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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

Old students ahoy; part 1 (Presec needs an e-library, Ola-Ho needs water)

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Old students have been helping their alma mater for years, but some of the details will shock you.

Let us take the case of two secondary schools in Ghana to highlight a serious national problem, one more example that confirms my mentor’s quip “underdevelopment has many facets”.

First Legon Presec in Accra.
The 1994 year groups (of the O and A Level old system, and the current system) by tradition will host this year’s speech and prize giving day and donate a project to mark their 25th anniversary. These old students want to donate an e-library. How much will this cost?

They are seeking to raise 800,000 Cedis (USD160,000) to symbolise 80 years and another 100,000 Cedis (USD20,000) for the speech and prize giving day. But despite the fact that donations are pouring in and construction work has started, there is no clear picture/direction about what model the e-library will imitate or whether it will be a novelty because of different year groups with different decision making options.

Let us pause for now and direct our gaze eastwards to Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana.

OLA Senior High School celebrated its sixtieth anniversary in March hosted by the 1993 year group of Past OLA Girls’ Association (POGA). On that occasion the North America POGA group donated a rehabilitated Chemistry laboratory to the school which now needs equipment.

The ’93 old girls want to supply water – borehole water – to the old dormitory sites and then ambitiously connect pipes to extend that water supply to all dormitories and the whole school.

But that year group comprising the old system (O- and A-Level) and new system (Senior Secondary) are a no-match for their ’94 counterparts from Presec; the OLA old stream has just 81 members scattered over the face of Earth whilst PRESEC has double of that number.

Lucy Dzata, one of the organizers of this project is, therefore, lobbying government officials and the general public to come to their aid.

“Organising the POGA ladies is difficult,” Dzata told me. “And also the old system ladies are organizing themselves separately so we have to consult them to know their plans.”

Whereas POGA ’93 has relative to Odade? ’94, only started mobilizing support, the latter are laying brick and mortar. If the PRESEC ’94 folk were to donate a fraction of what they have raised so far to POGA, the water project will be a success. But even among the Legon PRESEC year groups, such information sharing/collaboration is difficult as specifics are hard to obtain.

Hence, when as part of my research for this story, I posted a simple WhatsApp question on some PRESEC platforms where I participate, it opened a whole can of worms.

“Please permit me to ask if there is a project manager (PMP, PRINCE 2 or otherwise) on this platform or elsewhere handling the PRESEC e-library project or any of our projects”, I posted.
After a lot of haggling from one platform, Odade? Richard Opoku Agyepong was suggested by consensus as the first person to talk to.

“Your question has alerted all of us,” Odade? Richard Opoku Agyepong, an I.T. instructor and CEO of Enable IT, told me in a later telephone conversation. “We are expecting that you will write high profile stories that will be the one source that documents all of such information for us to learn from and get the full picture.”

It had been suggested by Agyepong and others that a project manager should be appointed, but old students vote on issues, and the best ideas….and the best people do not always win. Since apathy is the main challenge facing such groups, one could describe such alumni projects perfectly as coalition of the willing ventures.

“This [e-library] also represents a terminal point in one year group one-year project,” Agyepong stated. “The ’91 year group, for example, started a gym and when their job for hosting the speech day was over, the gym project was abandoned.”

For such reasons Richard Agyepong wants a project coordinator to be appointed who will on a daily basis file receipts and payments, and provide contact information and other documents for anyone who wants to follow up on a project detail.

But Agyepong gives full credit to Rev Dr Ebenezer Maamah Maakwei, PRESEC Global President, who is urging all year groups to agree to one project master plan for which each year group’s chosen portion will be fully branded and credited.

Such ideas bring to mind the Donor Pooled Fund credited to the Kufuor administration which sanitized the discordant donations given by international NGOs directly though disproportionately to institutions in Ghana. If the Presecans and POGA Ladies could agree to a similar concept whereby all year groups will pool their project resources into one accounting system, then financing challenges could be easily identified and projects coordinated better.

The AMC [Alumni and Mentorship Centre] was estimated at Two million Cedis [USD500K today] and the e-library is estimated at 4.5 million Cedis (almost one million US dollars), yet the project management issues are nothing to write home about.

As for OLA-Ho, all they want is for Ghana’s Ministry of Education to come to their aid. Lucy Dzata lobbied hard to get the right points emphasized in the Minister of Education’s speech on 30 March, during the diamond jubilee speech day.

Yet despite that, off-record promises, and the presence on that historic occasion, of POGA Irene Adegbe Arthur, the UK based Aviathur owner, OLA-Ho has not made much headway.

“Initially my group wanted to do the overhead tank but when we got there we realised we needed to sink the borehole as well and pump the water to the old site,” explained Dzata.

Does this sound like your school, and are you willing to publically discuss your problems and call for help? Or we are to continue chanting the old songs that say our schools are better than others?

Is there a consensus that with a strict adherence to INTEGRITY RULES, there should be no fear in making such matters part of public discourse, if at least such scruples will encourage the apathetic individuals and body corporates to join in building Ghana’s secondary school infrastructure for our children?

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