Restriction on smartphone usage at second-cycle institutions: Necessary evil

Technology, the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, including the use of devices to facilitate the daily activities of man, is a great blessing to our generation. 

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Mobile phones, and for that matter smartphones, are such technological devices that have revolutionised communication at the dawn of the 21st century. Today, the use of a mobile phone is a necessity in most parts of the world and Ghana is no exception.

People in almost all age brackets—from teenagers to adults make use of mobile phones for communication, and in recent times, with the advent of smartphones, people use them as practical guides for almost everything. The smartphone has become an easy tool that can be effectively used in education, health, agriculture among others.

Although there are myriad advantages to the use of mobile phones, school children in Ghana, especially those at second-cycle institutions, are barred from using mobile phones when school is in session.

According to the Ghana Education Service’s (GES) code of conduct for students in pre-tertiary levels, students are not allowed to bring certain electrical and electronic appliances including blenders, rice cookers, mobile phones, personal computers, headsets, and i-pods to school.

Sanctions for flouting the above guideline on unprescribed items/gadgets include confiscation of items, signing of bond and meeting a disciplinary committee. Many stakeholders wonder if these rules or guidelines prohibiting the use of mobile phones or smartphones in second-cycle institution are inimical to the development of the educational process or if such rules may still be relevant to holistically nurture the students.

As the debate rages on, let us consider some plausible reasons that might have necessitated the rule in the first place and that may still be relevant in our contemporary society.

Teenagers

Firstly, most students in second-cycle institutions in Ghana are in their teen ages, an age bracket that is noted for significant exploration and peer influence. Students in the boarding houses are practically left on their own at the dormitories after evening preps. Although housemasters/housemistresses check on them occasionally, they spend a chunk of the night on their own.

These students under peer influence are prone to misuse smartphones to access content on the Internet, leading to the erosion of moral values being inculcated in the students by teachers.

Students require adequate time to rest and sleep (about seven hours) to feel refreshed for academic work. However, if left unrestrained, some will stay awake deep into the night on phone calls with their boy/girlfriends or stay awake to play games, stream movies and listen to music among others, since the cost of data and call off-peak hours is usually cheap.

A consequence will be students sleeping in class due to the lack of adequate sleep. Other students will lose concentration in the classroom when the teacher is teaching, because they will be easily distracted by what they are surfing on the Internet or will be on social media platforms chatting while the teacher is teaching. The effect will manifest in the poor performance of students in examinations.

Vices

The use of smartphones by students can also lead to a rise in other social vices and theft. Some unscrupulous students will gamble on their smartphones. They may stake bets and steal money from their colleagues to be able to stake a bet or a lottery.

Access to mobile phones also facilitates crime and violence like mob action among students. During games and other sporting activities between second-cycle schools, most violence witnessed at such events in recent years is a result of the swift mobilisation of students and town folks and past students via mobile phones. If not for the restriction on the use of mobile phones, there would have been reprisal attacks at odd times with dire consequences on student lives.

Another canker

Another canker that is gradually eroding the successes of the educational sector in Ghana is the frequent issue of examination malpractices. In the 2023 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), 839 students had their examination results cancelled for possessing mobile phones in the examination halls, while the subject results of candidates from 235 schools were withheld for using artificial intelligence-generated answers, obviously for cheating with a smartphone in the examinations.

From the foregoing, there are justifiable reasons for the restriction of smartphone usage in second-cycle institutions in Ghana. Notwithstanding these, however, it is worth noting that in the second-cycle institutions, day students use their mobile phones after school. In most boarding houses, mobile phones are used by students occasionally under the supervision of tutors when students want to reach out to their parents or guardians.

To ensure Ghanaian students are not left behind in this technological age, the Ghana Education Service, Parent Teacher Associations and all major stakeholders must endeavour to provide well-equipped computer laboratories to facilitate information and computer and technological education among second-cycle students.

The writer is a Teacher of English at Tarkwa SHS, an Assistant Housemistress, and District GNAT Treasurer
Email: [email protected]

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