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Police arrest five demonstrating teachers, thwart demonstration

(MFWA/IFEX) - Police in Accra on March 11, 2011 arrested and detained five members of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) who were demonstrating against a new pay policy introduced for public service workers in the country, saying the policy was discriminatory against teachers in the country.

The five teachers, who were accused of fomenting trouble, were released on the same day without any charges against them. They were among a number of GNAT members who accused the police of maltreating them by assaulting them with tear gas and rubber bullets to scuttle their peaceful march in support of their leaders to present a petition to the Ministry of Education.

According to the police, the use of the tear gas was necessary to disperse the "lawless" teachers, who attacked the police with stones.

On March 12, the Deputy Minister of Education, Mahama Ayariga, offered an apology to the teachers. Ayariga, who was a panellist on a radio discussion programme on the Accra-based Independent Joy FM radio station, said: "I will never support anything that involves the beating and throwing of teargas at teachers, and we at the Ministry of Education apologise to them for what has happened and we look forward to continuing to work with them to improve the welfare of teachers," he stated.

On the same programme, the Police Public Affairs director, Superintendent Kwesi Ofori, justified the action of the police by saying that the police needed to use proportional force to ensure law and order.

"Looking at the nuisance and the uncomfortable traffic jam that obstructed public highway and restricted movement, the police had to take a decision to disperse the demonstrators in order to restore law and order and to protect lives and property," Supt. Ofori emphasized.

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