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05 July 2017

Life-threatening structures put lives of teachers, pupils in danger at Agogo schools

The lives of pupils and teachers at a basic school in the Ashanti Region are in danger as they conduct classes in dilapidated and life-threatening structures.

Cracked walls, loose door flames, falling ceiling and foul-smelling animal droppings characterise school facility at the Asante Akyem North District of the Ashanti Region.

Education authorities are reluctant to close down school despite the danger the classrooms pose.

School children and teachers say they are compelled to endure the inhumane conditions in the name of education.

Many basic schools in the Asante Akim North District, like many in other parts of the country, lack basic infrastructure. Classroom blocks, teacher accommodation and in some cases note books are unavailable.

“If teachers do not have any decent place to lay their heads, it affects their performance. And not only that; you go to some schools and the nature of the classroom block demoralizes them a lot,” says the District Director of Education, Ernest Kwadwo Afari.

This is Nhyiaeso D/A Basic School. It is located about 20 miles from the district capital, Agogo.

With an enrollment of over 250 pupils, mostly from nearly settler farming communities, the school is one of the deprived.

It has only three descent classrooms, which is also home to noisy African fruit bats that make screeching noises even during classes hours.

Many of the pupils are also without uniforms, footwear and, more importantly, books.  A few pieces of furniture are available for these crowded classrooms, making it difficult for pupils to concentrate during lessons.

This is the Basic Four Classroom: A teacher is busily taking pupils through the importance of reading under this weak structure, almost a death trap.

District Director of Education, Ernest Kwadwo Afari, says lessons are halted and pupils are evacuated anytime the clouds gather and at the slightest sign of rain.

“It’s a very disturbing one because it is within our policy to ensure that we create the necessary enabling environment where teachers can deliver their best; where learners can also learn at their best. But looking at the nature of the structure here, you can see whether the spirit of teachers are high to deliver, teachers can see such a community and accept postings to come and stay here and work. When parents have agreed to release their children to go to school, they come and this is what is facing them,” Mr. Afari laments.

Pupils have improvised a water canal to prevent their classroom from flooding but that is not enough.

It is also opened for unwelcome visit by all manner of animals and reptiles. For domestic animals, it is normal whether school is in session or not.

Teachers say they have been working at the mercy of God’s protection in the dilapidated structures.

Mercy Animah, a teacher says: “Living in facility like this, always we pray that God should protect us because it is very dangerous to live in such a situation. It is very bad too live here.”

 Another worrying issue here is that JHS students have to travel 24 miles daily to attend school at Ananekrom.

Pupils who trek daily to and from school are always at the mercy of the weather.

Education authorities have converted a local Methodist Church as a temporary structure for the start of JHS level education.

Additional classrooms are needed for forms two and three for next academic year.

As if that is not enough, Teachers have no accommodation in this farming community.

Through community initiative, a four-bedroom mud house is under construction to help teachers who commute daily from Agogo to live in the community.

This is the best the community can give these teachers who have accepted postings to the community.

“We are [pleading with] the government to give us teachers’ quarters. It’s very bad for us to come and live at this place”, a worried teacher lamented.

Education authorities are worried lack of infrastructure does not only affect quality of teaching and learning but also long term psychological effects on both teachers and pupils.

“Seriously it has effects on the quality; the quality that we want to make available here. The quality of learning and the teaching and then the quality of the learning environment-they all suffer”, Mr. Afari emphasized.

This explains why schools at places like Nhyiaeso, Abrewapong, Oseikrom, Ananekrom, and Afirisere have small enrollment figures.

They also have one thing in common — classrooms have been invaded by African fruit bats.

At Afirisere, for instance, the presence of the bats do not only cause a nuisance at the local District Assembly R/C Primary School, but retention of pupils is becoming difficult.

Almost the entire ceiling of the classroom blocks has been eaten away by the bats, hastening the deterioration process.

First time visitors, like me, will always wonder if the school is in use.

Ceiling frames and wooden doors have been left dangerously hanging.

Concrete floors have peeled off, leaving classrooms with dust.

District Director of Education, Ernest Afari, admits the rate of deterioration is dangerous and worrying.

“Windows are peeling off, door frames are being removed; ceilings are falling, walls are cracking. Floors are peeling off,” he said.

Despite the threat posed by the structure, educational authorities have no intention to close down the school as they await the assembly to redeem its promise of renovating the complex.

Mr. Afari says there is little the directorate can do at this point.

“It is certainly not safe because any member of the ceiling or the door can fall off at any time. Most of the door frames are  off; the window blades are falling off. So who knows when one will fall off and land on innocent pupil or teacher?, he quizzed.

Until help reaches Afirisere and several other basic schools housed in dilapidated structures, the lives of pupils and teachers will continue to be in danger.

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