The name of the town is Dadwen. Dadwen describes that dream state of uneasiness or the situation that gives one sleepless nights. This town, which is located in the Adansi North District in the Ashanti Region, hosts the Dadwen D.A Basic School.
Synonymous with the name of the town, the Dadwen D.A Basic School is bedevilled by challenges that make it a hostile environment for teaching and learning.
When I got to the school at about 10:30 a.m. on March 24, this year, it was break time. Dozens of pupils were filing past a mini-structure at the corner of the compound with bowls in hand to be served their meal.
The school is one of the beneficiaries of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), a government policy that ensures that pupils in public basic schools receive one hot meal a day.
Mama Effeh, the caterer, dished out a ladle of rice for each of the pupils. They gathered in clusters, some squatting, others standing as they ate their meal.
The quantity of the food was rather too small and had no meat, fish or egg.
The poor quality of food was, however, just a tip of the iceberg. Back in the classroom, the class five teacher, Ms Augustina Amoah, was having a hell of time controlling the packed class of 77 pupils.
The dual desks that have been designed to take two pupils, took four. They pulled and pushed each other for sitting space.
Also, the ceilings of the classrooms, roofed with corrugated iron sheets, had been ripped off, exposing the pupils to the direct impact of the scorching sun. At a point, the children were seen fanning themselves with their books.
I engaged Ms Amoah in a conversation:
Me (Timothy Ngnenbe - T.N): I see that you have a large class size. How do you cope with it?
Augustina Amoah (A.A): I'm really suffering to deliver my lessons. There are 77 pupils in my class and four pupils sit on one dual desk. They fight over space. It makes classroom management too difficult. I cannot easily move through the classroom to monitor what the pupils do because there is no space.
TN: How do you give them exercises in such a situation?
A.A: Normally, as a teacher, I am supposed to give the pupils more exercises but that is a daunting task because of the numbers.
TN: What steps have you taken to manage the situation?
A.A: The fact of the issue is that because of the high enrolment figures, the school authorities decided to run a shift system. The first batch comes to school from 7a.m. to 12 p.m, while the second batch takes over from 12 p.m. to 5p.m.
T.N: Is this shift system effective?
A.A: It has been plagued with many challenges. It puts a lot of stress on teachers. Also, it is difficult for teachers and parents to monitor the children. Many of the children have become truants; others take advantage of this situation to go to illegal mining sites.
The situation in class five was the same with the other classes. For instance, in terms of enrolment, there were 37 pupils in class one; 56 in class two; 74 in class three; 77 in class four and 60 in class six.
For the Headteacher of the Dadwen D.A Basic school, George Adei Teng, what was worrying was that the school, which was established in 1963, lacked basic infrastructure for effective teaching and learning.
Apart from inadequate classrooms to contain over 500 pupils, there are no Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities, compelling the teachers to teach the subject theoretically. Also, the school has no toilet facilities for pupils.
Pupils of Dadwen D.A. Basic School file to be served their meal
Mr Teng, who doubles as the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Basic Schools (CHOBS), said the shift system the school adopted had reduced the number of contact hours for teaching and learning.
“Some of the children have become truants and others work as driver's mate in commercial vehicles at the expense of their education. This affects their individual outcomes and the average class performance,” he added.
In 2005, the government, through the Ministry of Education (MoE), introduced the school capitation grant policy in public basic schools.
It was meant to remove cost barriers to free access to education and provide schools with minimum funds to keep them running. The capitation grant amount is currently GH¢10 per pupil per term.
However, Mr Teng said the capitation grants had been in arrears for almost two years, making it difficult for the Dadwen D.A School and other basic schools to run effectively.
"For the 2019/2020 academic year, tranches two and three are outstanding, but we have received the first tranche for 2020/2021.
“For the 2021/2022 academic year, we have not received anything yet. Now, we are writing end of term examination but we have to write the questions on the chalk board because there is no money to print the papers," he said.
SDG 4 threatened
The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 aims to, by 2030, "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
Specifically, SDG 4.1 seeks to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
Achieving these targets requires a conducive learning environment including good classroom infrastructure, small and manageable class size, adequate contact hours, availability of teaching and learning materials and quality ICT facilities.
But the situation at the Dadwen D.A Basic School, a lot of efforts (and it is urgent) mut be put in by stakeholders to achieve better learning outcomes for the pupils.
Meanwhile, the District Chief Executive (DCE) of Adansi North, Eric Kwaku Kusi, said the assembly would construct a new six-unit classroom block to help decongest the classrooms.
"I am aware that the school lacks a lot of facilities for effective teaching and learning. We are taking steps to address it. I have signed a contract for the construction of a six-unitclassroom block. The contract duration is eight months so I am sure that by the end of the year, it will be completed,” he said.
Article 25(1) of the 1992 Constitution states that all persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities, with a view of achieving the full realisation of that right, basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all.
The children of Dadwen are hoping to benefit from this constitutional provision.