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Cell Phones: Blessing Or Social Menace?

Thu, 17 Nov 2005 Source: GNA

Accra, Nov. 17, GNA - Can anyone single out a place or an event where the beep of a cell phones is not heard? Different ringing tones - high life, hip-pop, gospel music and even political slogans - are heard at various places.

One recounts a situation where a middle-aged man sat at the front seat of a commercial vehicle clinging onto his mobile phone in a most treasured manner.

While the vehicle was in motion the phone rang: "Kufuor nie, Osono nie" - a rendition of the New Patriotic Party slogan for Election 2004. Spontaneously, everybody on board broke into laughter at the new method of transmitting political messages.

Indeed, the cell phone has really gotten people acting in strange ways, as it has gone beyond providing a link between a caller and a receiver to disseminating information to diverse audiences. It is amazing the extremes some people go, to own a phone. Some will steal or even kill to have one. That is the power of the cell phone for you.

With the coming into vogue of hand free sets, people are seen standing in street corners making gestures; and judging from a distance, one might be tempted to think that they are potential candidates for those edifices adjacent to the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra.

Mobile phones have no doubt helped in the socio-economic lives of the people. Today, one can transact business with associates worldwide by just a phone call without spending long hours and resources to travel to meet them.

Friends and relatives are connected more than ever. The days when one had to travel long distance to visit friends or relatives just to get there to realise that they are absent are over. This time, you call before you visit.

With the mobile phone the world is now "a phone call away". Yes, One of the greatest inventions of our time!

"Switch Off All Mobile Phones" is displayed at hospitals, banks and fuel filling stations yet people ignore the warning. Sometimes participants at functions are kindly asked to switch off mobile phones but still the beep is heard.

Is it that people can't read and understand or that they are enslaved by the phones? Some people more often than not turn a blind eye to these warnings. They are not bothered about the consequences of their actions. After all what is the harm in receiving phone calls whenever necessary?

The problem is not with the use of mobile phones per say but the nuisance created by people who use the phones.

In a recent publication by the Ghanaian Times, the Ghana Education Service (GES) has initiated steps to curb the use of cell phones in all public first and second-cycle educational institutions.

The GES this time has given school authorities the green light to suspend or mete out any punishment in accordance with the GES rules and regulations to any student, who flouted the rules regarding the use of mobile phones.

Ghanaians recently, witnessed the circumstances that led to the death of Mr Sakyi Asare-Menako, a Principal Assistant Registrar of the West African Examination Council.

Some irate students, who defied examination rules and sent mobile phones to an examination hall and had them seized by him during the November/December 2005 Senior Secondary School Examination, beat him to death.

The use of the cell phone does not promote the right environment for learning as well as teaching but rather breed indiscipline among students.

One could imagine how during lectures, some students are seen rushing out to receive phone calls. Some have the volume of their tones so high that immediately a call comes through, everyone's attention is drawn to it.

It is not frivolous to ban the use of cell phones in schools because they disturb others, especially during lectures. Similar situations are detected in the churches.

The beeping of mobile phones is heard all over during church services despite the fact that some churches have the sign "Switch Off Mobile Phones During Church Service" put up on their premises. These notices must have been informed by the fact that the ring tones distract other members, who might have entered the spiritual realm.

After all the week's hustling and bustling in life, it will be appropriate to spend some quiet time with one's maker. This disobedience is witnessed in all sectors of life. Some government officials have been seen tiptoeing out of meeting rooms to answer phone calls, even though they might have been told at the beginning of the meeting to switch-off their cell phones. Mr Peter Ala Adjetey, Former Speaker of Parliament, during his tenure banned the use of cell phones in the chamber of the House and especially when the House was in session.

This became necessary as the beep of the phones caused so much distraction in the House. Despite the ban some members were caught on camera either making or receiving phone calls.

In England, the Queen has banned the use of the cell phone in the Birmingham Palace. Nobody is allowed to use the mobile phone in the Palace and they oblige.

Why can't Ghanaians do the same and follow simple instructions? Situations become worse when there is a social gathering. Different tones from different phones are heard one after the other. Some of the tones are pleasant to the ear but others sound like war songs - very terrifying indeed.

Another dimension of the problem is the fact that people give priority to incoming calls, every other thing is pushed aside a call comes through.

Again, callers or receivers make the situation worse when they spend long spells on phones, leaving people, who need their services with no choice but to wait.

One would find people in commercial vehicles making or receiving phone calls and shouting on top of their voices, not giving a damn about the feelings of other passengers on board. Who cares if the other passengers also have their rights?

There have been instances where some drivers, both commercial and private, are seen talking on the phone while driving, a situation that is likely to cause accident.

At the same time, some pedestrians also cross the road while talking on the phone thereby endangering their lives.

The most annoying gimmick on the part of drivers is when they stop in the middle of a journey to receive a phone call without excusing the passengers on board.

Lately, thieves took advantage of the proliferation of mobile phones and snatched them from their users while they were receiving calls.

At other instances, one could hear the phone ring during a television or radio programme as one of the hosts or facilitators forgot to put his/her phone on vibration or better still, switch it off. Who cares if the programme is distracted?

How long would it take Ghanaians to obey the simple: "Switch Off Your Cell Phones?" Learning to obey this simple instruction would go a long way to building a disciplined society.

Columnist: GNA