I attended government schools all my life, from Kojokrom Methodist Primary School to Nana Katabra Middle ‘A’ then to Ahantaman Secondary School through to Komemda Teacher Trainibg College and ended up in University of Education -Kumasi Campus.
Although these are state owned-schools financed with state money, there have been subtle attempts to “Christianize” me through the education system. That has always been the fear of my dad and many of my Muslim brothers sister and brother for which some , they succeeded to convert them .. the reason in my Zongo community , many parents prevented all their children from going to school.
We are in a secular state, but as far as I remember, we recited ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, a Christian prayer at morning assembly and we were forced to attend ‘Worship’ on Wednesday mornings. RSV Bible and Methodist Hymn Book was part of the items to be brought to school . It didn’t matter whether there were Muslims or Traditionalists at this gathering. “School gatherings are compulsory”, the teachers and prefects always pointed out. But these gatherings sometimes ended up being full blown church services with drumming, clapping and dancing.
We Muslims had to sit through it all, even though it’s really not our form of prayer. For instance, Muslims don’t close their eyes during prayers. Christians do, we don’t sing and dance as Christians do during worship . But we’re forced to do so at these school gatherings and church services . We’re forced to sing praises and worship the Almighty, although there’s a difference in the route to the ‘Almighty’ we both subscribe to. And that’s quite a difference!
We listened to preaching from the Holy Bible and were obliged to listen and comprehend, sing the hymns and shout Amen to the prayers !!! We even hold hands to ‘Share the Grace’. We were sometimes humiliated or provoked during gathering when some preachers knowing some Muslims are present by skewing sermons to condemn Islam with some unfounded stories and religious propaganda. Cultural studies and Religious Knowledge are some of the subjects used as a pretense to evangelize and twist common stories found in the Bible , Torah and the Quran just to push in the Christian ideology.
As a Christian reading this, it may sound normal to you. But imagine being asked to perform ablution and enter the mosque everyday chanting ‘Allahu-akbar’ (Allah is Great) when your belief tells you it is rather Jesus who is great and savior . That would be uncomfortable, wouldn’t it? Yeah. That’s what we faced from Basic School till date.
Because I’ve spent my whole School life engaging in this routine, I know so many Bible quotations to the surprise of my Christian friends. Indeed , a workmate once used me as an exaole and wonders how come I know the Bible mire than himself.
At the training college , I didn’t know enough to challenge the teachers who forced me to attend the morning Worship Services. I knew I was out of place to be singing songs of praise to Jesus and dancing when it isn’t really my mode of prayer but I didn’t have the ability to debate the Rev. Owusu intellectually so I cowered as I did when I was in Ahatamqn secondary school with Mr. Akom and Mr, Eprem.
Needless to say we never had the right to go and pray two of our 5 compulsory daily Muslim prayers which typically fall within class hours. But we no bore. Indeed . We had the opportunity to pray behind dormetary beside the drains.
Thankfully, I didn’t disappoint my parents by shifting from my religion despite the many years of subtle attempts to Christianize me like 2 of my colleagues in the secondary school. Reflecting on it now, I think it has helped me to an extent because I can use a Bible quote to debate my Christian friends whereas they can’t even recite the opening chapter of the Holy Quran.
I know it is not fair to Muslims but I am glad we are seeing progress. Muslims have largely tolerated this and sacrificed a bit of their religion on the altar of formal education for the ultimate good. We have tolerated, albeit with so much pain, teachers asking school children to stop shouting in class “because this is not Makaranta” as though Makaranta is a marketplace when it is actually a Hausa word for School.
At national events, we have both Christian and Muslim prayers being said. I see that as good progress. Back at UEW-K, I was made to do the opening or closing prayer at official events because as the Imam of the Ghana Muslim Students Association chapter on campus , I had worked closely with the SRC and my Christian brothers to make that happen. All well and good.
Give us another decade, and we may well see Wednesday Worship and ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in public schools either phased out completely or made optional for students of the Islamic faith and other religions. That’s my prayer. And honestly, I have had no qualms with it and I know millions of other Ghanaian Muslims don’t. We have lived at peace with each other forever.
In the part of Kojokrom where I grew up, ours was the only Muslim home. But because of the mutual respect, during Christmas, our Christian neighbours of Dagati-line would bring their chickens to us to slaughter so they can prepare their meal with it. They did this because it was the only way to get my family to eat some of the food they cook. Muslims don’t eat animals slaughtered by non-Muslims so if you wanted us to eat, you let my dad slaughter it. And this was an annual affair. During Eid, it was our duty as children to move from house to house distributing ‘sallah food’ to all our Christian neighbours. Peace
What I have noticed now, is that someone is trying to throw sticks into the peaceful spokes of our beautiful national wheels with this WeyGeyHey debacle. It was shocking to hear Muslim Students being prevented from observing the Ramadan fast. Nothing could be more intolerant and absurd.
Fasting is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam. If you’re qualified and healthy but don’t fast in Ramadan, you have essentially crossed carpet. That’s how serious it is. It is as bad as a Christian not believing Jesus Christ is his Lord and Personal Saviour!
The saddest part of the Wesley Girls’ High School issue which now has endorsement from its founding church and the Christian Council of Ghana is that, it has no justifiable basis. Part of the justification is that students struggle academically when they fast. And this justification is coming from people who most probably fasted during examination when they were in school to seek the face of the Lord.
They have given no scientific backing to their claim and when I interviewed one of the most respected members of the Catholic Church recently on the matter, he told me the directive was simply common sense.
I have been fasting since I can remember. Indeed, it is even a competition among Muslim children from as young as 7 to see who can successfully take part in the fast. We did this all our lives to get to Senior High School only to be told our academics would suffer? Seriously? I was fasting in Methodist primary school through to my university level and my kids as young as 6 years fast almost 25 days out of 29 or 30 days and there was no effect on my academics and not for my kids . These kids compete with each other same as I did with my siblings and Zongo brothers and sisters back in the primary school days. I actually passed with good grates even better than some of my Christian brother and sister . These wegeyhey girls who passed with distinction for which reason the CSSPS posted them to your school .and all of a sudden, you claim their brains would be faulty because they fast?
Please come again!!!!.. really !!
There are thousands of Muslim students who are in all fields due to their academic excellence. They have been fasting since age 7 even though the compulsory age for observing the Ramadan is several years later. I don’t think I’m dumb. I’ve been fasting all my life and I don’t think my Junior sisters at WeyGeyHey are less smarter than me or any of my mates who went through same.
The absurd thing is that, when one is fasting, it is not even written on their faces. Fasting is not necessarily a physical exercise but rather, a spiritual one so I wonder how the school is affected by that. People who fast do everything as they normally do. Even Muslim footballers fast. So what’s the fuss about?
When I was in Komenco , all we needed to do during Ramadan, was to inform the matron to alerting them of the period and the number of students who will fast. The pantry team would allocate the appropriate number of saucepans for us and we’re game. This was happening under the watch of our Christian Headmistress , Mrs. Newman and Rev. Owusu who succeeded Rev. Baiden.
I remember as a sportsman , I wore the maroon No.7 school jersey to play alongside Kwashie Papa and Caesar and Rev. Gorman even during Ramadan while fasting . This continued for the 3 years stay in KOMENDA Teacher Training College as it happened during my 5 years in Ahantaman Secondary School.m when I was the football captain for the 1991-1992 academic year.
Our fasting back at School never obstructed the work of the school in any way. And we definitely weren’t bottom of our class. There were Muslim Students in athletics, in quiz competitions, and others were prefects. We never proved ineffective in any field. And yes, we fasted like we always do. And because our school authorities were forward-looking, they even gave us one day exeats to go celebrate Eid with our families. That’s progress and the authorities from WeyGeyHey need to take a leaf from this progressive move by my school and many other schools that have shown that we can grow together in mutual tolerance.
Till date , I have good relationship with my Christian school mates who have become pastors , reverend, elders and prophets … we have a vibrant platform. We contribute to support our School , we meet for annual Congress and many social activities and share jokes and experiences …
I am not ready to allow any selfish individual to spoil this relationship and peaceful coexistence…
In the Methodist hymn …
it is said , blessed are the peacemakers for they shall enter the kingdom of God …. grant us this grace we beseech thee o lord …
Let there be peace and harmony
By:Awudu D. Musah
Adapted from the post of Umaru Sanda Amadu, hosts Eyewitness News on Citi FM weeknights at 17:30GMT