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General News of Friday, 26 March 2021

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Parliament divided over rejection of Rastafarian students by Achimota School

The controversial issue of the rejection of some Rastafarian students by some senior high schools in the country, notably Achimota School, has found its way to Parliament with some Members of Parliament offering divergent views on the matter.

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, a debate ensued on the floor of Parliament with MPs for both sides commenting on the matter.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Member of Parliament for North Tongu first raised the issue, intimating why the school erred in its decision to reject the students.

“Let us not through school rules introduce apartheid regime albeit via the backdoor. This is the reason I will condemn statements to the effect that Rastafarians should build their own schools… Tolerance and accepting unique identities at that age cannot be inimical in any educational system,” he said.

He added: “We need to rethink our concept of discipline in our schools. Getting pupils and students to appreciate diversity and beauty of different backgrounds, beliefs and creeds do not undermine discipline by a stretch of the imagination. Tolerance and accepting unique identities cannot be inimical in any educational system. It is rather an awesome positive quality to imbibe in our children.”

The position held by Okudzeto Ablakwa was shared by former Deputy Minister for Interior James Agalga, Mr Sam Nartey George, MP for Ningo Prampram and Dr Abdul Rashid Pelpuo, MP for Wa Central with all of them calling on Parliament to take decisive action on the matter and direct the schools to admit the students.

Standing in the opposing corner was the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu who did his very best to rope in the smoking of marijuana in an issue that according to some Ghanaians bothers on the inalienable rights of the students to education.

He implicitly stated that there is an unbreakable cord between Rastafarians and the substance which he maintains is illegal in the country.

He further stated that religion should not be introduced in the argument as it further ‘complicate’ things for the students.

The MP for Bekwai noted that obeying school rules and regulations does not amount to denying education rights.

“…but I also get worried about the attempt to rope in Rastafarianism as a religion. If we do then we complicate the matter for the young man. The reason is this, if you study Rastafarianism, it involves the smoking of weed, it includes the smoking of weed and weed is an illegal substance. It is not a substance that is permitted to be smoked.”

“Indeed, if you recall, one of the persons that have been brought before this house for contempt of parliament was the person claiming to be a Rastafarian who went on air to say that MPs smoked weed. He was brought to this house, he was put before the privileges committee and he was found guilty of contempt of parliament, and he was made to apologize and told to go and sin no more.”

He added, “so, I think that reference to religion and so on will complicate the matter for the young man. If you look at it from the point of view that Achimota school has the right to prescribe a way of dressing, appearance including hairstyles. If you look at it plainly from that point of view, we can discuss the matter across the board.”

Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, the Member of Parliament for Bosomtwe and Minister of Education had the last bite of the cherry, offering not to pick sides on the matter.

Osei Adwutwum stated that Achimota School was founded on the principle of inclusion and that principle must at any time prevail.

He also announced plans by the government to issue guidelines to address matters like the one being discussed.

The Bosomtwe lawmaker said, “Mr Speaker, Achimota has been a beacon of hope for many young men and women. Achimota has been defined by its history of inclusion, Achimota is the school that travels around the length and breadth of Ghana recruiting students and they have a story to tell as to how Achimota changed them and made them leaders who have led this country and led their families, led their communities and have done a fantastic job in various professions.

“I can understand where everyone is coming from, in terms of the convictions that they have, for or against, the debate that we are talking about.

“But Mr Speaker, I can assure you that Ghana Education Service within the shortest possible time is going to lay out specific guidelines for heads of schools as to how we proceed on this.”

He added, “Mr Speaker, I can tell you that meetings have been had, others are ongoing, the ministry is facilitating to make sure that our students operate in an environment where they give off their best, not just to themselves but to this nation.”

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