An Open Letter To The Minister Of Education, Youth And Sports
: PLAYING BY THE RULES OF THE GAME-ADONTEN SECONDARY SCHOOL, THE CHARGING OF UNAPPROVED FEES AND MOUNTAIN TOP BLUES
I heard you addressing some issues pertaining to your ministry on the Joy FM programme –FrontPage, posted on the 30th of January 2004, on the Joy FM website-(audio)- http://www.myjoyonline.com/audiofile.asp?p=14&a=778 I must say it was a generally a good performance.( You have been described by some quarters as hardworking and simple) – Congratulation.
Sir, the fact that you did not play by all the rules of the game as you suggested, has forced me to make a few comments.( Sir your ministry deemed it right to issue a statement to correct the impression that you never harassed the 'coached questioner' in your district assembly as a section of the press reported)
Related to the above, You were quoted by the Prempeh College website (2nd December, 2003( http://prempeh.org/profiles/volume7.html), as saying,
'All heads of schools and colleges are aware that the regulation regarding PTA levies should not be more than ¢ 80,000.He, therefore, questioned those schools such as Adonteng Secondary school, Asamankese Secondary school Prempeh College that charged arbitrary fees of ¢ 350,000, ¢ 320,000, ¢ 330,000 respectively far above the regulated PTA fee. The Sector Minister said, it was regrettable that, the impression is being created that, government is insensitive to the plight of parents'
Sir, I support your condemnation of the charging of inappropriate fees (illegal fees) that are stretching the budgets of the already distressed parent/guardian.
But honorable, I was shocked and embarrassed at the fact that you named and shamed two schools Adonten Secondary School (Adonten) and Presbyterian Secondary School (Presec), in Nsaba- on the Joy FM, for charging feeding fees arrears. Sir you said you had seen from records that some schools were charging arrears(illegal fees)for feeding among other things. You added that the said money was not going to be used to pay any creditor or supplier who improved the quality of food last term. Did I hear right or my ears were clogged?
I feel your pronouncement on Adonten was a raw deal. This letter seeks to do two things;
A) Raise some issues concerning Adonten' so called charging of unapproved fees.
B) Highlight some of the challenges in Adonten.
Sir your delivery on the Joy FM raises some nagging issues.
1.Sir, why did you single out the above two schools for castigation, while in the same breath you added, some schools were charging sport fee?(illegal fees) Why didn't you also name and shame those schools that were collecting illegal fees- culture, sports and what whatever fees? Did you not have them on your records?
2.Indeed! If the two schools were the only culprits why then issue a statement? Was this circular referring to only the two schools? (Refund boarding fees arrears - Ministry orders School Heads Accra, Feb. 4, GNA)
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS) has directed Heads of second cycle schools who have billed students for arrears of boarding fees for the first term of this academic year to immediately refund the monies. Mr Kwadwo-Baah-Wiredu, the Sector Minister, in a statement on Wednesday, urged parents and guardians to ensure that they collected the money from the respective schools.
The Ministry said it expected that the approved feeding fee of 513,333 cedis would take effect from January 2004, as it was endorsed toward the end of the term
"Nevertheless, and much to the surprise of the Ministry, some Heads of Senior Secondary Schools proceeded to include in the bills of students for the second term an amount of 121,333 cedis representing arrears of boarding fees per student for the first term," .
The Ministry said it was of the view that some Heads of Institutions had misinterpreted the December 2, 2003 Circular on Feeding Fees by the Director-General of Ghana Education Service, saying the action was "unfortunate and unjustifiable".) http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.asp?ID=51212
3.What did you mean by, these schools were not going to use the arrears to pay creditors or suppliers who had improved the quality of food? How did you determine whether the quality of the food was improved (or other worse last term?)
4. Sir – if I am getting you right, are you saying that Adonten does not owe suppliers/creditors (of food)? Incredible! How ironic – If even that is the case, don't you think they deserve a medal for being financially prudent? Honorable, how many schools managed to feed their students during the said period without debts and yet did not collect arrears (illegal fees), and how many did collect these arrears?( Oh, sorry, the above two school!)
5.Sir, by extension of the above logic, does this mean that those schools that owed supplier/creditors could charge the arrears? Is it not a contradiction? – Have you not cunningly justified the collection of arrears by using the suppliers/creditors argument? I think all fees not approved from your end/or the appropriate body are illegal.( pure and simple!) I think on this occasion you tried playing to the gallery. If Adonten indeed, collected unapproved /unauthorized/ illegal fees Adonten must be told so, and so MUST ALL schools found wanting.
I do not qualify to talk about the situation in Presbyterian Secondary School. But for Adonten, without the hint of boasting, I think I am very much at home. I worked there from 1998-2001 and literally witnessed the unfolding of the school's contemporary development plan, initiated and implemented by the current school management under the able leadership of Mr. Asante-Nkansah (Headmaster) and Mr. D. Afari(Assistant headmaster).
Honorable, I can say for a fact without fear of contradictions, the school management team has always to the best of its ability behaved responsibly, by playing by the rules. The Parent Teacher Association is consulted before the school DARES to charge any money. The headmaster has always lamented about 'high fees' ( I am not in any stretch of the imagination supporting charging of unapproved fee ) Adonten was started as a private enterprise by Lawyer Agyare in the 1950s. The Ghana government later took over the school by the 1960s. Construction of the new site started in 1970s, when it was stopped due to the 1979 putsch. Sir, I am not under any illusions you do not know the problems in your ministry, but in the light of the current issues I will just re-sound some of these concerns.
I heard you were not happy with the general environs of the school when you last visited it. You said the school should seek help from the hygiene experts(or what was it?)-Is this service going to be free? Well, I do not blame you, because you are not the only one. who has had this impression (But I must agree with you it is not the best of first impressions.) The school is aware and have worked hard on it. Many people have expressed such dismay cum surprise. Many thought Adonten was a massive school, with school buildings everywhere, well-manicured lawns, paved road etc. Sorry to disappoint those who did know, it is a far cry from what goes on with her two cousins; Aburi Girls Secondary School and Aburi Secondary Technical School (I recognize these schools also have their fair share of headaches).Sir. I do not know what you would have said if you saw the school compound in 1996,1997,1998.I can assure you that the situation has steadily improved.( the humid weather has meant the painted walls are sooner that later bleached/discoloured/stained.) The grounds have taken a lot caterpillar grading to even get it to that state- though more investment is needed to improve this first impression of the school-there is competition between which pressing issues should be addressed first. (Adonten is an old school but in terms of infrastructure it a new school)
Sir, when I started work in Adonten, in 1998, the school was desolate, derelict and the general apathy was just too depressing. (due to the number of problems).The school still operates two sites approximately one km apart. The new site (top) sits on the hill just next to the mast for TV3 and the old site is in the valley. The school was forced to partially to move to the new site after several attempts had been made by the Landlord to evict the school from his property.
In 1996/97 the school moved partly to the new site, into two uncompleted, two-storey Classroom blocks. One block served as classrooms/offices/sickbay while the dormitory for the boys, food store, bookstore, Assistant headmaster's senior housemaster's, assistant housemaster office and sports office, staff room and library were all squeezed into the other block.(most of the offices are converted lavatories) Structures were put up to serve as the school administration, kitchen and a dinning hall, another structure tripled as a dining, assembly and examination hall.
This dining, assembly/classroom/examination hall is not at all conducive for any of the above functions it is supposed to serve. This building is 'bare', its windows are honey –comb like blocks with no mosquito proof just like most of the buildings in the school. Students are therefore exposed to the elements –they have to play hide- and -seek to avoid being drenched when it rains. At nights they are exposed to the cold and insect bites (e.g. mosquitoes).Though a lot have been done to improve this building, it still needs more work.(in fact the building of a good dining hall)
The girl's dormitory (old site) is so dilapidated- that it raises serious health and safety concerns. The girls are crammed into this building, only heavens can explain how we have avoided a calamity. The housemistresses are equally crammed into single rooms. (the school with the PTA is still struggling to complete a one -storey dormitory block on the new site for the girls).
Sir, and if you think that is bad, these girls walk up for classes, dash down after school, and walk back for preps/supper and walk back. The boys sometimes have to suffer a similar routine of going down to fetch water from the well when we have shortage at the new site. Students (girl/some day students) walk to and fro, day /night on that narrow steep road (Aburi/Nsawam) Mind you sir, there are no street lights on this road connecting the two sites. Sir, the risk ! ( it is common for vehicles not able to climb this hill to breakdown, reverse down hill or crash into people).
The school administration put in a scheme to convey students to the top every morning. But this turned to be a one-trick –pony due to frequent breakdowns of the schools vehicles, high fuel bills etc. This laudable scheme however proved to be unreliable and irregular. ( not withstanding the school's population has steadily increased from 600 students to 1,400.(1998/99 –now)
It does not take much to conclude that if the accommodation situation for students is unacceptable and deplorable, then accommodation for staff, will be a no-show. Staff attrition rate was nothing good to comment about(though staff retention is gradually improving) Some staff members have had to commute to school daily from Nsawam , Accra, Akropong. Those lucky to get accommodation in and around Aburi- grapple with water shortage and leaking roofs. I was lucky to be staying near the school, in a building the school had rented. Toilet facilities were so poor that it left nothing to the imagination-Your midriff upwards was exposed when using the bath shack(room).The toilet was a pit latrine made of wood –we had to tip toe into and out carefully if we did not want to be a front-page news item. It was a similar situation the girls faced on the new site- poor toilet facilities.
Dear minister, will you believe that just across the school gate there are supposed to be 24 –30 odd uncompleted (foundation) of staff houses. Only one out of this lot is completed (and was shared by the assistant headmaster and another staff member). Through a benefactor a building was put up to house to the Senior housemaster. This situation of having three (3) staff member living on campus (top) together with the school's porous security, presents its own disciplinary problems. The absence of staff does not serve as a deterrence for reducing poor student behavior. With three members of staff physically living on campus, ( keeping an eye on the boarding students at all time it can be daunting.)
The management of the school started a crash project to put up mini quarters to increase the staff presence on campus. This project has almost crashed to a stop (due to no cash.)
2. Sir, the school does not have any reliable transportation. The school's bone shaker-/mummy truck, the pick-up and bus are under constant stress. It is no surprise their break- down rates are not absolutely astounding-The headmaster's private vehicle has served as a school vehicle on several occasions . The headmaster's car and taxis have rushed sick students to Tetteh Quarshie Hospital when there is no school vehicle around. Honorable, trust me we count ourselves lucky if in a fortnight no student is sent to the hospital/clinic. In fact I cannot remember the last time a school vehicle was used for an excursion.
We cannot either rely on communication via the telephone, Apart from the usual break downs, the telephones in the new site (office and booth) are usually out of service late at night and early in the morning due to the chilly weather (they have to warm up like reptiles) This forces staff to permit students to visit town to place their calls, which does not augur well for discipline. In fact there is no form of telephone link between the two sites.
SCHOOL FIELD AND ACCESS ROADS
Technically speaking the school has no sports park- we literally have to beg to use the one at the old site, if we are to meet the recreational/leisure /sporting needs of the students (a sound mine rest in a sound body). The presence/value of a Sport Park in the school cannot be under estimated. The school in 2001-attempted to construct a sport field. This proved to be over whelming! Giving the topography and budget constrains (we had to bring 3 different sets of heavy earth moving machinery, even with that, just about a quarter of the work was done) Work had to stop because it was turning into a debt that the school could not deal with ( the area is now a bush park) -
So till now we do not have a sport field.
Dear Minister, in spite of the school's precarious perennial chest situation, the school does not shy away from providing quality education for its students. The school set up an Information communication technology (ICT)/computer science department center, with the help of PTA and a loan from the Merchant bank.(20 computers were acquired and more added on to about 70) The school even developed a proposal (technical) to hook –up with other institutions for educational purposes via the internet/video conferencing. This project has suffered because the our main financier (donor) went bust and the school is without resources to carry on.
Sir, from the above brief account, I hope you understand why the school is not reckless, incompetent, arbitrary and insensitive. I think the staff, students and parents/ guardians. Should be given a pat on the shoulder for the efforts they are making to build the school. As I now stand on the side-line as a passive observer, I can say without wavering that the school's administration has worked very hard just to keep the school going. And I have no doubt that they will achieve the objectives set out if the school gets more support. (I pity the school management and I think they know what I am talking about)
Thank you. ISLA SOORI 66 JAMIESON PLACE NR5 8YY NORWICH Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.