The Price of Education - the sad end of Kwadwo Njorfuni
Education is a fundamental human right, and according to the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, every child of school going age is entitled to free and accessible basic education. But that is not the case for children in rural areas in Ghana.
Apart from mass failures recorded due to inadequate and sometimes lack of teachers and learning materials, some rural children have to pay the ultimate price in order to have education.
In the following report, Manasseh Azure Awuni takes us through the life of one of such children, eleven year old Kwadwo Njorfuni in Banda in the Krachi Nchumuru District of the Volta Region.
On a cold Wednesday Morning in March 2012, nurses at the Kete-Krachi Government Hospital were frantically working on Kwadwo Njorfuni, to embark on a Journey of over six hundred kilometers to the Korle-Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.
It was at that hospital that little Kwadwo underwent a spinal surgery in 2008 when a classroom building collapsed on him and other pupils. Kwadwo was expected to return to Korle-Bu for a medical review, but his father says he did not have money and all attempts to get help failed.
Kwadwo has since been paralyzed and ridden with bedsores. The cost of that journey and treatment was borne by some individuals in Accra who decided to step in after my first story on Kwadwo was aired.
Time is of essence, but after nearly four years, Kwadwo's father is hopeful.
That hope was however dashed at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. Dr George Wepeba, a consultant neurosurgeon at the KBTH, who had to confirm the couple's fears after close to 30-minutes of physical examination, scrutiny of past medical records and examining a stack of X-ray films which Kwadwo's father brought with him to the Hospital.
Kwadwo would never be able to walk for the rest of his life, Dr Wepeba told his father. He had lost the ability pass urine so a urinary catheter would forever be connected to his penis, else he would always wet himself anytime there was the urge to empty his bladder. He had lost the ability control his bowels and would forever wear diapers in order to soak the involuntary discharge of faecal waste. Kwadwo had also lost his manhood.
None of the children at Nandikrom Primary School in Banda has ever seen a computer. But they are determined against the tides of deprivation to excel in their ICT lesson. Learning without the needed teaching and learning equipment is a difficult task. But the absence of a computer is not the immediate headache of the staff and students of Nandikrom Primary School.They are studying in a death trap. There are cracks all over the visibly weak walls, putting the lives of the two hundred children of the school in danger.
The story is not different at the Banda Roman Catholic Junior High School. A few meters away from this school is the Banda DA Junior High School. This is best school in the Krachi West District according to the 2010 BECE ranking. But infrastructure of the school is in a deplorable state.
Children of the school escaped unhurt when their classroom block collapsed because they were not in class. But that was not the case for Class three pupils of the Banda English Arabic Primary School in November 2008. The falling wall killed one pupil on the spot while injuring many others. The school authorities pulled down the weak walls leaving the pavilion to house the children. But the scars of the accident are still visible on a visit to the school. Some children who were injured could not undergo the recommended surgeries, because their parents who are poor peasant farmers could not afford the cost; and they still live with various degrees of injuries.
Labi Sumaila fell into coma for almost two weeks after the accident. However the inability of her parents to pay for a recommended brain surgery has resulted in a mental problem. The Ghana Education Service did not offer the children any help as confirmed by the district director of education.
One child whose condition was still critical was Kwadwo Njorfuni. After his return from Korle-Bu early this year, he visited the Krachi Government Hospital as a result of related infections. In all of this Kwadwo never lost hope of returning to school.
But the type of songs students of Banda used to welcome Kwadwo when he left the hospital for good meant that his dreams had come to an end. All school children in Banda were asked to assemble and bid Kwadwo farewell. His distraught mother could not cry throughout the burial ceremony. His father said the family was relieved that it was all over.
According to him, Kwadwo's unbearable suffering also had a toll on the family. His death meant that he and his wife would now have time to work and cater for the rest of their children. The burial ceremony lasted about an hour, with mourners being family members, school children and GES authorities. Kwadwo was later buried at the Banda public cemetery.
This is where Godwin Ayensu who died in the same accident was buried four years ago. Kwadwo Njorfuni's life and suffering has ended but his classmates still live with theirs. The danger still lurks for students of Banda and other school children in many parts of the country where school children study in death traps.
Education was the focal point of political parties in the just-ended elections but it does not seem the danger will go away until politicians stop focusing on the next election and spare a thought for the next generation.