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25.05.2005 Feature Article

Double Whammy For Yendi Secondary School (YESS) Students!

Double Whammy For Yendi Secondary School (YESS) Students!
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The most important symbols and pride of Yendi: The Yani Skin, and Yendi Secondary School (YESS) suffer together. The Yani Skin, the once pride of the Dagomba Kingdom has been made to suffer. What a Shame! Yendi Secondary School, the pride of Yendi and Eastern Dagbon, has also been made to suffer, especially the final year students. This great school, which produced several intellectuals of high standing who are making a difference in the Ghanaian society today, is now suffering by virtue of its spatial location and association with the Yani skin. What a Shame! Why should the poor and innocent students of YESS suffer the consequencies of the problems surrounding the Yani skin crisis? What a Shame! Whammy I: No Security and Accommodation for Students! Government/Education authorities abruptly closed down YESS on 6th April, 2005, and forced the poor and innocent kids to go home prematurely without the final year students, over three hundred (>300) kids, taking the all-important mock exams. What a Shame!

The primary reason for the closure was to make YESS campus and dorms available to accommodate hundreds of security forces that government had deployed in Yendi to secure the city for the burial of the late Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II, slated for 11th April 2005, but which never happened. The need to accommodate the security forces overrode the need to accommodate the students, and particularly, the final year students.

The secondary reason for the closure was probably for the safety of the students and staff of the school. These students were hurriedly sent home eight(8) days ahead of the scheduled vacation date, 14th April 2005. This means that these poor and innocent students, especially the final year students, lost eight critical days because they were supposed to write the mock exams during that period, 4th to 14th April 2005, but they never did. All other final year students in Ghana wrote the mock exams, which serve as an invaluable and necessary preparation towards the final SSS exams. Further, for security reasons, the final year students were denied the crucial opportunity to stay back during the three(3)-week vacation(14th April to 6th May, 2005), a normal practice by final year students, to prepare intensively for the final SSS exams set to begin on 4th July 2005. Most of their counterparts in Ghana stayed back in their various boarding schools to prepare well for the final SSS exams: extra classes, intensive revision, repeated practical exercises in the science disciplines, and so on. But the final year students (>300) of YESS were denied all these. What a Shame!

Of course, the safety of the students and staff is important. That I agree, but other smart alternatives should have been thought out to ensure that the future of the final year students, in particular, was not sabotaged for circumstances and events they didn't cause: the murder and proposed burial of the Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II.

Basically, these poor and innocent kids were not sent away from the school on 6th April, 2005, because of any wrong-doing or misconduct on their part; rather the decision to drive these well-disciplined kids out of their campus was purely political/administrative. And everyone should remember that these well-behaved kids, who are barely in their mid-teens, didn't play any part in the creation of the circumstances that led to the closure of YESS, yet they are the ones that are now paying the heavy price for it with their very future, which I have to say, without doubt, is in limbo, especially the final year students. What a Shame!

Upon closing YESS on 6th April, 2005, why didn't government, in collaboration with the school authorities and the regional education authorities, arrange for the final year students to go to any of the other boarding schools in the region to write the mock exams and stay there to prepare towards the final exams? What a Shame!

Two(2) weeks after the closure, thus around 20th April, 2005, it was explicitly clear that the interment of Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II was not going to happen any time soon, since talks on the burial were suspended indefinitely, and the security situation in Yendi was normal, as evident by the compete pull out of the security forces from the city. The question to ask is: Why didn't government/education authorities ask the final year students of YESS to return immediately, around 20th April, 2005, to school to prepare and write the mock exams and as well prepare towards the finals in July, since they had lost some critical time already? What a Shame!

Is the future of these poor and innocent kids of no interest to government/education authorities? What government should remember is that these very young kids are the future leaders of Ghana, and for the North in particular, and playing with their future in the way it has, is tantamount to a deliberate sabotage. What a Shame!

Will government close down YESS again in preparation for the burial of the Ya Naa, if say, a new date for the interment were announced to fall on any date from now, 10 May, 2005, till the end of the SSS final exams, scheduled to begin on 4th July 2005 through August ending?

Or will plans for the burial of the Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II be put on the hold until YESS vacates in September 2005 and make available the campus and dorms to accommodate the security forces before the burial can actually take place? What a Shame!

YESS, just like many other SSS in Northern Ghana, hasn't enough science instructors/masters. The final year students do not have teachers for Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. Worse still, the science laboratories are ill-equiped and the library hasn't enough essential text(books). In contrast, some of the SSS in Accra and other places in Southern Ghana have two or more instructors/masters handling each of the science subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Maths. They are better equiped with textbooks and do not worry about government closing down their schools on security/chieftaincy/political grounds. Beside these systemic problems facing YESS, the kids were suddenly sent home without any humanitarian consideration by those decision-makers about the fate of the final year students: no opportunity accorded them to prepare for the final exams in July. What a Shame!

I wonder what is being done to address this unfortunate plight of these disciplined, innocent kids. Something should have been done weeks ago, but today, May 10, 2005, these students are still hunging around at home without a clue as to when they can go back to school.


Are these disciplined, innocent kids going to take the same SSS final exams with their counterparts in the nation?

Or are they going to be allowed to take a specially-designed final exams? Are they going to be allowed to take the SSS final exams some months after their counterparts have taken theirs?

Or are they going to be forced, just as they were forced to vacate their campus, to take the exams just like all other final year students in the country, starting on 4th July, 2005?

If in fact, they are forced by government/education authorities and the SSS testing council, without sympathy, to take the same final exams at the same time with all other students in the country, then, the questions I wish to ask are:

Does government know that without adequate preparation the kids may not perform well in the SSS final exams? And if that happens, does government know that the future of these kids will be doomed?

What sort of exam scores does government expect of these innocent final year kids: distinction grades or poor grades? If poor grades are expected, what will become of them afterwards?

A lot of doubt is now cast on whether the best interest of the kids was a priority in arriving at the decision to close down YESS on 6th April 2005, because horse sense tells us that arrangements should have been made for the final year kids to go to another school to prepare for the mock and final exams. Will these innocent final year kids be held accountable if they do not perform well in the exams? Will they be blameful if their scores in the SSS final exams are abysmal? I pray and hope that they do well. And will the teaching staff be held to answer for any likely poor outcome in the exams? I think no one can/should blame the kids and their teachers for the bad situation in which they are now and whatever performance they will put out in the finals, because they are completely blameless. Those to blame for whatever fate these kids may face in the final exams are the decision-makers who ordered the closure of YESS on 6th April, 2005, without any alternative plan to help them prepare for the final exams. Some people might not necessarily see these arguments to be making much sense to them because their own kids/wards are probably attending schools in the South, or even abroad, but I have to stress that the quandary of YESS final year students is a real, serious problem.

If they don't perform well in the final exams what steps will those responsible for their predicament take to offer them another opportunity to re-take the final year exams or gain access to higher education? Whammy II: No Food to Feed SSS Students in Northern Ghana! In spite of the improved security situation in Yendi, these poor kids are still at home, and cannot return to school, because, this time, government hasn't provided feeding grants (food) for the students either because it has no money to do so or because it has deliberately refused to. What a Shame!

On this ocassion, it is not only YESS which is affected, but all the boarding SSS in the North: Northern Region, Upper East, and Upper West Regions.

Why are the feeding grants not arriving? Why no food to feed these poor students? Why is government wasting the precious time of these kids, especially the final year students? What a Shame!

What happened to public financial planning (budgeting)? Is there a budgeting department at the ministry of finance? Does this department work with the ministry of education to know when the boarding schools in the Northern half of the country are operational and hence need the feeding grants? Hence, do they know the term schedules of these SSS? Do they even care about these kids at all? (We are talking of the plight of hundreds of thousands of poor kids here, about a third of whom are final year students). When will these public policy failures and public sector inefficiencies end? How can you budget for student feeding for some months and forget to budget for other months of the academic year? Can these inefficient guys in Accra; the decision-makers at that ministry charged with the responsibility of releasing funds to feed these kids tell me they treat their own kids in the same manner at home, thus they decide to feed their kids on some days and on others they decide not? Or can they tell me they remember to feed their own kids in some months and forget to feed them in others? Do they want the kids in the North to always come begging them for the feeding grants before they are finally released at their own will and timing? Why should budgeting for the feeding grants for these boarding SSS kids be on ad hoc and at-will basis? That is not right! That is pathetic on the part of the decision-makers/budget-responsible officers! That is a big shame! Don't mess with the future of these kids!

Government's promise and commitment to feed these young kids should not be an unfinished sympathy, because a commitment is a commitment, and when government makes a commitment to feed these students it should see to it that feeding funds reach the schools well in time for them to manage their feeding plans. What a Shame! If government knows that it cannot get the feeding funds to the northern schools on time, then such a failure or delay should be communicated to the schools well ahead of time, say three(3) months, to allow the principals/heads to prepare for the worst and find alternative means of feeding their students. To wait till the eleventh hour before telling them feeding grants will not come on schedule is an attempt to disrupt their educational operations and an indication that those decision-makers in Accra do not care at all about the kids up North. What a Shame!

When one comments on issues like these, some might say one is against government or education authorities, but that is not the case. The point is that someone sitting is Accra is not doing the right thing, and the right thing should be done in the first place, if criticisms are to be avoided, and it is clear that with these unnecessary delays in providing the feeding grants to the boarding schools, the right thing hasn't been done. I wonder what the reason could possibly be for the undue delay in getting the feeding grants to where they are so badly needed: the boarding SSS. Is it red-tape in the public financial planning (budgeting) department? Is it inefficiency of the officers handling these budgetary issues? Is it irresponsiveness to the plight of the Northern boarding SSS kids? Is it just mere lack of a sense of responsibility on their jobs? Or is it the usual sloppy financial planning process and system at the public policy level?

I recommed the following:

1.Government should immediately provide the necessary funding to feed these poor and innocent kids and they should be called to report to their various schools in no time, especially the final year students, to prepare for the SSS final exams. These kids have already lost a lot of academic time and simply do not have any more time to waste, and government should not continue to waste their already limited time any longer. We have all been secondary school final year students before and therefore know how critical every day, and even every hour, is to our preparation towards the final exams, especially for science students, and for decision-makers/government to joke with the future of these kids is just unacceptable, irresponsible, and disappointing. Every hour counts for them! They are supposed to take the same SSS final exams with their southern counterparts who are already in their various schools preparing very seriously for the exams.

2. Government/Education authorities should send education experts/inspectors(at senior secondary school level) to Yendi Secondary School to meet with the headmaster and his teaching staff to assess the impact all these have had on the ability of the final year students to prepare and write the final exams in a way to gaurantee their success.

3. Government/Education authorities should render an apology to the headmaster and teaching staff of YESS as well as to the students, particularly the final year students, and their parents, for messing with their academic programme and future. These kids are the future leaders of this country, that is something we shouldn't forget.

4. Government should arrange with WAEC, the ministry of education, and the authorities of Yendi Secondary to find a way of either helping the final year students to prepare adequately for the final exams in order to take it at the scheduled time with the rest of the country or these kids should be allowed extra time to prepare and then take the exams(separate version) at a latter time after the other final year students in the country have taken theirs. Government should remember that these poor and innocent kids were not sent home prematurely because of misbebaviour. They did nothing wrong! It is as simple as that! They are victims of circumstances: poor financial planning (budgeting) and lack of adequate concern/vision for the future of these kids on the part of government, on the one hand, and victims of selfishness on the part of Dagombas fighting for the Yani skin, seated in Yendi, on the other.

5. In future, Yendi Secondary School should not be turned into a military or police barracks again. Hence the school should not be closed down again for the purpose of lodging for security forces. It is understandable if the school is closed down for the safety of the students & staff. This time, it is clear that Yendi Secondary School was closed solely to make room for security forces to lodge in the dormitories, not because the lives of the students were at peril. That is very wrong. If there is no danger to the students and staff, then they should be allowed to carry on with their academic work, irrespective of government's logistical problems. Because these students should not be allowed to suffer anytime the Yani skin suffers. If it is clear that the safety of the students and staff is in danger, then plans should be put in place to ensure that the final year students are sent somewhere else in the region to continue their academic work and preparations.

6. Government should promise that it will never hold back feeding funds in the future. And it should keep its promise next time around. The culture of “promise and fail” should be desisted by government officials, especially when these promises are made to kids, else these kids will lose confidence and trust in we, the older ones(decision-makers), and any further promises in the future will be viewed by these same kids with scepticism.

7. Government should adopt better financial planning (budgeting) procedures in order to forestall any delay in getting feeding grants to the boarding schools in the North in the future. May be a couple of Northerners should be involved in coordinating this particular aspect of the budgeting process.

8. Government/Education authorities should treat the plight of the final year students at YESS as a special case, and allow those who will not perform well in the coming SSS final exams to repeat the academic year in YESS or in any other SSS of their choice free-of-charge and they should be re-registered for the 2006 SSS final exams free-of-charge as well. These kids deserve better treatment than what government is giving them at the moment: sabotage and a bleak future.

9.In addition, government should disentangle the academic operations of YESS from the problems of the Yendi chieftaincy crisis and its security arrangements, and the students shouldn't continue to fall victim and made to pay the price for whatever happens in Yendi, vis-a-vis the Yani skin..

10. An early warning system should be put in place to disseminate information on any such delays in funding the feeding of the boarding SSS in the North in future in order to allow the principals/heads of the various schools ample time to make alternative arrangements to feed their students.

11. An independent body should be established to investigate the causes of the delays in releasing the feeding grants to the boarding SSS in the North. Such causes should not be allowed to replicate in the future. >

By Natogmah Issahaku

Hails from Jisonaayilli, near Tamale

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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