In the heart of the rather bustling town of Kpong in the Lower Manya Krobo Municipality is a 52 year old deathtrap of a classroom block housing the Kpong Presby Junior High School.
As though a school in a typical rural setting, half the pupils in form one (1) sit on logs and a pile of wood (wawa boards) and write on their laps during classes due to the limited number of desks.
There is a daily scramble over the few desks which are occupied on first-come-firsts served basis. Students who are unable to make it to school early enough to reserve a desk for themselves before class sessions either perch their colleagues on what should be mono desks or embrace the discomfort that comes with sitting on the improvised seat, a pile of wooden boards.
Academic work does not only grind to a halt at the sight of clouds (now a regular feature in this rainy season), because of the collapsing structure, part of which has been ripped off already, but the pupil numbering 129 return to school after every downpour to meet drenched desks and an ardours task of draining water from their classroom and drying the desks before classes begin.
As a result of the reduced contact hours and many such factors, pass rate in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) has sunk to lowly a15%.
Apart from the kindergarten block which was recently build by MiDA, the primary section which has a population of 219 is also housed in a decrepit structure built as far back as in 1957.
DESIGNATED DANGER ZONES
A number of the beams and rafters with which the JHS structure has been roofed have rotten and are loosely hanging on top of the class. Because of this, portions of the classrooms have been designated as danger zones where students have been barred from sitting as a measure to make room for the inevitable fall.
Sun rays also hit the class directly, compelling students to keep relocating along in the direction of the shade.
PASS RATE IN BECE
Academic performance is on a sharp decline year after year. In 2013, the school presented a total of 31 pupils for the examination and recorded 59% pass rate.
The following year, it presented 28 pupils and had 35.8% and in 2015, 26 were presented and it recorded 15% pass rate, confirming not only a reduced enrolment but a noticeably sharp decline in academic performance.
In 2014, the best students left school with aggregate 28 while in 2015, the overall best had grade 30.
Two years ago (2014), the school came 49th in the BECE ranking of the 60 schools in the municipality and this further dropped to 61st out of 64 schools ranked in 2015, thus trailing a number of schools in the villages (typical rural communities).
WOES OF THE DISABLED PUPIL
Due to the unfriendly nature of the collapsing structure (which has no access ramp for persons with disability), 21 year old Zokli Isaac who rides in a wheelchair to school is hand-lifted in and out of the classroom by his able-bodied colleagues.
He told the Daily Graphic that due to the nagging feeling of being a burden on his colleagues, his movement is restricted and largely remains indoors once he steps into the classroom.
He is often alone in the classroom during break because he prefers to eat in there rather than being carried in and out.
“It’s a daily and an unpleasant reminder of my disability, unlike my colleagues who move around unaided, but I am quite determined to complete school and move up,” he said.
Briefing the Daily Graphic, the headteacher of the school, Mr. Prosper Elolo Adikpe said both teachers and pupils have become apprehensive, given the calamity that befell a sister school, Odumase Presby (which had a similarly weak structure) a couple of years ago, leading to the death of a pupil.
He indicated that letters have been served the supervisory institutions and stakeholders like the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Municipal Assembly and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) but to no avail.
In the latest of such letters, sighted by the Daily Graphic, dated May 25, 2016 and addressed to the Chief Executive of the Lower Manya Krobo Municipal Assembly, copied to the Education Director, the school’s challenges including the state of the structure were enumerated.
The school has also extended its appeal to other firms and philanthropists including GHACEM Ltd. but none has yielded any positive result as yet.
He called for a quick intervention to save the situation.
AN OLD STUDENT’S INTERVENTION
An old student of the school, Dr. Stephen Manortey, Head of the Biostatistics Department of the Ensign College of Public Health, Kpong initiated the construction of a new unit but that has also stalled at the footing level due to what he described as the uncooperative posture from the church and assembly.
Dr. Manortey said he intended the project to be a communal initiative with all stakeholders coming on board to bring it to life. According to him, he has contacted a philanthropist who has volunteered to roof it but sadly, the other players would not show any commitment in raising the structure.
“It’s sad to say, but I feel deflated,” he emphasized.
SELF-HELP INITIATIVE BY PTA
A self-help initiative by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) to levy the former to purchase more desks has not helped either.
Out of the over 100 parents who were each levied GH¢20 last year out of consensus, only two have paid so far.
“The school is seriously handicapped,” Rev. Joseph Akwetey, the PTA chairman told the Daily Graphic.
RESPONSES FROM THE OTHER STAKEHOLDERS
When contacted, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, Ebenezer Okletey Terlabie indicated that he had personally tried to intervene but realized the cost was too huge to shoulder alone.
“I am looking at supporting with my social fund when approved,” he added.
While the Education Directorate didn’t seem to have an idea of the condition of the school, the Chief Executive of the Municipality was also not readily available to comment on the development.
The pupils and teachers are also caught up in the combined stench that emanates from a public toilet and communal refuse dump which are all located on the compound of the school.
They said their plight get worse during the rainy season because the poignant odour saturates the entire environment to compound their predicament.
They are therefore appealing for a relocation of the two from the compound.
Credit: Henking A. Adjase-Kodjo, a blogger at thekroboquill.blogspot.com and an activist writer. He can be reached on 0266 000 747. Follow him on Twitter @henkingklonobi