By Cecil Mensah
As part of the activities to mark the eighty-sixth Speech and Prize-Giving day of St. Augustine’s College in Cape Coast next year March, the past students of the school, under the umbrella of St Augustine’s Past Students Union (APSU), has organized a public lecture on the theme: “Religious Tolerance in our Educational Institutions” in Accra.
The ceremony was attended by past students, who have contributed and are still contributing to the development of the country.
The lecture was addressed by Mr Kofi Abotsi, the Dean of Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).
According to Mr Abotsi, who is also an APSU, religious tolerance helps in political stability the world over.
He said it was in this vein that Ghana set up the institutions like the Peace Council to ensure both and Moslems and Christians live in harmony.
He said the under the current constitutional dispensation everyone has the right to manifest a particular religion and schools have become a multi-cultural environment that influence people’s upbringing.
He added that particularly in mission schools, partaking in religious affairs of the school community was at the center of educational training and indeed provided the fulcrum for discipline, value inculcation, and the overall academic enterprise.
“When I was asked to speak on this topic, I got into a reflective mode and was quickly struck by how much things have changed within the last 25 years in school management and administration in Ghana.
Before the 90s, communal solidarity in schools was the norm and was largely taken for granted.
Challenging the group order was not only unwise, but was deeply viewed as anti-social and a violation of the value code of schools” he said.
He maintained the tensions between orthodoxy and Protestantism have always been there, in the schools, and the issue of confronting the very compulsive character of worship and other religious ceremonies was hardly ever raised. Those were the days of mission-focused education in which the spiritual development of the students or pupils was seen as an integral component of the system of training.
He said a student was not only seen as a subject to be given intellectual refinement but also an entity to be spiritually nurtured and grown.
“But, this was more than two decades ago, when schools were owned by the missions and had the full prerogative of deciding how they were run” he noted.
He argued that the extensions of the missions and their spiritual mandate were clearly part of the strategy of converting the heathen and growing the young Christians and non -Christians.
According to him, the story today is different as the inception of a Constitutional era with its multitude of rights and liabilities has come to imply that the issue of school discipline and administration has come to assume national and Constitutional dimensions.
On the other hand, today’s schools represent a mixture of Public-Private Partnership regime which has largely arisen accidently and seem confused in orientation.
“The asked of the ownership of erstwhile mission schools and you will readily be told it is government
Yet the average respondent will be quick to add that St. Augustine’s College is a catholic school, as Mfantsipim, is a Methodist school and the list goes on.
The attempt at converting the ownership of schools and transforming them has been largely stillborn with grave consequences for the institutional developments of these schools He explained.
He stressed “our schools have over the period been stuck in the vortex of stagnation caused largely by policy confusions, political instability and a general lack of direction.