Police allegedly brutalise female students of Gowrie SHS over riot

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A midnight outbreak of campus riot at the Gowrie Senior High/Technical School, a second-cycle institution in the Upper East Region, is reported to have left several female boarding students brutalised by police officers.

The police officers, believed to have been dispatched from the Bongo District, where the school is located, stormed the campus on Wednesday to quell a clash involving some male students and teachers over seizure of mobile phones at the school’s dormitories.

Parents received distress calls overnight from students who said the police made boys-only arrests, forced the girls’ dormitories open and lashed scores of female students with sticks and cables inside their rooms. They also said they heard multiple gunshots on the school’s premises but were unable to tell whose fingers were on the triggers.

“We had a demonstration. The police came and started beating us for no reason. We were even inside the dormitory. The masters were asking them to beat us the more. Is it because our boys retaliated that they are doing this to us? If we also start, would it be our fault? If we retaliate, they would say we don’t like government’s property; they would say Gowrie students are wicked.

“They have arrested the boys. They beat us, locked us in the dormitories and took the keys away. They caned all of us and booted us like football. They threatened to shoot us and said they would bring hot water to pour on us to take the marks home. If we hadn’t calmed the boys down, by now that master’s house would have been on fire,” said a female student who sounded terrified as she spoke on the phone.

A teacher at the school confirmed the development to Dailymailgh.com around 2:00am but he said the turmoil erupted not long after he had left the campus. Telephone calls placed to the school’s headmistress at 3:43 am did not go through.

“We heard a master seized some students’ phones when he went to a dormitory to find out why some seniors beat a junior. They have been seizing phones. Even if you are going to do mobile money cash-out, they would seize the phone. Later, the guys went to the master’s house. Then, fight started. Masters were catapulting us.

“We heard warning shots; meanwhile, the police were not here by then. The place is dark. Our boys, we don’t know where they are. They are not in their dormitories at all. They arrested some. They were beating them mercilessly. One girl, a senior, was beaten. She was lying down on the ground. She was not moving. The police are still moving around. We are inside. The rooms are dark. A friend is just by me here. She is in pain. We can’t go out to ease ourselves. There are bruises all over my body,” another schoolgirl sobbed on a midnight call from a dormitory where many troubled voices could be heard in the background.  

A string of violent protests

Violent protests appear to be an ever-present threat to quality education at second-cycle institutions in the region.

A number of schools have made it on to the unenviable list of institutions that have had their curricular timetable turned wrong way up between 2014 and 2021. They include Awe Senior High/Technical School, Bawku Senior High School, Bolgatanga Senior High School, Bolgatanga Technical Institute, Fumbisi Senior High Agric School, Gowrie Senior High/Technical School and Kongo Senior High School.

The rest are Navrongo Senior High School, Sandema Senior High School, Sandema Senior High/Technical School, Sirigu Integrated Senior High School, Zamse Senior High/Technical School, Zebilla Senior High School and Zuarungu Senior High School.

At least two violent protests broke out just two months apart in 2017 in the region— at the Zuarungu Senior High School in July and the Bolgatanga Senior High School in October. In May, 2018, the Navrongo Senior High School was shut down indefinitely over a hunger-strike protest staged by students over an alleged unfair treatment by a dining-hall master. More student-riot cases cropped up between May, 2018, and June, 2019, in Navrongo and Bolgatanga.

In July, 2019, a student was shot dead and another student collapsed during a campus protest generated by a clash between some cadet corps members and nonmembers at the Sandema Senior High/Technical School. In 2020, Zebilla Senior High/Technical School was rocked by a riot reportedly fuelled by seizure of students’ mobile phones by school authorities. The Bolgatanga Technical Institute recorded an ethnic-related violent clash in February, 2021. That clash had eyewitnesses mention that students wielded guns and fired gunshots.

“Any form of violence is condemnable. We know that there is no conflict that cannot be resolved. In a school where there is a school management and there is a students’ representative council, there is no way a conflict cannot be discussed and resolved.

“The resort to violence is always the wrong move. No matter the reason for the riot, there is always an opportunity for a peaceful way of resolving it. We will wait for details to know what kind of advice we will give on the situation,” the Upper East Regional Secretary of the National Peace Council (NPC), Ali Anankpieng, had remarked after the 2019 student riot at Sandema.

By Edward Adeti, Upper East Region – Daily Mail GH

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