09 Feb 09 Removing the Pink

Last week, Tuesday, the prefects removed their pink shirts and dresses and returned to wearing the regular uniform of the rest of the student body. Prefects are vetted by the administration and elected by the student body to manage various aspects of student life. They play a major role in keeping the school running smoothly. They are the initial point of contact for any problems. The prefects then report up the chain of command to the Head Master if they cannot resolve those problems.

I want to write aout this because although somethings went wrong other things went very right. As you read please remember Ghana is not America. In all of Ghana physical punishment of children is not only tolerated but accepted and expected. I don’t agree with teachers using physical punishment on children and I have talked about this with some masters. But even though we disagree on this I can bring myself to judge them harshly on something that is culturally acceptable to them. Remember too that the most important thing on the list of MUST dos for children is to respect your elders. I am not trying to defend or excuse anyone’s actions but please as you read this remember that people are complex beings and can behave horribly in one situation and shine in another.

Early last week the Girls’ Sports and Health prefect was trying to get a transportation to send a sick student to the hospital. She talked to her house mistress. She talked to the master on duty. She tried to find the driver. I imagine she was very frustrated because she failed to get transport from anyone. We have two school vehicles and they are often off campus. Many times the masters end up taking sick students to the hospital on their motos. I also imagine she was worried about her colleague who was sick.

So all other channels failing she goes to the Headmaster’s office to ask for transport. I am not sure what was said between the two of them but the interview ended badly. The headmaster was talking and she turned her back on him and started to leave. (I have since heard that she turned her back to cry. But that is hear say) This is one of the biggest signs of disrespect in this culture. It is more so disrespectful for a student to turn her back on the Headmaster. The Headmaster, by way of discipline, kicked her. I don’t agree with this. I don’t think many if any of the Masters here think that was the correct course of action.

Apparently the health prefect gathered the other prefects or after a few of her prefect colleagues heard they decided to meet. At the meeting they decided to remove the pink. So they all did.

When Administration and staff notices they called the Senior Prefects (SP) male and female. When asked the SPs said that they could not speak for their colleagues and asked for a meeting with the administration. The administration agreed.

At the meeting the prefects said that they were not being given the respect or recognition they deserved as prefects. Instead they had been insulted, publicly humiliated and now kicked when they were trying to do their duty.

The administration denied this then asked the prefects to put on their pink and go back to work. They said to go through proper channels for these grievances. Administration mentioned an upcoming meeting in the next few weeks.

The prefects said they would discuss the matter. It is hear say but it is said that the prefects were divided about what to do. Some wanted to return to work. Others wanted an apology from the headmaster.

The administration waited a day+. The prefects did not return with a decision. So administration called a staff meeting then an assembly. As Senior Housemaster Mr. Kampusi go the job of telling the school about the situation. Everything I have just written and more. Including that the headmaster kicked the Girl’s Health Prefect. He stated the Headmaster’s reason for this. The Headmaster thought the girl needed to be disciplined and he had no cane.

The students involved were told to go home for a week then bring their parents.

The prefects then went to the District Commissioner, who is in Sandema. The DC came to the school. After more discussions it was decided the students would go and come back the next day with their parents.

I heard that the parents agreed that the students shouldn’t have removed their pink so quickly. They felt the students needed to be disciplined. But one parent asked “Where is kicking listed in the list of Ghana Education Service (GES) approved disciplines?” The Headmaster apologized. The students also agreed that they hadn’t followed the proper procedures to lodge a complaint and apologized. At this meeting the parents were told the discipline committee would meet.

This morning, Monday the week following the removing of the pink, at staff assembly I learned that the discipline committee had met. they met each student involved except one girl who did not show up. After deliberations they decided on punishments. In GES guidelines ringleaders are allowed to be given a harsher punishment. So our Discipline Committee recommended sednign 6 ringleaders home for two weeks followed by a week of work on campus. The rest would have two weeks of work on campus. They would all be removed from their prefect positions.

The committee also appointed prefects.

The Discipline Committee also charged all masters to follow GES guidelines for discipline. They stated that kicking was not in the code. They also encouraged masters and administration to deal respectfully with the students.

There was a lot of discussion at the staff assembly. It covered all points of view including that kicking is considered assault. After the discussion the Headmaster asked that we consider reducing the sentences to one week external suspension and one week internal for the ringleaders and one week internal for the others. He thought losing their posts was the natural consequence of refusing to do the work and the most effective punishment. He didn’t want the students out of school so long because they were studying for their terminal exams. More discussion. Eventually the Senior Housemaster said that their findings were recommendations only and the Headmaster could do what he wanted. The Headmaster again asked us to agree because he didn’t want to go against the house. We agreed though some reluctantly.

Then we went to the student assembly. The report of the committee was read. The punishments were left for the Headmaster to pronounce. He decided on the lesser punishment.

The newly appointed Prefects were introduced to the student body. Mr. Kampusi prefaced this by saying they had to be urged to take on these jobs. The students did not want to insult their colleagues by taking their jobs. Only after Mr. Kampusi appealed to them to help the whole student body did they agree. He said he wanted the student body to know that these new prefects were not eager to benefit from their colleagues bad fortune.