U/ER: 2 Assistant heads, 53 students booted out over violent protest

Two Assistant Headmasters and a Teacher of the Awe Senior High School (AWESCO) at Navrongo in the Upper East Region have been handed disciplinary transfer for their alleged roles in a student unrest that rocked the school late in 2015.

Fifty-three students of the school, according to the management of the school, also have been stripped of their boarding status in the aftermath of the violent protest.

They are, in effect, expected to continue attending classes traveling from outside the school campus on a daily basis as long as they remain students of the school.

A five-member committee set up by the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Kassena-Nankana Municipal Security Council came up with its report three months after a riot that saw the school closed down for four weeks and each student charged Gh¢58 on reopening.

The report indicts Cletus Achana, Assistant Headmaster in charge of Academics, Roland Sekwo, Assistant Headmaster at the helm of Administration, and Samuel Atiru, the school’s Entertainment Master, for reportedly instigating the uprising and recommended their transfer from the school.

The two assistant heads, Ultimate news can confirm, have been moved to the Kassena-Nankana Municipal Education Directorate and the entertainment master to the St. Bernadette’s Technical Institute near the Notre Dame Minor Seminary Senior High School at Navrongo.

Riot was a clash of exam, entertainment
The riot struck on Wednesday October 28, 2015, as the students were writing their midterm examinations.

It had been well planned and widely announced among the students that an entertainment night would take place on that Wednesday. The anticipated night of dance looked very good for the students whose school authorities had just procured a brand new sound system for indoor entertainment programmes.

But the excitement on the campus suddenly hit a sour note when the management of the school ruled against the intended merrymaking. The demonstration that would follow the cancellation did not just happen. It was a final product of accumulated murmurs of discontent among the students who claimed the authorities of the school consistently had denied them the freedom to have entertainment nights.

The cancellation saw a violent reaction that had been waiting to happen. The enraged students, carrying sticks and rocks, vandalised a number of structures including the headmaster’s office, the assembly hall and the library.

It took the timely intervention of police officers dispatched from the Navrongo Police Station to prevent the disturbances from turning bloody. The school, on the directive of the Kassena-Nankana Municipal Security Council, was closed down temporarily and the students compelled to leave the premises immediately.

The headmaster told Ultimate News as the students were streaming out of the campus with their belongings: “They are writing midterm exams. You know entertainments come on weekends. They don’t come on classes days. They were insisting that they wanted to have a record dance on Wednesday, which is not allowed. They said they wanted to dance. And the school is not for dancing. I will not allow jokers to spoil the school.”

The ejected students could not hide the reason for the sudden break from curious taxi drivers and passengers at the Navrongo’s main lorry station where hundreds of them had flooded to board vehicles home.

“We pay entertainment fees, but we don’t see the entertainment we pay for. Anytime we want to have our entertainment, they (the school management) always give us an excuse. They just bought new sound machines with our fees; but, again, they are telling us no midterm entertainment,” a frustrated-looking student said at the station.

GES buries committee’s report
Mixed reactions jammed the air soon after the riot was reported on local radio stations in the region.

Whilst a number of radio listeners, who called into live programmes, blamed the authorities of the school for sparking the protest by frustrating the students, some residents condemned the violent protest, saying the students went too far.

But the outcome of the committee’s hearing, as contained in its report, is perhaps the conclusion of a saga the Ghana Education Service (GES) wants to hide from the probing press and the peeping public.

Even the indicted educators who have reported at their new posts say they were not told exactly what their offences were and that they were not allowed to read the report. They sounded overly restrained and uncomfortable sharing their frustrations with Starr News for fear of inviting worse sanctions from the GES authorities upon themselves.

“They have not actually informed me why I was transferred. You know as it is today in Ghana, if you are a junior officer and you want to know certain things it would affect you and your family. So, I will just allow it to go and I will continue with my work where I have been asked to go and work. It’s disturbing me. But what would I do? I personally requested to see the portion [of the report] that affected me; they refused. I have not seen the report. The others say they have not seen the report. The best way to console myself is just to say that it was supposed to happen, that’s why it happened that way,” Samuel Atiru told Ultimate news.

When Ultimate news contacted the chairman of the committee, Alfred Ndago, a former principal of the St. John Bosco College of Education at Navrongo, to hear more about the findings of the committee, he referred the matter to the Upper East Regional Director of Education, Madam Janet Kawia. The director, too, strongly declined to speak, passing it on to the headmaster of the school, Razak Ibrahim Gariba, who similarly refused to comment on the findings and recommendations of the committee.

Further attempts by Ultimate news to go through the report during a number of visits to the school were greeted with stiff disapproval from the management of the school. The Regional Director of Education is said to have issued a strict directive to keep the report away from the public eye.

Meanwhile, a number of students whose homes are outside the municipality and the region and have had their boarding privileges taken away (as reportedly recommended in the committee’s report) for spearheading the disturbances are said to be stranded. Some of them, according to their schoolmates, have managed to either rent rooms within the area or are perching for free on the corners of rooms belonging to people they are not very familiar with.

NAGRAT opposes committee’s composition
Whilst it has remained unclear the backgrounds of those who constituted the committee, questions also have emerged as to why some key organisations were not involved at the helm of the hearing.

The omission of such organisations from the committee, coupled with the strong refusal by the GES to make the committee’s report open, has fuelled public suspicions of unfairness and bias.
The National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) has openly protested at its omission from the committee, arguing that it ought to have been part of the panel because the affected persons are its members.

“When the matter came up, we had difficulty with the composition of the committee. But we didn’t want to pre-empt what would happen. This is not the first time. We’ve had series of rioting. We’ve had series of committees that had been set up before. And we have had challenges with them. And there has always been a way of resolving it. So, we decided that let’s allow it to go on. It went on. The teachers did not have a fair representation. When the report came, without seeing the report, the teachers started complaining,” the Upper East Regional Chairman of NAGRAT, Michael Ayuraboya, told Ultimate news.

NAGRAT, according to Mr. Ayuraboya, cannot fight on its own until the aggrieved teachers lay aside their fears and first of all demand copies of the report from the regional education directorate and, then, officially file a petition to NAGRAT stating their grievances.

“Go to the Regional Director with a letter asking for the report. That is what must be given to you. The Regional Director cannot deny you that report. If they deny you that report, it is part of the case you are building against them. Write a petition first of all to NAGRAT about how you have been treated. On the basis of that petition, we would start the fight.

“It’s not the first time we are going to fight. We’ve done it several times. Some of the reports have been squashed. You remember the BOTECH (Bolgatanga Technical Institute) issue where the Vice Principal was supposed to be transferred. That report was completely annulled because it wasn’t fairly done. We managed to squash that report. The examples are many. We will fight for only the bold teachers. Anybody who is not prepared to be bold should not even be qualified to be a NAGRAT member, because NAGRAT, we don’t make people comfortable,” Mr. Ayuraboya affirmed.

Rising riots and falling standards
At least 8 of the 32 senior high schools in the region were involved in student unrests that prompted a temporary closure of 7 of them between December 2014 and February 2016.
They include the Bolgatanga Senior High School, the Bawku Senior High School, the Sandema Senior High School, the Bolgatanga Technical Institute, the Awe Senior High School, the Zamse Senior High Technical School, the Fumbisi Senior High School and the Zuarungu Senior High School.

Development watchers have described the riots as too many. Most of the unrests and their accompanying closures coincided with promotion or mock examination weeks.

Riot-induced breaks have continued to take a serious toll on the region where tumbling educational standards, owing to a number of factors, already have remained a nagging plague. About 55% of the students who wrote the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in the region between 2011 and 2015 did not qualify for admission into tertiary institutions.

The Notre Dame Minor Seminary Senior High School has maintained the topmost position in the region with respect to WASSCE candidates who qualified for tertiary-level admissions between 2011 and 2015. It scored an average of 97.51%. The Navrongo Senior High School (NAVASCO) comes next with 84.73%. It is followed by the Bolgatanga Girls Senior High School (BOGISS), the Bolgatanga Senior High School (BIG BOSS) and the Bawku Senior High School (BAWSEC) with 81.39%, 80.32% and 80.00% respectively.

The second biggest second-cycle school in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality after the Navrongo Senior High School (NAVASCO) with a population of 1,536 students, the Awe Senior High School saw 53.39% (more than half the number) of its WASSCE candidates qualify for tertiary admissions between 2011 and 2015.

Source: Ultimate1069.com/Ghana/106.9FM/Edward Adeti