The late South African president and global icon, Nelson Mandela, once said “education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”
All over the world, people go to school to acquire knowledge, with the hope of getting a brighter future in the end.
But when learning in an environment becomes a potential death threat, then the very future that one hopes to gain through education can rightly be said to be a bleak one.
Education is important for building a decent world for all, but without life, the reward for education may not produce much personal benefits.
It is for this reason that the continuous stay of pupils at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Junior High School (JHS) & Primary School at Newtown, a suburb of Accra, has become a major source of worry for parents, residents and teachers alike.
Deadly Wall Collapse
On Thursday, May 30, 2019, a head potter ('kayayo') and her son died after the school's wall fell on them.
The little boy died on the spot and the mother died at the Police Hospital in Accra, where they were taken to by some Good Samaritans.
School authorities and residents were devastated after the incident, which has heightened their fear about the possible collapse of the school.
Some officials of the school and residents who spoke to DAILY GUIDE said they were not shocked about the collapse of the school wall.
Residents and teachers described the school complex itself as a “death trap” and that it shouldn't surprise the government, the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ministry of Education should the school collapse one day and snuff out the life of the students as a result.
Why Is That So?
One of the teachers who spoke to this paper said authorities at the Kwame Nkrumah School had, on three different occasions, contacted the Ayawaso Central Municipality’s Natural Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) Directorate about the dangerous state of the school, but to no avail.
The Kwame Nkrumah JHS & Primary School was built by Ghana's first democratically elected president, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, in the latter part of the 1950s and the early 1960s.
The school is more than 60 years old, but residents disclosed that it has not received much attention from governments over the years in terms of renovation.
A resident who has lived around the school for about 50 years, Eric Opare Affum, told DAILY GUIDE that the only renovation the school has received since he moved to the area was a painting done by a corporate institution.
According to him, authorities have paid deaf ears to several concerns raised by residents about the poor state of the school.
Pupils Defecate In Drains
A big drain which runs through the school has been covered and on top of it is a toilet.
Surprisingly, the pupils appear not to be using the toilet facility, as a visit by DAILY GUIDE to the place on Friday, May 31, 2019, revealed the pupils defecating in the drain while in their school uniform.
Residents have revealed that the drain which has been covered would, therefore, prevent the flow of water from Kotobabi and other areas.
Mr. Affum said that was putting pressure on the school's wall and was responsible for the collapse of part of the wall.
Not only has the drainage been blocked around the school for the construction of the toilet facility, but another resident has also blocked part of the drain and has built a house on it, meaning all the waters that get to area do not flow further, and when there is heavy downpour of rains, the area gets flooded.
Within the same vicinity of the school is a deep manhole that has been left uncovered, with the kids playing around it on a daily basis.
Aside the wall, the very foundation of the school has deep cracks. The building itself has deep cracks and some teachers who pleaded anonymity stated that teaching in the school is like signing one's own death sentence.
DAILY GUIDE gathered that had it not been delays and negligence on the part of authorities at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Ayawaso Central Municipality, the deceased and her son would not have lost their lives painfully after the school wall collapsed on them.
Admission of Negligence
The Ayawaso Central Municipal Director of NADMO, Sylvester Kwakye, revealed that NADMO was, indeed, approached on three occasions about the poor state of the school complex and how it posed risk to human life.
He indicated that on two occasions, he submitted reports to the Metro Director at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) on the need to take action about the poor state of the school.
According to him, another report was submitted to the Ayawaso Central Municipality about the state of the school and the complaints of the teachers.
Mr. Kwakye said he has been in office for more than a year and half and that he became aware of the situation within his first month of taking office.
“We have come here for inspections on about three occasions which we have done our reports. We had a chat with the school authorities, the head teacher and some teachers. After that we came back. We realised that the wall was cracked,” he mentioned.
At the time of the inspections, Ayawaso Central was a sub-metro under AMA.
He added that NADMO was waiting for AMA to award the contract for the demolition of the wall to pave way for new one to be constructed.
When asked why that was not done, he said there were complaints from AMA about lack of funds for the project.
Shockingly, he explained that it was only a week ago that a contractor was brought to the school to work on the wall.
Generosity; Action After Tragedies
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Ayawaso Central and Deputy Minister for the Interior, Henry Quartey, a few hours after the tragedies, pledged 200 bags of cement, 4,000 blocks and other building materials for the reconstruction of the school wall.
The MP also swiftly directed the engineer for the municipality to commence work on the wall within 14 days and to identify structures on walkways, so they can be pulled down if possible, an order which would have been really impactful if it had been done to prevent the collapse of the wall.
The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Ishmael Ashitey, and the Minister of Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, are also expected to examine the state of the Nkrumah Basic School at Newtown.
He said he has been lobbying for new school building for the area under the Millennium School Project.
But the youth and residents of the area have threatened to stop school activities if government fails to act swiftly.
An assembly member for Ayawaso, Kokomlemle West, Henry Hotor, stated that residents would have no other option than to withdraw their kids if nothing is done by the state to find a new building for them.
One of the angry youth, Innocent Quarshie, lamented that successive governments over the years have been less responsive to the needs of the school.
BY Melvin Tarlue
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