The National Peace Council has called for cool heads to prevail in the ongoing saga involving a Muslim student not being allowed to observe the Ramadan in Wesley Girls High School.
The NPC, therefore, urged the parties involved – the school, the Methodist Church of Ghana and the Parents Teachers Association on one hand, and the Muslim Community in Ghana and the Ghana Education Service (GES) on the other — to exercise the greatest restraint in their comments and pronouncements.
That, according to the NPC, was to prevent the issue from degenerating into any disturbance between Christians and Muslims, reminding all of how far they had come as a people by living together for centuries.
The Chairperson of the Complaints Committee of the NPC, Mrs Joana Opare, told the Daily Graphic that the council’s decision to wade into the matter was within its mandate to ensure peace in the country, especially when it was turning into a religious issue.
She said it was the aim of the NPC to mediate as the key stakeholders dealt with the matter amicably rather than inflame passion.
“The council appeals to the leadership of the Christian and Muslim communities to urge their followers to remain calm as efforts to build on the time-tested peaceful co-existence among Christians and Muslims are made by the relevant authorities and organisations,” she said, reiterating the appeal in a statement from the NPC and signed by the Chairman, Rev. Ernest Adu Gyamfi.
Following a complaint from a parent that his daughter at Wey Gey Hey had been denied the right to fast as part of the observation of Ramadan by the school, the GES on May 1, directed that the school and by extension, all senior high schools (SHSs) allow all students, who wanted to fast for religious purposes, to do so.
However, parents and guardians of such students would have to bear the consequence of that action by providing a written undertaking.
The Methodist Church, which established the school and maintains a stake in it, has rejected the directive, a stance the PTA of the school also supports.
The church, in rejecting the directive in a press statement, said it took a strong exception to the directive in a press release issued by the Head of Public Relations of the GES, Ms Cassandra Twum Ampofo.
“The Methodist Church cannot accede to the unilateral directive issued by the GES and insists that the GES respects the long-standing partnership between the government and mission school,” a statement signed by the Administrative Bishop of the Methodist Church, Rt. Rev. Michael Bossman, said.
The decision of the church was taken after an emergency meeting held on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, chaired by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Dr Paul Kwabena Boafo.
“The school rule in question is a long-standing one which is also non-religious and various renowned Muslim ladies in Ghana have passed through the school adhering to such a rule. The policies of the school over the 186 years of its existence have resulted in Wesley Girls High School being the school of choice, excellence and achievement and the church remains in full support of these policies,” it said.
However, before the matter could die down, the PTA also issued a statement, saying that the school should not be forced to compromise its rules and regulations to accommodate students’ individual preferences which bordered on religion.
That, it said, was unsustainable and urged the “GES to reconsider its directive to the school and all other schools in order to avoid a situation where schools will be inundated with requests by parents and students on their individual religious preferences and practices.”
“We are, therefore, uncomfortable with any directive that could compromise the health of our daughters whom we have entrusted to the school. From our feedback and observation, the school strictly enforces its policies without discrimination,” it said.
The Muslim Community, led by the Chief Imam, Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, has also expressed deep concern about the issue.
According to his spokesperson, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, the Chief Imam, was disappointed about the stance by Wey Gey Hey.
Also, other groups, namely the Muslim Caucus in Parliament as well as the Coalition of Muslim Organisations in Ghana have condemned the decision, calling for the management of the school to be sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.
Mrs Opare said the council’s decision to wade into the matter was within its mandate to ensure peace in the country, especially when it was turning into a religious issue.
“One of the things we do is that we have to be proactive in our day-to-day activities in order to ensure peace than being reactive when things have escalated. The issue is becoming a religious issue and you know what it can result in,” she said.
Ghana, she said, was a peaceful country where Christians and Muslims had co-existed without any problems, and that the council wanted the peace to be sustained.
The statement from the NPC called for restraint as a peaceful solution was found to the issue.
“The attention of the council has also been drawn to statements which have been issued by the GES, some civil society organisations and the Methodist Church Ghana in regard of the same issue.
“The NPC applauds the dialogue between some Muslim leaders and the Methodist Church Ghana, as well as the efforts of GES and other religious bodies towards the amicable and peaceful resolution of this matter. The council is taking appropriate steps to reinforce these commendable initiatives,” its statement said.
Asked whether the council would meet the parties, Mrs Opare said the council had a strategy for addressing such issues, and definitely, it would be doing a lot of work behind the scenes to bring about an amicable settlement to the matter.