If you are a parent, the past couple of weeks must have given you a chill down the spine. Courtesy of social media, we have seen some of our children in secondary schools engage in behaviour so reprehensible that it is scarcely appropriate to recount.
As parents and Ghanaians, these videos must lead all of us to reflect deeply on the moral education of our children and the future of our country when it is bequeathed to the next generation, as it surely will be.
In at least one of these instances, the school authorities have taken swift action to punish the students who filmed themselves acting in such awful ways. It is our hope that these disciplinary procedures will be applied in all such instances, not to merely punish but to correct and deter others from further wrongdoing.
In fact, the most important consideration now is to ensure that such acts are not allowed to be repeated again. To be certain, there are probably others engaged in similar or worse conduct; they have just not been found. This means that we must all treat these videos with a much greater level of urgency, as it concerns the fate of our childrenâ€™s moral education.
The purpose of education is to prepare children for work and more importantly life itself. This means their moral training is equally as important as the academic training they receive in school. No matter how intelligent and capable they become, it is a fatal defect if their education does not also lead them to make the right moral choices. There is a direct link between the moral codes of individuals and the quality of whatever enterprise they will engage in.
It is in recognition of this fact that moral education is centred in the new national curriculum for basic schools. As the Bible shows us, we have to train the children right from the beginning so that they will keep to the right path when they are older. They might be children or teenagers today but tomorrow, they will be the ones manning our firms, leading our country and training the next generation of Ghanaians. If we get it wrong now, we might be leaving in our wake, a trail of destruction that will consume our country long before we notice.
What is more disturbing is that these incidents are occurring at a time when the nation is making tremendous investments into the future of these young ones. Under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo and the New Patriotic Party administration, Senior High School education is now completely free. This astounding intervention means that second-cycle education has now been opened up to all and sundry, regardless of their background and the financial position of their parents.
To do this, the government has had to commit vast resources that could have been expended in other sectors to solve myriad challenges there. But the President believes, and rightfully so, that no other investment can rival that which is put into our human capital development.
By investing in our childrenâ€™s education, we are investing in the future that the products of that education will build. This is the thinking that has informed the bold decision to pursue this daunting policy, even at the risk of sacrificing other more politically expedient projects that could have brought more immediate political returns.
Having done this, one would have expected that the children in whom this investment is being made would take the fullest advantage of this opportunity. The least that they can do and indeed must do is to take their studies much more seriously, stay out of trouble and become the morally upright leaders that a good education should guarantee.
This is akin to someone whose parents sell the family property to send them to school only for them to come back home with a drug habit instead of a certificate. In very stark terms, the President has committed the family countryâ€™s jewels to send the children to school and for them to endanger this investment by untoward behaviour is a slap in the face of all taxpayers who are shouldering this burden and not just the President who made that courageous decision.
All of us must realise the enormity of these scandals. It is not enough to tut at these videos, shake our heads in disgust and move on. This is a real national emergency. Our children are at risk. Our investment could be lost. Our very future as a country is threatened. We must all act with dispatch to forestall this impending doom. It will take all of us to raise our children better. From the home to the school, we need to pay much closer attention to our children, the materials they are exposed to and the influences that are shaping them. Parents, teachers and every responsible adult must take up this challenge to secure our nationâ€™s future.
To the children who have been caught up in these acts, including those who have been punished, I urge you to take this national embarrassment as a signal to turn over a new leaf. Let this be an opportunity for you to soberly assess the choices you have been making and resolve to do better. You may have strayed off the path of good behaviour but there is always a way back for you. It is my fervent prayer that your lives will now become an example to your fellow students and that you will now become literal evangelists for good behaviour.
Our children have been given a ticket to a brighter future through expanded access to education. It would be a shame to allow immoral behaviour to compromise and defeat the purpose for which we have committed so much. It must not be so. And if we work quickly, effectively and together, it will not be so.
By Dr Prince Hamid Armah (PhD, Aberdeen) | Executive Director of National Council for Curriculum and Assessment