Schools under trees deserve national priority
Freely accessible and basic compulsory education is not just an ordinary right which can be confered on a child at will, but rather a legal right which is adequately provided for by the laws of the country with specific reference to Article 25 (a) of the 1992 Constitution, and also the Education Act (2008) and Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme.
Available data shows that the nation has made gains in the gross enrolment rates at the basic education level especially at kindergarten and primary level following the implementation of social intervention programmes such as capitation grant, school feeding, free textbooks and free exercise books.
However, one daunting challenge that confronts Ghana’s education system is the lack of adequately suitable classrooms for all children to sit and learn.
The challenge has led to many school managers to improvise with trees under which children sit to receive teaching and learning.
This improvisation is referred to as “schools under trees”, and it is prevalent in some parts of the country.
In 2010, however, the first bold and comprehensive policy to address the problem was launched by the then President, Professor John Evans Atta Mills.
The initiative was to remove all 2,936 identified schools under trees in the country by constructing proper school blocks to replace those under trees.
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As of the close of 2017, sources from the Ministry of Education indicate that 2,031 of such schools had been eliminated.
Eight years down the line, “schools under trees” can still be found in various parts of the country. For example, the Presbyterian Experimental Primary School at Bimbilla in the Nanumba North Municipality in the Northern Region has resorted to hold classes under makeshift structures and trees while the pupils use stones and benches for lessons.
Obviously, it is not surprising that huge disparities broadly exist between children from the endowed areas and those from the less endowed areas.
Education, it is said, reduces inequalities, can break the cycle of poverty, foster tolerance, reach gender equality, and empower people to live more healthy lives and attain more productive livelihoods. Education is both a goal in itself and a means for attaining all the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDG Four, for instance, calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The pupils in the Presbyterian Experimental Primary School at Bimbilla and those in similar conditions therefore deserve better learning conditions than what they are being subjected to.
It is in the light of all these that the Daily Graphic passionately calls on government to ensure that all children in the country irrespective of their geographical location enjoy equal access and quality of education.
Additionally, it is important that the remaining schools that are still under trees are eliminated to give all children the opportunity to learn in a decent and conduicive environment.
We cannot develop as a nation when a section of our population is left to wallow in such dishumanising situation for no fault of theirs.
Let us, as a nation, learn and borrow from this year’s BECE placement policy of the Ministry of Education of “Leaving no child behind” to ensure that every child benefits from learning in a classroom where their lessons are not determined by the weather.
The time has come for us as a nation to consciously and deliberately make provisions to ensure equality and equity in accessing basic necessities such as education.