A secondary school demonstration with a difference!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

The Daily Guide of last Tuesday published a most intriguing news item, concerning students of a secondary school going on a demonstration about their headmaster. Intriguing because it was a different kind of protest.

This time, unlike what we usually read or hear about, these students were NOT demonstrating for the removal of their headmaster, or against staffing problems, or even against the poor quality of their school meals.

Wonder of wonders, the students were demonstrating IN SUPPORT of their headmaster! They were in effect lobbying on his behalf! The demo was to back their plea for the withdrawal of a transfer directive to the headmaster, Mr Christian Addai-Poku! A rare occurrence!

And for once, there was no unruly conduct, no damage to school property.

According to the report by Guide Kumasi reporter, Ernest Kofi Adu, under the headline, “Students Protest Headmaster’s Transfer”:

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Students of Oppon Memorial Senior High School (OMESS) at Kokofu in the Bekwai Municipality of the Ashanti Region yesterday held a peaceful demonstration over the transfer of the headmaster, Christian Addai-Poku.

The agitated students requested the regional directorate of the Ghana Education Service (GES) to reverse the decision as they poured on the streets holding placards waving and chanting slogans against the move.

The students, who (marched) some kilometres in the Kokofu town before presenting a petition to the paramount chief, said they would boycott studies until Mr. Addai-Poku’s transfer was revoked.

Addai-Poku, former President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), was said to have been moved to another school barely six months after assuming duty at OMESS.

According to the student body led (by) Panford Doris Afriyie, the transfer of the headmaster has led to confusion, bad blood and tension in the school with agitations from various quarters against the move.

She stated that the students could not afford to let Mr. Addai-Poku (go) as they had observed, under his leadership and guidance, tremendous improvement in the school.

“Within six months, he has provided biogas and siren for the school; he has brought discipline and water closet toilet facility. Besides, he has the intention of opening up the dining hall and making sure we have a bus,” senior school prefect, Hosea Amankwah, said.

He revealed that academic work of the school had also seen improvement… As a result, the school was able to take the second spot in the science quiz for the first time in the history of OMESS.

Amankwa said they would resist the transfer of Mr. Christian Addai-Poku. And he wanted (the) authorities to reconsider the decision because they would suffer its consequences.”

Ms Afriyie, who is the Students Representative Council President, added: “We understand that our headmaster went to report to his new station. We have been waiting for the GES officers to address this issue.”(Daily Guide, June 26, 2018).

I find it gratifying that even though Mr. Addai-Poku had been at OMESS for only a short time, he had reportedly chalked up the listed impressive accomplishments.

In my view, of particular interest are the provision of water closet washrooms, as indicated, and the high performance of the school in a national science competition. All that within six months?! No wonder the OMESS students are fighting to have his alleged transfer cancelled!

But if it is true that Mr. Addai-Poku has been transferred after only six months of heading that school, what could the reason be? Was it that he himself had asked for the transfer? Or was it that he was assigned to the OMESS as a ‘temporary head’ – assuming there is such a designation?

Why would a headmaster who is reportedly doing so well, even by the usually extremely critical assessment of students, be moved?

One wonders what the compelling circumstances were which would necessitate a school head being moved to another institution after only six months. The experience in this country is that even in cases where an incumbent has been found grossly incompetent and there is agitation for their removal, it takes a very, long time before the transfer process even commences.

If Mr. Addai-Poku himself did not ask to leave OMESS, conceivably apart from the likely disruption to the school’s programme, what about the effect of such a development on the Addai-Poku family? Presumably, six months is just about the period when his family would have settled down at OMESS and now they have to relocate again.

I don’t know what the GES rules say about transferring heads of schools, but a six-month appointment doesn’t sound right or fair to all concerned.

Anyway, there seems to be a huge communication gap between the GES, the school management and the students. No matter the circumstances, the students deserved to have been given a full explanation before the transfer. SHS students are certainly not kindergarten pupils to be treated in this way.

Whatever the rules are, if they have no stipulations about the importance of school managements COMMUNICATING WITH THE STUDENTS, it is a serious omission.

The OMESS student leaders seem to be extremely level-headed, and the students have behaved in a very mature manner with their grievance, protesting in a non-violent manner, and presenting a petition to their Paramount Chief.

It is hoped that the Regional Directorate of the GES will meet with the OMESS students as soon as possible to have a dialogue with them, if they haven’t done so already. If the students are given the impression that their concerns don’t matter to the GES, their protest may take another, undesirable form – as they have subtly hinted.

The objective of such a meeting should be: (a) either the GES is able to convince the OMESS students that it was necessary for their headmaster to be transferred after only six months, or, (b) the students convince the GES Directorate to accept their position and Mr. Addai-Poku stays at OMESS. 

And, in my opinion, the OMESS students need to be commended by Education Minister Mr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and the GES leadership for their exemplary conduct.

I also think that students in other institutions need to hear about it. They need to know also that confrontation and destruction of property is not the way to solve problems; that dialogue and peaceful measures can work perfectly well.

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