muslim Organisations, Ghana (COMOG) and we are here this morning to use your medium to express our reservation about the obnoxious act of religious discrimination, persecution and intolerance against Muslims in Ghana.

A phenomenon which has been under the embers in many sectors of our society for many years but for the incident that transpired in Wesley Girls’ High School recently. We can only thank Allah for the exposé and further congratulate the student who made this exposé possible.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCUSSION:

From the history of religious persecutions in this country, which found a tragic expression in the death of a Muslim student in Adisadel College as a result of a fierce pursuit mounted on him by a Senior Housemaster of the School, through Banning of Hijab in some government institutions to the recent prohibition of a student to observe the Ramadan Fast by the Headmistress of Wesley Girls’ High School, we find this trend very insensitive, arbitrary, vindictive and unconstitutional.

We wish to remind all well-meaning Ghanaians that in the wake of similar persecutions in the past, the then President of the republic tasked the National Peace Council in March 2015 to mediate between stakeholders, including all these Church groups, representatives of various Islamic sects including the National Chief Imam in person, as well as Traditional religionists, at the Kofi Annan International Peace Centre. (30th-31st March 2015).

Following this and a mutually agreed Communique for freedom of worship in our schools and other public institutions, the Church leaders requested to be allowed a few weeks to deliberate on the situation in Mission schools. Meanwhile, both the Ministries of Education and Ghana Health Service issued Directives against the practice of religious discriminations to the Regional Directors for implementation.

It is, therefore, most worrying when such blatant religious discrimination would be endorsed by the parent institution, the Methodist Church of Ghana, Christian Council and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference all of whom were participants in the 2015 Peace Conference. The position taken by these churches and how in sync they all responded in support of this violation of our constitution should be of grave concern to all well-meaning Ghanaians.

Not only did they fail to keep their promise of bringing a mutually acceptable suggestion to the government authorities, but recent events show it was a deliberate ploy to let time sweep the issue under the carpet of forgetfulness. The change of government made it easier since there was no follow up from new authorities. In view of this observation, COMOG has resolved to resist any such attempt by these Christian leaders and other religious extremists to violate the religious rights of our Muslim students and workers across the country.

LEGAL INFRACTIONS BY THE METHODIST CHURCH, GHANA ET AL

The Methodist Church sought to arrogate to itself the power of policy control over the school contrary to Section 26 of the Education Act. The Church flouted the orders of the GES with impunity when the former was directed to reinstate the legal right of the Muslim students of Wesley Girls High School to observe their religious rights.

The Christian Council also issue a counter statement calling the bluff of the GES for directing the Methodist Church to do the lawful thing.

It would also be recalled that one Dr. Samuel Ofori Onwona stormed the social media calling on the government to give them the authority to run over the Muslims who he termed as "the minority group" in Ghana.

CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL PROPRIETY OR OTHERWISE OF THE ACTIONS OF THE METHODIST CHURCH.

Before we proceed to expose the unconstitutionality or otherwise of these acts of religious intolerance, we wish to refer you to the following provisions in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

Under Article 21(1)(C) it states and I quote; "All persons shall have the right to freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice". Clearly by this provision, anybody who proscribes another person from observing his religious practices which are placed on him by Islam as an obligation is in clear violation of the constitution of Ghana

In furtherance of our argument to demonstrate the illegitimacy of the creeping religious discrimination against Muslims we wish to refer you once again to Article 12(1) and (2) which states as follows;

(1) The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary and all other organs of government and its agencies and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in Ghana, and shall be enforceable by the Courts as provided for in this Constitution.

(2) Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this Chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.

Going by the Constitutional provisions, as enumerated above, we can firmly conclude without any fear of contradiction that, the act of prohibition of Ramadan Fasting, coercion of Muslims to attend Church Services, banning Muslim ladies from wearing the Hijab in our schools and other public institutions are unlawful and must be curtailed with the needed expedition to protect the peaceful coexistence Ghanaians have enjoyed over the years.

It is also important for those who are calling for the return of some schools to the Missions to bear in mind that, under Ghana's constitutional dispensation all natural and artificial persons have a duty to uphold fundamental human rights of all persons, as provided in Article 12 of the Constitution. For this reason, let's not make the mistake of thinking that, should schools be returned to the Missions, they will have a field day to flout the fundamental human rights of the people of Ghana.

CONTRADICTIONS IN THE POSITION OF THE METHODIST CHURCH

Again, it calls to question, why the school authorities could not make provision for Muslim students to observe their constitutionally guaranteed rights of worship, but could do so for an Athlete.

According to Mrs. Bridget Dzogbenu, besides the Wesleyan students, there were other Christian denominations on campus, such as Catholics, Anglicans, etc. and all of these were allowed to pray in accordance with their denominational differences.

Why is it that, among all these denominations, Muslim students have been targeted for religious discrimination? Your guess is as good as mine!

Secondly, Prof. Grant Bulmuo, a renowned UK-based Education Consultant also posited that, he was a student in Tamale Senior High School and never on one occasion was he coerced to observe any of the Islamic religious practices on Campus. He further intimated that, other denominations such as the Catholics were allowed to have their Catholic Mass, likewise, the Anglicans who were also allowed to observe their Anglican Confinement. A clear departure from the practice pertaining in our so-called Mission Schools, and an evidence of tolerance among Muslims, contrary to the argument advanced by some "Christian Extremists" in the country.

WHO OWNS THE MISSION SCHOOLS, GOVERNMENT OR THE CHURCHES?

Ladies and Gentlemen in the media, in our bid to further establish the truth of ownership of the so called Mission Schools, it's important we situate the argument within the context of historical facts and testimonies made by a few prominent personalities in the Education Sector in Ghana, in order to establish the real owners of the so-called Mission Schools.

Recently, a former GES Director, Mr. Aheto Tsegah on a program on Citi TV made some revealing statements. Among other things in his submission, Mr Tsegah said and I quote; "The GES went into a partnership with the Mission Schools in 1882 under an Ordinance for the establishment of Board of Education".

According to him, as far back as in 1961, all mission schools have turned public schools under the Guggisberg Principles 14 and 15 which states that, government must take ultimate control of education throughout the Gold Coast after demonstrating the capacity to do so in item 14 of the Guggisberg Principles. So, the nomenclature, "mission schools" ceased to exist after the 1961 regulation. The reinvention of the name was a soothing ornament applied by some irresponsible people in the education sector of Ghana for their personal agenda.

To further buttress the claim of illegitimate hold on public schools as Faith-based, it is imperative to refer the public once again to the submission of Mr. Kofi Asare of the African Education Watch who posited that, by Section 26 of the New Education Act, GES has the power to constitute the board of the Senior High Schools and out of the 14 Board members, GES appoints 12 of those and the school takes only 2 positions. Besides that, the Ministry appoints the Chairman of the board.

It is therefore befuddling that, in spite of all these legitimate authority at their disposal, a directive from the GES and the Ministry of Education, can be violated by the Methodist Church with such impunity.

Mrs. Bridget Dzogbenu, who is an Old Student of Wesley Girls’ Senior High made a stunning revelation when she said, as an athlete in the school, special arrangements were made for her to assist in building her athletic Career.

As we speak almost 100% of the so-called mission schools are located on new sites, completely built with government funds. So, the claim of ownership by the churches can best be described as a usurpation of someone's property.

DEMANDS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

Ladies and gentlemen of the press! Having enumerated enough evidence to prove a clear case of deliberate act of religious intolerance by the Methodist Church of Ghana against Muslims, we now want to share with you our demand from, and recommendations to the GES, the Ministry of Education and the National Security, in order to avoid the recurrence of same attitude by these so-called Mission Schools.

1. For his subversive statements and role in instigating the act of religious persecution in Wesley Girls High School, we demand that;

i. Dr. Samuel Ofori Onwona must be stripped off his position as the Vice-President of the Scripture Union and

ii. He must be picked up by the National Security for questioning regarding for his religiously inflammatory comments as well as the basis on which he referred to the Turkish Embassy as a terrorist organisation in one of his audios circulating in the publicity.

2. We urgently call on the GES to reconstitute the board of the Wesley Girls’ SHS and further proscribed the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church from being on any board of governors of any so-called Mission School.

3. We urge the GES to reconstitute the Board of the Methodist schools to include two Muslims, in order to keep track of any such occurrences and report same when appropriate.

4. Government should as a matter of urgency direct the National Peace Council to resubmit their full report on the outcome of the March 30th-31st 2015 National Conference on religious tolerance at the Kofi Annan International Centre to Parliament for necessary action in the interest of National Peace.

5. The GES should as a matter of urgency remove the headmistress of Wesley Girls’ SHS from the school to assuage the adverse psychological effects of her presence on the Muslim students, and further sanction her for the violation of the religious rights of Muslim students of the school in defiance of the directive from the GES.

6. We call for a clear cut directive to all the so called 'mission schools' to desist from carrying themselves out as such, and adhere to all the regulations of GES and the ministry of Education.

7. There must be a conscious effort by GES to appoint at least two Muslim teachers in each of the so-called 'mission schools' so that by their presence alone, any such arbitrariness may not occur.

CONCLUSION:

In conclusion, we are urging the Ghana Education Service to issue, between now and next week an unconditional directive to the Wesley Girls’ SHS and other schools within the week to allow Muslim students to observe all the Islamic obligations as it is their right to do so without prejudice to the rights of others.

We are a peace-loving people and, therefore, have resolved to remain calm as prevailed upon by the National Chief Imam, His Eminence Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu.

However, if the GES fails to address these concerns or Methodist Church remains defiant of the law after the directives from GES, we shall advise ourselves and consider the next line of action to ensure justice for the entire Muslim Umma in Ghana.

Once again, thank you very much for coming. "Wassalaamu alaikum, warahmatu Lah wa barakatu Hu".

Signed.

Hajj Abdel-Manan Abdel-Rahmam

President-COMOG

For the ff stakeholder organisations and Institutions (SOIs)

1) Tijjaniya Muslim Council of Ghana,

2) Tijjaniyya Muslim Movement,

3) Faidhatu Tijjaniyya Ibrahimiyya Council,

4) Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'a,

5) Shia Community,

6) Federation of Muslim Women Association in Ghana

7) Islamic Mission Secretariat,

8) National Association of Imams and Ulama,

9) Society for Muslim Preachers,

10) Ghana Muslim Students' Association,

11) Ghana Academy of Muslim Professionals,

12) Islamic Medical Association of Ghana,

13) Islamic Council for Development and Humanitarian Services,

14) Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, and

15) Committee for Muslim Rights.

 

Source: ClassFMonline.com