Master Andrew Aniah, a 14-year-old class six pupil of the Nayorigo Primary School in the Bongo District of the Upper East Region says he has not sat on a chair nor written on a table during contact hours for the past six years of being in the school.
According to him, he has been sitting on the bare floor to learn and lying on his stomach to write whenever it was required of him. This is due to lack of furniture in the school.
“Since class one, my colleagues and I have been sitting on the bare floor to learn, except when we got to class four where there were some desks but I did not get one because they were not enough for all us,” he said.
“The teachers normally bend down to guide us whenever they give us class exercises or anything to do in class. I have been experiencing pains in my back and elbows and sometimes it makes it difficult for me to bend down.”
Master Aniah said he was determined to fulfil his dream of becoming a medical doctor, but the challenges in the school was drawing his efforts backwards and demoralizes him and sometimes he feels like not going to school.
This story of Master Aniah who spoke to the Ghana News Agency is not peculiar to him or the Nayorigo Primary School alone, it is the real sad story of basic schools in the Bongo District. Most pupils in Bongo actually learn in lack.
When the GNA visited the Nayorigo Primary School, Master Aniah’s school, it observed that almost all the pupils in the school were sitting on the bare floor while academic work was ongoing.
Classes one to four, which had broken windows and doors had no single desk compelling all the pupils in those classes to either sit on the bare floor or lay on their stomachs to write.
Classes five and six had less than five desks each and pupils were sitting either three or four at one desk, while the rest either sat on the bare floor or on blocks.
When the GNA contacted Mr Lawrence Ake-emah-Kapoe, the Assemblyman for the area, he noted that the situation regarding the furniture had been a long standing issue and many letters had been written to the appropriate authorities including the District Assembly and the District Directorate of Education, but to no avail.
He said the school enrolment declined from about 600 to 400 pupils as parents withdrew their wards to better endowed schools especially the private ones.
“One of the major reasons some of the children still go to the school is the fact that the school is a beneficiary of the Ghana School Feeding Programme. We are therefore appealing to the government and Non- Government Organizations to assist the school with furniture to enhance effective teaching and learning,” he added.
Research has shown that children who have good basic school training end up performing well academically. The foundation of every child is very important and this can only happen when that child has the needed facilities and infrastructure to learn comfortably.
For every child to learn well especially at the basic school level, that child needs a decent classroom, furniture, relevant books and competent teachers among others. Sadly, this is not the case when it comes to basic schools in the Bongo District. The bad situation if not checked, could lead to high illiteracy rate in the area and defeat the efforts to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially goal four.
School Furniture in Bongo
Furniture is a basic necessity for creating a conducive environment for learners especially beginners, to learn well, but that is not the situation in many rural basic schools in the Bongo District.
When the GNA visited the Balungu-Nabiisi School, the story was not different, as pupils at kindergarten through to classes four were sitting on the floor, while primary five and six had few desks where children were spotted sitting, four to a desk.
At the Balungu Junior High School, form one had no desks while form two and three had few desks compelling some of the pupils to sit on the floor and on cement blocks and at the Namoo Primary School the story was the same as pupils were seen sitting on the bare floor while teaching and learning was ongoing.
Furniture deficit in the district is huge, coupled with other infrastructure challenges and the situation is having a toll on academic work in the area leading to poor performance.
Mr Madison Anane Amokase, the Bongo District Director of Education, told GNA that although the Assembly and other NGOs had provided furniture to some schools in the district, the furniture deficit in the area was huge and was affecting quality of academic work.
The Director noted that the district currently had furniture deficit of over 70,000 dual desks and pupils in most of the basic schools were learning on the bare floor.
He added that in most schools, teachers did not have tables and chairs and the situation was affecting proper assessment of the pupils especially during contact hours.
“Our main problem is furniture, we need over 70,000 dual desks and the situation is adversely affecting teaching and learning in the schools and it is affecting the performance of pupils at the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), although there has been an improvement in the last two years,” he said.
The District Director noted that apart from the furniture deficit, many schools in the district were learning under dilapidated structures as some of the walls and floors of the buildings were cracked posing danger and health hazards to the children.
Mr Amokase said many of the teachers had complaints of their inability to properly assess the children due to lack of proper infrastructure such as furniture, proper classroom blocks and teaching and learning materials particularly the new curriculum.
The District Director said most of the pupils go to schools with dirty and torn uniforms due to the constant sitting on the floor and due to poverty, their parents could not afford to be buying uniforms for them frequently.
Human Right Abuse
Lack of access to quality education is a human right abuse. It is enshrined in the 1992 Constitution to protect children and provide them with the conducive environment to learn and have a bright future.
Apart from denying the Ghanaian child the right to quality education, efforts to build a strong human resource base for sustainable development of the country is also in limbo.
Quality education for all and the attainment of SDGs
Ghana is a signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
According to the former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, in September, 2015 after UN General Assembly adopted the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, along with the 17 SDGs, “the new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all of its forms. Thus, an agenda for the planet, our common home”.
The Agenda is a culmination of many years of negotiation and was endorsed by all 193 member nations of the General Assembly, both developed and developing, and applies to all countries. This means, all countries must implement pragmatic policies and innovations that would accelerate the attainment of this agenda and the SDGs.
Whilst there were no specifics as to which policies and programmes each country should undertake to aid in the achievement of the goals, building resilient human resource base was key through education was a major weapon to achieving the targets and this cannot be realized when the very foundation of our educational system, the basic schools, particularly in rural areas is neglected.
Appeal and recommendations
For the country to successfully attain the SDGs especially goal four, government and other stakeholders need to be proactive when dealing with issues affecting children by implementing policies that inure to their growth including adequate educational infrastructure.
This is because the children are the future of this country and when they are not well nurtured, cultured and taken care of, the future of our country is “doomed”.
Many children in rural schools such as those in some schools in the Bongo District continue to underperform due to the numerous challenges they face in their quest to learn in school.
The schools in rural areas need special attention and it would not be out of place if government recognizes this challenge and institute a strategic project geared at solely addressing furniture and other infrastructure challenges in the rural areas.
It would further be considered as a great capital investment if the common fund of the Member of Parliament is used to restock the basic schools in the area with adequate furniture and provide enabling environment for the pupils to learn.
This would help solve most of the challenges in the schools and help achieve quality education and the SDGs particularly goal four.