Bob Marley of blessed memory said in one of his songs that if you have knowledge through education, no one can take it away from you. It is often said that education makes a woman more beautiful and attractive and men more gentlemanly and respectable. Many countries lay great emphasis on education for the people. As a result class lessons throughout the world are held in rooms. This ensures sitting convenience, comfort, and total concentration when lessons are going on. Since the rooms are under lock, the books are packed neatly and safely kept in cupboards also under lock and key. Can this be said for all schools in Ghana?
There are about one thousand schools today in Ghana where classes are held under trees. These include kindergarten, primary, Junior High school (JHS) and even Senior High School (SHS). The children in kindergarten and lower primary sit on the ground to write and receive teaching from the teachers. Those in the higher levels carry tables and chairs daily and place them under the trees.
The inconveniences and untold hardships confronting the pupils and students who study under trees are well known. Since they are not enclosed in a building, distractions and lack of concentration are the major problems facing them. Flies, mosquitoes, bees and other insects harass the children taking away their concentration. As a result of the noise and songs by the children, snakes pay them regular visits especially in the rural areas which are even harder hit than the urban areas. Students have to carry their load of books to and from school every day they attend classes.
Forty-four out of the sixty basic schools in the Wa West district of the Upper West Region hold classes under trees. All the children in these 44 schools sit on the ground due to lack of furniture. This situation creates health problems for the children and also affects teaching and learning process since they are all at the mercy of the weather. The teacher and the children have no option but to flee at the least threat of rain or heavy winds.
In the Northern Region, out of a total of 6,055 children between the ages of four and five who are supposed to be in school, only 1,734 are in school, representing 27% of children who are in kindergarten. The primary level has 60% enrolment. The story is not different with the Junior and Senior High Schools. It is saddening to see the High Schools having classes under trees. From 1985 to 2009, all students in the North and Upper West who attended classes under trees failed in the BECE and WASSCE examinations. Not a single student qualified to the university, training college or polytechnic!
Kufuor’s government was able to build over two hundred school blocks in schools where classes were being held under trees. The Mills’ government has also constructed about one hundred and fifty schools. Mills has, so far, not been able to keep to his promise of drastically reducing the number of schools where classes are held under trees. However, in his recent address at the 66th session of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, he trumpeted his achievement as having supposedly eradicated schools under trees. He said that he has turned a thousand schools under trees into brick and mortar structures.
Mills’ claims were challenged by the daily newspapers which boldly stated that he was not telling the truth to his audience or he was being economical with the truth. Today a lot of children are still being taught under trees. While President Mills was talking of having eradicated a thousand schools under trees, the Vice President, John Mahama, was harping on one thousand three hundred schools, while the man in charge of finance, Dr. Kwame Duffuor, mentioned less than two hundred schools under trees eradicated in his 2011 budget statement. What a shameful contradiction!!!
Ghanaians wondered where the supposed thousand schools that the President said he built are located. The churning out of numbers by the President, his Vice and Finance minister proved contradictory, false and mere propaganda.
Now the onus of responsibility lies on patriotic Ghanaians and the various Ghana unions abroad. In fact all the regions have their share of schools under trees. The Ghanaians abroad and the unions can raise money through fund-raising activities or better still send school project proposals to the various development agencies in the countries where they find themselves. The subject must be on schools under trees. It works because I once applied for a project, on behalf of the Ghana union in Sweden, to build a school for a village in the Atwima district. The fund was granted and it was enough to build classroom blocks for the primary up to the Junior Secondary school level.
With great respect to the President, I would like to remind him that he wouldn’t have achieved a doctorate degree if he had gone to school under trees. When the gargantuan money has finally been retrieved from Woyome through a court process, half of the amount which is 205 billion old cedis should be used to tackle the construction of classroom blocks for as many as three hundred schools under trees.
It seems the NDC government and those that have come and gone have never placed any importance on completely eliminating schools under trees. Ghana has the means and capability of completely eradicating all schools under trees. If Ghana has the means to pay judgement debts, some of the money must be used to improve education. I will conclude that our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total eradication of schools under trees.
Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu Author: Dark Faces At Crossroads Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com and www.africa-forum.net