Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, has advised Moslems and Northern Communities to prioritize education, especially that of the girl–child.

The Vice President, who gave the advice at the National Ramadan Conference at Bolgatanga on Saturday, stressed that education enabled people to take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves in the world of work and self improvement.

He therefore expressed worry about instances where parents withdrew their daughters from school for marriage and pleaded that such a negative trend be halted.

“In this regard, he entreated, I wish to emphasize the need for the education of the Muslim girl-child so as to empower her to be able to extricate herself from poverty.”

“The Muslim girl-child must be encouraged to stay in school and complete school in order to realize her full potential. She should not be married out prematurely or withdrawn from school to do menial jobs to support the family budget,” he emphasised.

The Vice President insisted that all cultural practices and beliefs that inhibited the girl child from acquiring secular education must be vigorously uprooted to pave way for the development of the girl-child.

He stated that the government had made progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on School Enrolment and Gender Equity in Enrolment and wondered why Moslem and Northern communities were not taking advantage of the situation to improve upon themselves.

The Veep said the Government was aware that Northern, Zongo and Muslim communities constituted the most deprived segments of the society and stated that the NDC government, on assumption of office, introduced social intervention programmes including: Free School Uniforms, Free Exercise Books, increased Capitation Grant and the School Feeding Program and the soon to be implemented One-time Premium Payment for NHIS.

These initiatives, he said, are all aimed at improving the quality of lives of the most deprived people.

“SADA will be fully operational by the end of this year. We are just completing the process of appointing the senior management of the Authority. Government has so far allocated this year, 13 million GHS for the start up work of SADA. Government intends to provide SADA, as soon as it is fully operational, the promised seed money in order to allow the Authority to smoothly take off.

“There will be a donor conference in September this year to allow the donor community to contribute to SADA. SADA is a 20-year programme,” Mr Mahama announced, and said it “will see a complete transformation of the Savannah area of this country.”

The Vice President urged Moslems to educate the youth against Islamic extremism and also to bury their petty and avoid sectarian religious differences as they were about to start the Ramadan fasting.

“Religion should not be a source of conflict but rather a vehicle for binding you together to live worthy lives by supporting the communities in which you live,” he maintained.

He said the Government, has since 2009, taken practical steps to improve upon the organization of the Hajj and indicated that the few mistakes that were committed last year would be avoided to enable Moslems have a smooth Hajj.

So far, arrangements in terms of payment of air fares by prospective Moslems were in progress and all signs point to a trouble-free Hajj, he claimed.

“Government is also putting in place a mechanism that would soon result in the establishment of an independent body to organize pilgrimages,” Veep announced adding that “The processes for the necessary legislative framework are currently underway and I believe this would be operationalised by the 2012 Hajj.”

The envisaged Pilgrimages’ Bill would call for the cooperation of both Moslems and Christians, as well as other people of different religions persuasions.

It is not being set up exclusively for Hajj Affairs but rather for organizing religious pilgrimages to any part of the world.

According to Vice President Mahama, “I, therefore, envisage a situation where Moslems can in future go with their Christian counterparts to Jerusalem (Qudus) on pilgrimage.”

He congratulated the entire Moslem “Umma” on the peaceful transition of Islamic Authority from the late Chief Imam of the Ashanti Region, Sheikh Imrana Musah to Sheikh Abdul Moomin as the new Ashanti Regional Chief Imam and said the absence of rancour and bitterness that characterized the process was an indication of how well the Moslem succession plan had been modelled.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr Mark Woyongo, commended Moslems for their efforts at maintaining peace in the Region but asked them to work harder to resolve other petty conflicts in the area, especially that of Bawku.

In a communiqué issued at the Conference, Moslems agreed that if they see the Moon on Sunday, July 31, they would start fasting be the first day of August but added that if it is not sighted on the said date, then August first would complete the month of “Shaban” and Tuesday, August second would be the automatic day for the fasting.

The Communiqué also expressed worry about the spate of road accidents and called on all stakeholders to strengthen their efforts at addressing the problem.

It also stressed the need for all regions to be given representation on the National Hajj Board and entreated Moslem parents to invest in the education of their children to open them up for meaningful opportunities.

The theme for the occasion was: “Religious and Ethnic Tolerance: A tool for National Development.”

Source: GNA