March 16, 2021
It’s that time of the year again when parents and children from JHS are busy in trying to get admission to schools in other to start a new journey in their academic life. The advent of the free Senior High School (Free SHS) program has been a welcome news to most parents in Ghana if and if they value educating their wards. I say so because even in this 21st century there are many parents who don’t see education a way out of poverty, ignorance and diseases.
On so many occasions I have heard some people castigating this policy. The most heartbroken is that of those who could not have afforded the cost of seeing their wards through SHS, but go ahead in chastising the government on this policy. I have heard and been confronted by some of our zongo folks who can’t even put a proper three square meals on the table for their family yet they talk against the policy purely on political basis.
But the main question I ask of our Muslim parent today as our teenage brothers and sister get ready for SHS is; school prospectus or Islamic prospectus?
A lot of times our children fights against so many odds to get to SHS only to lose their Islamic identities. A schools prospectus in Ghana details what courses are available to a student, items a student must come with to the school especially in a boarding school if admission is granted, disciplinary code etc. Most Ghanaian parents prefer boarding schools than day schools for their wards, hence Muslim parents must pay extra importance to what to include in the prospectuses for their wards.
Many a time parents including Muslim zealously provide all the requirement of a prospectus but leave in my opinion the most important, religion and moral values. According to a Muslim tutor in one of the SHS in the Eastern region, rummaging through the trunks of all the first year Muslim students admitted into his school, only three out of the lot came with either a praying mat, ablution kettle ( buta) and/or a Quran. This alarmed him very much and ever since, anytime he gets an opportunity at Muslim gatherings, he tries to remind the gathering about such things. It is in the same spirit I pose the question: School prospectus or Islamic Prospectus?
Citing myself as an example, everything in the prospectus was provided but just when we were about to set off to school, my mum asked me how am I going to cope with prayers knowing am off to an Anglican school. Hence a prayer mat, buta and my Quran was added to my travelling bag.
I make the inclusion of these three as part of the personal items our Muslim students should carry to school. This I say so because even where your ward is the recalcitrant type, at least one day in his/her stay in the boarding house, he/she is likely to put them into use. In almost all SHS’s in Ghana there are Ghana Muslim Student Associations (GMSAs) groupings which school authorities do recognizes as the umbrella organization for Muslim student who meet during church services. In my former school for instance, there was a Muslim tutor , the late Mr. Munir Arafat (may Allah grant him Janna)who made sure that Muslim students on school do meet whiles church services are going on.
I also do believe that Muslim parents of boarders should make an extra effort to find out if there is any Muslim tutor in the school, a nearby mosque or even a zongo settlement nearby. In my SHS all these three came in handy. In fact some of us were able to even attend prayers in the nearby mosque located in the zongo which actually shared a boarder wall with school.
I also do make case that our Ullamas should carry out public education on this three requirement. Imams should preach about these things in the mosques, our mallams in the various makarantas (Arabic Schools) should also engage our little ones who are getting ready to enter second cycle schools.
It is very heartbroken to find out a lot of our Muslim students who either to use to pray very regularly at home suddenly abandon this sacred duty later in the boarding houses. This is specially so of our females. In fact in my case I nearly for the first time of my existence postponed the Isha and Magrib prayers because of the time it took in registering, getting into the house and tiredness on the first day at school.
My case for this issue is that, even if they carry these three items cosmetically, at least the awareness of having the Quran or seeing the buta would remind the student who he/she is, i.e., a Muslim first before a student.
Another related issue to this is, what orientation we give to our young ones as they set off to SHS. Most parents hardly sit down to have a chat with their wards on this new journey. We in zongos normally leave everything to chance, hardly do we have try to understand our children. Even though some amount of orientation is given to the green horns, Muslim parents should orient their wards on this new challenges especially with respect to their religion. GMSA must also step up its game. In my opinion GMSA is more active at tertiary levels than at second cycle schools where they are needed the most in molding out the character of these young ones. My first step in to a university came through GMSA o UCC who came to convey us for a seminar sponsored by the Iranian embassy.
I therefore make a passionate call to our Muslim parents and communities to wake up from our deep slumber and give all the necessary help to our young ones who are entering SHS. There are lesser distractions in boarding schools hence we need to make the extra efforts in ensuring our children do not lose their Islamic identities.
Zongo Research Institute
The writer can be contacted at [email protected]