Press reports suggesting that the ministry of Education and Sports now allows students to keep mobile phones while at school have sparked off heated debate, mostly in protest at the idea.
Thankfully, the ministry has clarified that its officer to whom the report was attributed had been misquoted and maintained that the policy on mobile phones at school has not changed.
There is no doubt that information technology, and particularly mobile telephony, has changed the world, mostly for the better, and indeed children must be trained to take advantage of the opportunities presented by modern technologies.
However, every great innovation has its pros and cons and mobile phones are no exception. Allowing school children to own them would be extremely disingenuous. Mobile phones would not let them concentrate on their studies, the main purpose of their being in school.
The students would inevitably be distracted. This is not rocket science because even adults often abuse mobile phones. In some workplaces cellular phones have been prohibited because they distract employees and render them less productive or encourage malpractices and impropriety.
In other workplaces, certain internet-based facilities such as Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp, which are also available on mobile phones, have been disconnected because staff are abusing them. If handling gadgets poses such challenges amongst adults, how can we expect children to navigate the pitfalls successfully?
Allowing students to carry mobile phones at school potentially increases criminal activity, including violent strikes, burning of schools and destroying of property, as well as drug abuse and cheating in examinations.
There is no doubt students need to communicate, more so in this information age. To meet this legitimate need, schools should ensure that public pay phones are available although these too would need monitoring.
Teachers responsible for students' welfare can also keep mobile phones through which students can communicate with their parents and guardians when need arises. On this one we support the ministry of Education's view that allowing students to keep mobile phones will cause more harm than good.