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Opinions of Sunday, 18 November 2018

Columnist: Robert Abalungo

Allow students to use mobile phones in schools

This is no news to us, right? A substantial number of junior high school and senior high school administrators have seriously criminalized students’ possession and usage of portable hand-held communication devices, called mobile phones in school.

However, in a technologically evolving civilization such as ours, it is mindboggling to witness institutional authorities carefully design unfounded rules and regulations to arrest students’ livelihood and creativity on campus. At this juncture, let us observe a minute of silence to mourn the loss of common sense which has created this mess called, discipline.

Like I said, a mobile phone is nothing but a portable electronic device which uses cellular radio network to transmit and receive signals. To a layman, a mobile phone is just a call making device.

Advancing baseless reasons to justify their inconsiderate rules, we hear from school authorities that, allowing students to own and use mobile phones on campus would spike the occurrence of examination malpractices.

Simultaneously, they argue that students’ phone usage on campus would increase the cost of electricity bills incurred by their schools, and also, the phones might be highly misused by students. Example, they could be used to access obscene content on the internet, leading to an erosion in moral values which teachers try to inculcate into students.

If time could permit me, I would infinitely list all the nonsensical ideologies behind this unnecessary ban on students’ phone usage. However, I am an optimist and so I wouldn’t waste so much time on these negative energies.

Now, why am I such a huge fan of decriminalization of student’s phone usage? Well, it takes a few milliseconds of logical thinking for one to realize that the phone prohibition is a perfect violation of one of the fundamental human rights; the right to life. In this technological era, our lives are inseparable from electronics. This means that, a ban on using electronic devices on campus is a ban on students’ lives on campus.

That is the logic here. Think about this. It is an open insult to students when you are made to familiarize yourself with the fact that some teachers shamelessly and boldly receive and make phone calls during a class session, in front of students. Also, the fact that students could use phones to watch pornographic materials is not a strong point against their phone usage.

This emanates from the fact that, there are a lot of teachers who equally watch obscene content on their phones and even in the comfort of their homes. It just baffles me and I can’t fathom this discrimination.

If teachers can’t be banned from using mobile phones during contact periods, how on earth, does one have the guts to forbid students from using mobile phones in their dormitories? I can bet my life on the fact that there are some teachers who aren’t so excellent in using phones more than students. Gosh! I feel like fainting.

Why do Africans always focus on unnecessary rules? My former SHS biology instructor had a popular aphorism that, “You can’t do this in America.” I agree with him. The issue is simple, allow students to possess phones on campus but restrict them from using their devices during class hours.

School authorities can also charge a fee for students to pay for the amount of electrical energy their phones consume. This way, the fear of increase of electricity tariffs incurred by the school is eliminated. I am so sure that students would be willing to pay such kind of fees.

Let me progress to another strong supporting argument that the mobile phone is a small computer. Nearly all second cycle institutions in Ghana have computer laboratories where they teach students Information and Communication Technology (ICT or IT). For science’s sake, the mobile phone is an ICT tool. Again, it is evident here that it is only in Africa where they teach students Information and Communications Technology, but disallow students from using communication devices. LOL! This is an exhibition of ignorance and confusion, and a betrayal of our intellectualism. Let’s admit it.

Mobile phones today, have become sophisticated enough that they can be used to send emails, surf the web, play music and watch movies, play games, chat on social media and so on. What is bad about a student relaxing on his bed at his domicile and googling the web to do his assignments? How about a student making an important call to his dad to ask for more provisions or even find out how his parents are faring at home? According to Abraham Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs, social or love needs is important and it secures a third position on the hierarchy.

Students at the senior high school level are adults and they have loved ones (boyfriends and girlfriends from other schools). It is necessary for them to keep in touch with their loved ones from other schools by communicating with them using their mobile phones.

Sadly, this is not the case. Now, what do we see? Students scale their boundaries or school fences to go and visit their loved ones from other schools. Authorities catch them and label them as criminals. Come on, let’s wise up. I am pretty sure school authorities are waiting for a student to die in the dormitory because he/she got ill in the night and there was no communication equipment for them to call for an ambulance.

How about a fire outbreak at late night? Students get burned to ashes because they have no means of calling 192 (Fire Service).

Let us be aware that due to these needless injunctions placed on students’ phones usage on campus, life has becomes so boring for them. They have no means of entertaining themselves after spending so much time in the classroom, learning tedious mathematics, science and others. Consequently, some students finish school without knowing how to properly operate mobile phones, which they could have learned from their colleagues on campus.

Eventually, students who go through so much stress and boredom end up committing suicide. This could have been averted, assuming that student opened and read funny stories or motivational quotes which restores hope.

In summary, my view is that even though, mobile phones could be negatively used by students in school, the advantages of the same mobile phone far outweigh its demerits. Therefore, let us review our stance on the ban. Students should be allowed to use phones on campus, but in a controlled way.

Thank you.

Writer: Robert Abalungo

BSc. Physics (KNUST)

Contact: 0549086173