The prevention of students of the Islamic faith by authorities of Wesley Girls’ High School from observing the Holy Ramadan fast, has become a trending issue in Ghana at the moment.
This issue came to light after the father of a first-year Muslim student of Wesley Girls’ accused school authorities of preventing his daughter from practising and engaging in any Islamic activity, including the Ramadan fast, which is obligatory for every healthy, practicing Muslim.
This decision by the school attracted criticism from a section of the public, particularly the Islamic community.
After an intervention by the Muslim caucus in parliament, the Ghana Education Service (GES), directed “Wesley Girls’ High School as well as any other school to allow any such a student who wishes to fast for any religious reason to do so.”
As a Methodist school, the Methodist Church Ghana rejected the directive from GES for Wesley Girls’ High School to allow Muslim students to partake in the Ramadan fast.
The response from the Methodist Church resulted in further debates. The National Chief Imam, however, has called on the Muslim community to remain calm as his outfit works to resolve the current impasse at the Wesley Girls’ High School.
Amid all the debates and discussions to resolve the issue, old girls (former students) of Wesley Girls’ High School, who are Muslims, took to social media to share their harrowing experiences as they tried to practice their faith during their time in the school. The hashtag #GeyHeyMuslimsSpeak is being used to call on more Muslim old girls to speak against the school’s decision.
Here are the experiences of five Muslim old girls of Wesley Girls’ High School:
Hyrana Masoud Salifu
“Finished in 2003, fasted and prayed throughout. Didn’t break any rules and had a very successful and active school life! However my experience was marred when my own mate reported me to the school authorities and I was summoned one “rest hour” before the main school heads (headmistress, assistant headmistress, housemistress, chaplain, school prefect and the one who reported me) and warned by the headmistress to stop praying, or I’ll be sacked. She also emphasized that no Muslims should congregate, since part of my crime was I had told a form 1 Muslim girl to not be discouraged and to try and pray. She added that if they allow everyone to do what they liked there would be chaos and she can’t have that. I was threatened that if I keep praying and she finds out I will have to go take my SSCE elsewhere. Mind you this was in my final year before mock exams. Shook me up but it didn’t stop me though, I still prayed. So none of this brouhaha surprises me and the experience of the brave student who voiced her oppression resonates with me. I’m proud of her and I really hope she’s okay. Dear Old Girls Association, you don’t speak for me or the hundreds of other Muslim old students. Sans this issue, the best women I know till this day, I met at Wesley Girls High School and still have wonderful memories of my time there. Definitely some of the best years that shaped me into the woman I am today. There is so much more to be proud of about this school, why allow this to continue or fester any longer. So much for a religiously tolerant Ghana. The school is not an island. Do better WeyGeyHey, RIGHT THIS WRONG!”
“The first time Islamic holidays (Eid) were recognized as public holidays in Ghana to allow Muslims to celebrate without missing school or work, I was a student at Wesley Girls High School. That morning the then headmistress asked all Muslim students to wait behind after morning assembly. Obviously there was no school that day. With excitement, I was hoping for a celebratory wishes but only to be told that we were not allowed to celebrate. She continued to add that this is a Methodist school and we have to abandon our rituals and do what they do. There were about 4 or 5 Muslim students in the school then. We did not say anything and observed the day like any other day. We were not bold enough to do or say anything about that then, but I’ll never forget the disappointment I felt in that moment. As a student at KNUST, I was fortunate to be elected as the National Vice President of the GMSA. I tried to use my position to do something. I was bolder then but we were met with the same line being used now. This is a Methodist school… when in Rome do as the Romans do… Regrettably, that was the end of it. It is my hope and prayer that the issue will be resolved now. Live pure, Speak true, Right wrong, Follow the King.”
“Can vouch for my alma mater when discipline and academic performance is the subject matter but certainly can’t stick my neck out for religious tolerance. It all started in 2009 when I gained admission into Wey Gey Hey and on the day I reported, I was asked to return my butta home so I had to give it back to my parents and then started hearing rumours about Muslims not being allowed to pray. I must say form 1 was hell as I got reported to the chaplain for praying on my bed with the excuse that, I was scaring them. How can praying quietly on my bed be scary? This and many other mind-boggling questions kept running through my mind. How I worshipped in form 1 was nothing to write home about and I don’t ever feel proud remembering those days. Fast forward, form 2 was quite promising but certainly not without any form of distractions but that couldn’t stop me either. Eventually, When I got to form 3, things improved as I could pray in my cubicle but even with this I remember being tapped on my shoulder by one housemistress during salat and she actually expected me to stop praying but which I never did. I, therefore, want to take this opportunity to thank Ellis house B12 sisters, my friends and any other person who saw me praying but never reported me. Now to the substantive issue in contention, I find it so disappointing and nauseating reading comments from levelled headed people drumming into our ears that, it is a mission school so we must abide by the rules and regulations. All Muslims in Gey attended church service, sung hymns and canticles and part took in every other Christian activity and I was personally made to participate in Carol service drama for my house, In fact, the role I played nearly earned me the name “roast them”, I did it to the admiration of most and was told how funny I sounded. So if we could do all these without being rebellious, will giving us the opportunity to also observe our constitutional right make us rebel? This is the school that reiterated on daily basis the need to be prayerful and the need to build a strong relationship with thy maker yet turn around to distance us from our Maker and if this isn’t hypocrisy then what else is it? The same methodist church that founded Gey Hey, founded Mfanstipim (our boy’s school) yet they are able to accommodate Muslims and makes provisions for them or is the Methodist Church subdivided? I’m still waiting to be told how praying in one’s little corner or fasting during Ramadan distorts the values of the school or changes the name of the school. I always asked and wondered if the Methodist Church is more Christian than the other mission schools like Holychild, Presec, st Louis and the like who afford its Muslim students the comfort to practice our religion? To me, a true Christian should be able to accommodate the practices of his neighbour, we weren’t taught to accommodate the views and diverse cultures of different ethnic groups in the bid to foster national unity in social studies for nothing. If any Christian sees nothing wrong with this then the person has a long way to go in his or her spiritual ladder and such persons do not have any moral right to preach peace in any form.”
Adams Ghandhi Nejatu
“I’ve always been passionate about what goes on in Gey Hey. I’m an old student of Wesley Girls and a proud Muslimah. Back in GeyHey, Muslims were not allowed to pray or fast or read their Quran. Our rights were seriously infringed on and since we were the minority, we had to swallow such treatment. However, some of my Muslim sisters and I decided to talk to the headmistress. We spoke to her for about 5 minutes, concerning our salaat (that was what was more important at that time). She was warm and kind to us. About a week or two later, one of my Muslim sisters was caught praying in the dormitory and was reported to the chaplain who relayed the information to the headmistress and her assistant. She was summoned and we didn’t let her go alone. Till now, we’re proud we shared that humiliating moment with her. The then warm and kind headmistress had taken a total 360. She denied ever talking to us. She denied ever living those 5 minutes she spoke to us. She showed so much contempt towards us. She was so cold to us, not to talk about how her assistants and the chaplain behaved. I have never been that shocked in my life. That day, some of my Muslim sisters wept. I couldn’t sleep that night. The Islamophobia in GeyHey kept growing to the extent that, the assistant chapel prefect had the guts to tell me to close my Quran and send it home else she was going to report me. I continued reading my Quran and there was nothing she could do. I have prayed in a washroom before(it was a new washroom in a secluded part of the school though), I have prayed in a room full of dust and plastic chairs, I have prayed in a pantry(where the chop boxes are kept). My question is, what if something happened to me? GeyHey would probably wash their hands clean of the matter claiming that, had I not gone there, I’d be safe. But they’ll forget that if they allow Muslims to worship freely, no one will even think of going to such places to worship. There’s a lot, a whole lot to be said but I’ll end here. Live pure, Speak true, Right wrong and Follow the King. Let’s teach GeyHey what they seem to be forgetting from their own motto. Let’s be truthful and right the wrong”
“The reality of our experiences as young Muslim girls in WGHS transcends our words today. I was in WGHS from 2003-2006. I was a minority as far as almost of all the identities I came with to the school were concerned. Unfortunately, my identity as a Muslima was highly unrecognized! My story is that I never had the opportunity to pray for a single moment the entire time I was in WGHS… Astaghfirullah!!! because it was a NO from my ‘Dorm Monitress’ (name withheld) during my first year. To add up to the torture, this same Dorm Monitress took me through series of evangelical sessions ‘to accept Christ as my personal saviour’. Yes, you read right! However, a friend sneaked in a couple of Salats on her bed in Compton House and Another got to do same in her cousin’s room who was a senior in Ellis House. So yes, our stories may vary but will not suffice to project WGHS as a religiously tolerant school. While on vacation my auntie usually advised that I do salat 3 times for each whenever I am on vacation to make up for the lost ones. This was just by the way. Finally, in my last year, I got the opportunity to go for Tea Time at the Headmistress’ Residence. For the non-WGHS folks, Tea Time is having beverage with the Headmistress and other students while having discussions concerning the school. At least the night I was there, that was exactly what happened. So then I mustered courage (in WGHS we were carefully moulded into ‘zombies’ who barely question authority) and asked why Muslims are not allowed to practice their religion in the school. And why Muslims cannot be prefects? The answer was that; aside from imparting knowledge, evangelism was a major objective of the school. And so allowing the practice of other religions was a hindrance to the evangelism of the Christian faith. And that our parents are aware! Whatever that meant, I did not ask further questions. On why they cannot be prefects, I was told that the school tried it once and she became a mouthpiece sort of for her fellow Muslims. So today I Speak Up! And I regret all the times I remained silent. I speak up hoping to achieve some reforms in this direction from the School, the Methodist Church and the Old Girls Association (OGA). I speak up to restore the faith and confidence in the young Muslim girl currently in WGHS and the one who dreams of being part of WGHS in the future without any fear of having to put her religion on hibernation while acquiring western education. Nonetheless, WGHS remains an integral part of my life. I owe a great part of the woman I have become to the school. And in fact, the most phenomenal women I have met or heard of are mostly Gey Hey girls. So yes, My school remains the best sans the Religious Intolerance towards its Muslim girls.”
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