It is with utmost regret the Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG) reveals that, several weeks after it broke the news of the unwarranted abuse and merciless canning which caused bodily harm to nineteen (19) final-year students of Annor Adjaye Senior High School at Ezilibo of the Jomoro District – Western Region, no action has been taken by the educational authorities to bring the seven (7) teachers who are alleged to have misconducted themselves by taking such needless action, to book.
This revelation comes as a shock after the Western Regional Education Director in the person of Felicia Okai had earlier promised to ensure these teachers are punished for the wrongdoing.
“The fact that they have broken the laws there would be repercussions for that. Be rest assured that they would be duly punished”, She stressed while speaking on an Accra-based Angel FM’s Anopa Bofo Morning show on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
She further hinted that “we have banned corporal punishment in schools and the law is still in force. We send a gentle reminder every term to the schools”.
But nearly two months down the line, nothing concrete has been done contrary to her earlier assurance.
Let’s be reminded, that it is failures of this sort which continues to kill the confidence the citizenry has in public officials.
It was for a good reason that the Ghana Education Service (GES) in February 2017, banned all forms of corporal punishments in pre-tertiary schools and had a need to re-echo this directive in 2019.
Yet this monstrous act by the teachers of Annor Adjaye SHS, outrightly violates this ban, causing physical harm to these young students.
The HRRG would like to remind the GES, the Ghana Police Service, and members of the general public that this is a gross violation of the students’ rights to freedom of worship and religion as well as their right to life and liberty and restating that the seven teachers who inflicted wounds on these nineteen students deserved the severest of punishment as there are new and clear guidelines on how school authorities should behave when students flout the rules and regulations of an academic institution.
The main aim of the official ban on corporal and inhumane punishments in schools according to the GES is to promote a safe and protective learning environment for all Ghanaian pupils and students and this is what these victims of torture and horrible treatment have gone incurred with the perpetrators going scot-free.
As an organization which seeks to assiduously work to end all forms of human rights violations wherever they take place in Ghana and beyond, the HRRG will not relent in its efforts to help seek justice for these unfortunate students.
In the GES code of conduct for teachers, Part 3.8 Section A, conspicuously talks about physical harm, saying, ‘Physical harm inflicted on pupils/students in any form constitutes a gross violation of the child’s rights.’ Subsection (VI) continues simply that ‘No employee shall assault any pupil/student.’
To further prove why the GES must seek the sanctioning of the teachers involved in this dastardly act, Subsection (IX) stipulates that ‘A staff shall intervene to stop a fellow staff from perpetrating physical violence or abuse on a pupil/student.’
This even goes to other teachers who looked on for this barbaric act to be visited on the poor students.
Failure to adhere to their own Code of Conduct, parents will begin to evoke the powers the laws of Ghana and the GES grant them to prosecute any teacher who visits any form of corporal and inhumane punishments on their wards as corroborated by the Director of Guidance and Counselling Unit of the GES, Ivy Kumi during an interview on a public broadcaster.
HRRG thereby urges the GES to follow their directive to the latter.
For the following reasons the seven teachers who allegedly misconducted themselves must face prosecution.
It blights Ghana’s image in the international community as lacking respect for the child’s rights as the state is a signatory to several charters and instruments protecting the right of the child and being treated with respect and dignity.
Denying justice to these children and their parents signifies that Ghanaian schools are less becoming safe for the future leaders as they are at the mercy of lawless instructors.
These violations of their right as students affect them psychologically and emotionally either rendering them hardened/rebellious against authority or timid/extremely fearful which is not what a 21st century educational institution such Annor Adjaye SHS should be inculcating in our children.
The gravity of this beastly act cannot be overemphasized as the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights unequivocally stated in its Article 5 that, ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’
Similarly, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana Article 15, paragraph 2 equally proclaims that “no person shall be subjected to (a) torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) findings, corporal and inhumane punishments affect children’s behavioral problems over time and have no positive outcomes.
To buttress this point, corporal punishment per the WHO’s definition is a violation of children’s rights to respect for physical integrity and human dignity, health, development, education and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
As a vibrant NGO that promotes and protects the welfare of the vulnerable in Ghanaian society, we do not encourage the nurturing of a generation of students living with pain, sadness, fear, anger, shame, and guilt, as well as feeling threatened.
Without overstating the obvious coupled with the commemoration of this year’s UN International Day in support of Victims of Torture, the Human Rights Reporters Ghana wishes to use this opportunity to strongly appeal to the conscience of all including the general public, parents, civil society groups, the United Nations and International organizations alike to come on board and help put pressure on the Ministry of Education Ghana and the Ghana Education Service (GES) and push its Director-General, Prof. Kwasi Opoku and the Western Regional Director of Education, Mad. Felicia Okai to rise to the occasion and ensure instant justice for the 19 final year students of the Annor Adjaye SHS in the Jomoro Municipality of the Western Region who were inflicted with cane wounds after receiving a merciless flogging from their teachers by applying the appropriate sanctions to them without fear or favor.
The GES must also make known publicly the outcome of their investigation and the sanction meted out to the teachers since the issue has become of public interest. This would help serve as a deterrent to other teachers not to ever attempt to flout the directives of the GES thereby averting violation of the rights of the students.
Authored by Joseph Wemakor
The writer is a seasoned journalist, a staunch human rights activist and the Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana