Remember Akakpo, Form 2 student of Vision Redeemers School, finding her way home from school. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
Remember Akakpo, Form 2 student of Vision Redeemers School, finding her way home from school. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
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A year after Faana disaster: Teenager defies odds to chase dream

Fifteen-year-old Remember Akakpo is defying all odds to complete her junior high school (JHS) education in spite of the horrific memories of the canoe disaster that claimed the lives of nine schoolchildren at Faana, an island community at Bortianor in the Ga South Municipality in the Greater Accra Region, last year.

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A year after that harrowing incident, Remember remains the only student who still embarks on that deadly voyage from Fanaa to Mpoase just to acquire her basic school certificate.

Prior to the disaster, Remember and about 60 other children used to travel across a canal that separates Faana in Ga South and Wiaboman, near Pambros Salt Industries Ltd, in the Weija-Gbawe Municipality on board a canoe to and from school.

However, the ramifications of the tragedy had retired the rest of the children from this high-risk adventure, leaving little Remember, a Form Two student at the Vision Redeemers Academy branch at Mpoase in Dansoman, standing.

This is notwithstanding the adequate precautionary measures that have been put in place, including the provision of life jackets and an extra boat, to ensure their safety. In the afternoon of Wednesday, May 10, 2023, the country was struck with a catastrophe that claimed the lives of nine schoolchildren on the canal they traversed to and from school.

The victims were on their way back from school when the canoe they were travelling in capsized on the canal as a result of tidal waves. They were returning from school at Wiaboman in the Weija-Gbawe Municipality, to Faana, when the unfortunate incident occurred.

The deceased, who were between one-and-a-half and 12 years, were among a group of 12 children who were on board the canoe when it capsized. However, three others, including the paddler of the canoe, survived.

The tragedy brought to 17 the total number of schoolchildren to have drowned in a space of four months last year. Earlier on January 25, 2023, eight pupils were killed at Atitagorme/Wayokope in the Sene East District in the Bono East Region.

Visit

Last week when the Daily Graphic visited the Wiaboman branch of the Vision Redeemers Academy, where majority of the children attended school, the classrooms were virtually empty.

Sadly, one of the classrooms of the five children who perished was locked at the time of the visit. The five were part of the 25 children from Fanaa who used to be in that class. A senior teacher at the school, Francisca Teye, told the Daily Graphic that all the children who previously attended the school “have stopped coming to school because of the fear of another disaster”.

She said the current population of the school was 17 pupils, who mainly come from the Wiaboman area and Pambros. “School has resumed for the third term but the rest have still not come,” she lamented.

Ms Teye called for support in terms of fixing the road to provide education for the wards of the residents in the area.

Adventure

Narrating her side of the story, Remember said what saved her life on that fateful day was the extension of her JHS lesson periods. She recalled that they were in class when their teacher was asked to end the lesson because something had happened.

Remember said it was only when they got to Wiaboman that she saw the dead children, including her sister’s daughter. “When I looked back, I saw that it was one of my sister’s daughters and immediately I started crying,” she said.

Asked whether she was not afraid of using the canoe disaster route, she said she always maintained her focus and determination to complete JHS and advance to SHS. She said with the life jacket provided by the proprietor of her school, she felt safe to use that route, while drawing inspiration from her mother who had assured her that nothing would happen to her.

She said although she knew all the children who died, she was not afraid in spite of concerns of another possible disaster. Remember said she usually closed from school at 4p.m. and was sometimes compelled to wait for a while when she did not meet the canoe operator at the canal, resulting in her reaching home between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Routine

Although she knows next to nothing about swimming, she is fully confident that nothing would happen to her whenever she crosses the canal, which is a few metres away from the Atlantic Ocean.

As a routine, the teenager exhibits her bravery by wading through a stream at knee level to board a canoe to and from school daily. On her way to school in the morning, she said she used GH¢ 4 to board a taxi or GH¢ 3:50 for a commercial bus after crossing the canal at Wiaboman to connect to school at Mpoase and vice-versa.

However, when she does not have money, she walks to and from school, a distance that could last for about one hour. She said her dream was to excel in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) next year in order to gain admission to Keta Senior High Technical School (KETASCO) and pursue her second cycle education.

With a fisherman father and a seamstress mother, Remember said her dream was to become a nurse in order to help the sick. Boasting of three sisters, she said although she lived on an island community without electricity, “I use torch to study to help realise my dream”. 

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Testimony

Her classmate, Blessing Amankwah, with whom she walks from school whenever she runs out of money, said, “Remember is intelligent and supportive”. For her part, one of her teachers, Comfort Ameyaw, said they were always there to support Remember whenever she missed school as a result of a downpour.

“You know when it rains she can’t come to school because of where she comes from. But whenever she comes we go over everything that was taught and then continue from there,” she said, describing the teenager as a serious person who was always ready to learn.

Support

The headteacher of the school, Gladys Quao, pledged the support of the authorities to enable the little girl to realise her objectives. For his part, a former assemblyman for Bortianor, Bright Abayateye, called for the construction of at least a primary school in the area.

The proprietor of the school, Apostle Alfred Drom, confirmed the availabilty of life jackets for the pupils.

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