Following the fraught relationship that has existed between Muslims and Christians in the country within the Ramadan period, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged school authorities and stakeholders to find an amicable solution to the impasse.
Speaking at the Eidul-Fitr celebration held on May 13, 2021 at the forecourt of Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) at Kanda in Accra, the President noted that though the schools have codes of conduct that guide their activities, the believes of people must be respected as article 21 (C) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates.
“Our national Constitution guarantees freedom of worship for all its citizens. Article 21 (C) states ‘all persons shall have the right to freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such religion’ this is also probably worth pointing out that the religious tolerance in our country did not emerge from formal law enforcement, the constitution for that matter.
“It is one of the admirable features of the Ghanaian out of which we have always had respect for each others believes systems. We should be proud that our national constitution simply reinforces these characteristics and it should therefore be easier for us to uphold these basic and fundamental tenets that hold us together.
“The boarding schools in our country have traditionally served as a training grounds in learning about each other, about tolerance about the fear of the unknown. That is where young Ghanaians learn to eat each others food, that is where they learn the songs and dances of the different parts of the country. That is where they learn about each others religions and that is where life long friendships are forged.
“These schools must necessarily have rules and regulations that enable them function….Throughout the years, by and large, the schools have managed to find a balanced atmosphere to enable our young people to flourish and this has served us well.
“The schools have adopted their practices to suit the times and I will urge that we do not turn them into the places to fight ideological and religious battles. Our young people deserve a peaceful atmosphere to deal with the many challenges of studying and acquiring knowledge,” the President said.
He also indicated that stakeholders including representatives of government in the educational sector are deliberating on ways to resolve the challenge that has confronted the system.
He said: “The authorities, that is the Ministry of Education led by the new Minister, Hon. Yaw Adutwum, Member of Parliament for Bosomtwe, leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities and the leadership of the school [Wesley Girls High School] are engaged in solemn discussion about the way forward and I am very hopeful that a satisfactory solution would be found for one and all.”
While urging parents to take keen interest in the school into whose care they entrust their children, he entreated the public to keep the tolerance which has sustained the peace of the country.
Meanwhile, the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharubutu, who led the prayers at the occasion, reiterated his intension to resolve the fraught relationship through a peaceful approach.
In his message to the public, his spokesperson, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shuaib, said: “We wish to assure you and everybody, your Excellency, that Muslim Umar in Ghana under the able leadership of the meek and peace loving National Chief Imam whose spirit and predisposition gives indication unequivocally that his preferred choice all the time is peace.”
He continued: “We will cooperate in any step and measure taken by all stakeholders and all state authorities to bring finality to the misunderstanding.”
About the issue in question
Over the Ramadan period, the Headmistress of Wesley Girls High School restrained a muslim student from observing her religious right which is fasting, on account that the academic work and other school related activities are demanding and would interfere with the health of the students should they observe the fast.
The issue caught the attention of the public who described the action of the school authorities as religiously intolerant.
The Ghana Education service then issued a directive to the authorities to allow students who wish to fast do so, but on condition that they [students and their families] will take responsibility of whatever consequences they may face health wise as a result of the fast.
The founder of the school, that is, the Methodist Church Ghana, nonetheless defied the order by backing the school in its refusal to permit the students observe the fast while other Christian bodies supported their stance.