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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

When Pupils Use Cement Blocks As Tables And Chairs

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

Improvisation in education, per se, is not a bad thing. It is the nature of the improvised material (i.e. its portability and user-friendliness) and how it is used for its intended purpose(s) that matter. There is no denying the fact that educational resources in the country are in limited supply. The teacher and the pupil are confronted with teething challenges of inadequate teaching and learning resources. As a result, quality education delivery has faced some casualties.

Apart from low staff numbers, the Ghanaian school cannot also be spared of poor remuneration for its workers, inadequate reading materials, libraries, laboratories and other infrastructure, including classrooms. Inconsistency in our education system is also identified as a calamity which has plagued the school in recent times. Today, this government is in power with its policy; tomorrow, another government comes with a different one. A typical example has been the three-year/four-year mêlée of senior high school duration. Interestingly, it seems these challenges have cut across all levels of education. From the pre-school level through to the university level, there are many stories to tell, as far as operational challenges are concerned. There is no one level which is problem-free. As preschools battle with getting quality, professional personnel to churn out instructions to young, delicate learners, the universities are also struggling with their own infrastructural snags. One serious worry is when young learners are seen studying under very sordid conditions. Under normal circumstances, the school is supposed to provide some comfort and quality socialization to the child, as a kind of compensation for a poor, underprivileged home. By implication, a good school should be able to make up for the losses in the home. The situation becomes unkind should the two agents of socialization fall short of meeting the needs and aspirations of the child.

It is established that the condition and nature of education a child is given, to a large extent, determines how good or bad the child will be in future. Traditionally, a child made to learn under a well-composed environment should be expected to perform better than the one from a disadvantaged setting. Every man needs a good foundation to be able to construct a good future. Absence of that can be ruinous.

The other day, my attention was drawn to The Chronicle publication on Adjuah Primary School in Ahanta West District of the Western Region. What was it? The paper revealed that the school for many years has lived in shambles-no proper classroom blocks, tables and chairs. Pictures of the classroom blocks resembled cattle kraals. As a kind of improvisation, pupils were made to sit and write on cement blocks in congested classrooms. Some pupils were also seen studying on verandas for lack of rooms. Looking at the school’s sorry nature, it would not be surprising to learn that even teachers and textbooks are also lacking. I cannot fathom how a teacher would be motivated to stay and teach in such a deplorable condition. Only a few committed and dedicated ones can wholeheartedly afford to serve in such an environment.

Surprisingly, just close to the dilapidated infrastructure lies a newly constructed facility which has been allowed to sit idle for many months, reports indicate. It has been built by the Ahanta West District Assembly. Checks by The Chronicle have it that the authorities want to make some political capital out of what the tax payer has done. According to the paper, the facility may witness commissioning at the heat of the electioneering.

If only what is told is anything to go by then my position is that the authorities concerned are being sadistic to the plight of these kids. Why should children’s future be compromised for the sake of electioneering campaigns? Can’t children start using the facility as plans are made for its commissioning? It is crystal clear that education has not been given its premium by government. To still see children learn on blocks and in death-trapped classrooms under a ‘Better Ghana’ regime means that the future of our young ones have been massively ignored. Where are the heavy budgetary allocations we are told goes into education?

It makes no sense to see a child in free education under a rickety classroom facility. The worst of all is where he/she is made to use blocks as a table and chair. The health implications of living in such an environment alone cancel the so-called financial interventions being provided. For education to be holistic, both teachers and learners must be effectively supported in exchanging knowledge, ideas, skills, values and other useful learning experiences. Provision of requisite infrastructure, including tables and chairs is one of such supports.

The urban or city school may not fully appreciate that some schools still study under these wretched conditions. But the rural one would give first-hand attestation with craze. Distribution of educational logistics must be fair and transparent. Some institutions should not be given mansions as classrooms while others beg for pavilions; textbooks must not be lavishly stocked at one school as another struggles with just a single one for the teacher. There are still schools under trees in Ghana. Government must consciously strive to eliminate them all. Leakages in financial administration within the education sector and allied sectors must be checked to allow for efficient procurement and distribution of resources to all schools. During the just-ended Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), I visited a few centers within the Ga West and South municipalities under the aegis of the Ghana School Project, an NGO which I also work for. The general mood of pupils from rural schools was that of sadness-an indication of pessimism for good performance.

A bizarre situation was evident at some centers when it came to the writing of French and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) papers. Many schools opted out of these examinations since they either did not have teachers to teach these disciplines or have not got the required resources to be able to learn them and write. Ghana Education Service must continue to encourage and post teachers to rural schools. Teachers must see this as a divine call and be willing to serve.

Philanthropists, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), corporate bodies, PTAs/SMCs and others must pull their resources together in changing the dwindling fortunes of our schools. Let’s endeavor to effectively train the child who is in the classroom today so he/she can face the future with confidence.

E-mail: amoatec27@yahoo.com