We rise up every morning to cases of all sort of abuses in our nation with children, girls and women being the hardest hit
Abuses ranging from child trafficking, child labour, child sexual abuse, child marriage, violations of the right of child to education including all other forms of physical and emotional abuses stares us in the face daily.
Surprisingly, many of the victims of these abusive cases are given no form of justification with many of these cases not even spoken or heard of.
Indeed, a worrying trend to note as the rights of individuals are grossly infringed upon with those expected to come to their aid not showing any form of concern. This has left many people with questions as to whether our country has laws governing it or not.
A recent expose by the Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG) revealed how 19 students of the Annor Adjaye Senior High School located in the Western Region were severely caned by their teachers, leaving visible marks and blood clots on the legs, back and other vital parts of their body underscored the reality of the existence of human rights violations happening to our children in schools.
This unspeakable evil perpetrated against students by their teachers in the name of instilling discipline in them can only be described as a physical abuse at its core yet not justice for them.
As indicated earlier in the publication, these students were supposedly late for Sunday church service and as a result have been subjected to unwarranted abuse and merciless lashing, a treatment akin to that of animals who had gone wayward.
Similarly, on November 22, 2022 Ghana woke up to another heart-breaking incident of child abuse in school. This time around it was some unfortunate students of the Agogo State College located within the Ashanti Akim North District in the Ashanti Region who were the victims.
This was after some troubling photographs surfaced on social media revealing deformity on the back of the students after being exposed to countless strokes of brutish canning by their teachers.
A concerned student who shared the disturbing photos of victims on his twitter page upon tagging the Human Rights Reporters Ghana and other media advocacy organizations pleaded for mercy to help expose the matter while calling on the authorities to come to their rescue.
A tweet accompanying the photos warned of a possible danger, should the authorities turn deaf ears to their calls for justice.
“The students of Agogo State College need your help. Please, the teachers are not doing what they are assigned to do. I know this will go nowhere but if you see a picture of a teacher damaged seriously say none!”
“What Agogo State College students are going through is not good at all, the teachers are not doing the duties they are assigned to do, instead they are treating us like animals. We need help from the Ghana government. We are appealing to you, please we need your help right away”, the distress message stated.
Unfortunately, the offence for which the students were allegedly abused was due to lateness for class.
According to the HRRG sources, morning classes at Agogo State College usually start at 7:30 am. However, while students were still in their dormitory getting ready to leave for class at about 6:30am, students started running out of their dormitory, and many others who were still getting dressed up got confused.
The teachers upon arriving at the dormitory told the students to kneel down. When the students tried to explain to them that it wasn’t time for lessons, the teachers pounced on them without any hesitation and harshly subjected the learners to brute canning as if they were animals.
The Human Rights Reporters Ghana indeed lived up to expectation by exposing the unfortunate saga on November 22, 2022, the actual day the event unfolded upon chancing on the disturbing tweet of the beleaguered student with the hope to see the authorities react.
Unfortunately, despite the numerous calls for justice to be served these students by the Human Rights Reporters Ghana including other Civil Society Organization and the media, the Ghana Education Service (GES) is yet to show any concern to initiate investigation into the matter and ensure the perpetrators are meant to face the full rigours of the law for their actions when found culpable.
The GES in February 2017 declared a ban on the use of corporal and inhumane punishment in schools to ensure an environment that is secured and safe for teaching and learning. Furthermore, the GES showed regrets after noting the countless reported cases of the use of corporal punishment in pre-tertiary schools.
But sadly enough, the GES has demonstrated no concern or remorse towards the plight of students who fall victims to teachers who flouted its directives on the ban imposed on corporal punishment in schools.
Brute canning is a common practice in schools being perpetrated against students by teachers despite the GES ban on corporal punishment in 2017.
This disturbing practice is rife in most Pre-tertiary Institutions across the country which is uncalled for.
With the current development, it is obvious to predict there is a looming danger of violence likely to erupt in schools if care is not taken by the authorities to address issues of corporal punishment in schools and ensure that teachers comply strictly with the GES directives.
Of course, the writings on the wall are crystal clear enough to see from the warnings given by students who suffered these abuses in the hands of their teachers who flout the GES ban on corporal punishment in the name of punitive measures.
We have witnessed these played out in a number of cases including that of the Annor Adjaye Senior High School and the Agogo State College saga brought to light by the Human Reporters Ghana and many other cases which have gone unreported in the media.
If at all the GES is not moved by remorse towards the plight of ailing students, then it should be moved by the warning signals of a possible violence soon to rear its ugly head in schools in the country especially in the Western and the Ashanti Regions of Ghana where these issues are rife.
In the natural order of things, there’s always repercussion when laws are broken therefore failure by the GES to sanction teachers who flout its directives on corporal punishment in schools, it should expect the worse from students as a natural sequence. No doubt!
Now it appears, the saying: “when persuasion fails, force must be applied” seemed to be the only language the Agogo State College students understand and reverberating in their minds through their posture after trying persuasion which never worked for them.
I believe this should send a strong warning signal to the GES to rise up to the occasion and find amicable solution to the problems faced by students in schools as far as enforcing the ban on corporal punishment in schools is concerned.
It’s time to heed the stern warnings of the victims of the Agogo State College including other students who suffered similar fate in the hands of their teachers to save Ghana from the waiting time bomb of violence likely to explode in schools across the country if care is not taken.
I therefore call on the Minister of Education, Yaw Osei Adutwum and the Director General of Ghana Education Service (GES), Eric Nkansah, to urgently step in and probe all the issues of brute canning happening in schools in the country particularly the two schools in question (Annor Adjaye SHS and Agogo State College) and sanction the teachers who flout the directives appropriately to serve as a deterrent to others.
I equally wish to humbly appeal to the Inspector General of Police, Dr George Akuffo Dampare to use his good office to help conduct a thorough investigation into the cases of abuses perpetrated by teachers against students which goes contrary to their rights as students and the law and endeavor to prosecute the offenders according to law to put an end to the awful practice of corporal punishment in school to ensure protection of students rights, peace and justice.
Finally, I call on the Ghanaian authorities to assist students who fell victims to the barbaric act of abuses and brute canning in schools to be given the adequate medical attention and some form of counselling in order to ease their minds of emotional torture.
By Joseph Kobla Wemakor
The writer is a staunch human rights activist, National SDGs Champion and Founder/Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG).