Two hundred and seventy-five pupils from the Weija Cluster of Schools have dropped out of school as a result of the lack of a footbridge over the Weija Lake to give them access to school.
In addition, 1,200 pupils who live at Ayigbe Town, SCC, Old Barrier, Bortianor and Broadcasting, all communities on one side of the Weija Dam, put their lives in danger by scaling the walls of the dam daily to get to school.
Those who cannot climb the walls of the dam go through the wire fence gate to cross over the bridge to their respective schools.
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The only existing footbridge which passes through the Weija Water Treatment Plant is not accessible to the schoolchildren as a result of a directive from the Ministry of Water Resources,
Works and Housing to close the gate leading to the dam.
Since the directive was issued last year, the Weija Methodist Basic School has recorded the highest dropout with a total number of 120 pupils. The rest are Weija Presbyterian Primary and Junior High School, 90 pupils; Weija Municipal Assembly JHS, 35; the St Joseph the Worker Primary, 15, with St Jude recording 15.
In addition, the schools are affected by persistent absenteeism and truancy because the pupils cannot afford the transportation fare to and from school.
This information was disclosed to the Daily Graphic by the various heads of the schools.
They are, therefore, calling on the government to build two bridges across the Densu outlet to help alleviate the plight of the children.
They also pleaded that as a short-term measure, the gate of the Weija Dam should be opened for only the schoolchildren guarded by security personnel to ensure their safety during school hours.
The Headmistress of Weija Methodist Basic School, Madam Faustina Forson, lamented that since the closure of the Weija bridge, activities of the school had greatly been affected, with the major challenge being the rising rate of dropouts.
According to her, the lack of a footbridge has reduced the standard of education in the community and affected both the pupils and teachers.
‘’The only source of passage for the schoolchildren was the Weija bridge but the Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ms Hanna Bissiw, gave instruction for its closure. Since then the children had resorted to using various means to come to school because their parents cannot afford three transportation fares,” she said.
The Headmaster of Weija Presby JHS, Mr Bob Djah, said the students had adopted various ways to cross the lake to go to and from school at their peril.
He said while many of them prefered to climb dangerously the walls of the Weija Dam, others paid GH¢1.00 to board a canoe to ferry them across the lake, another dangerous move.
‘’Schoolchildren, some as young as two years from the Weija Presbyterian Primary School, the St Joseph the Worker Primary and Junior High, the Weija Methodist Primary and the Hips Charity schools put their lives at risk to make their way to school daily,’’ he said.
The Headmaster of Weija Municipal Assembly JHS, Mr Shraw Takyi Kodam, recalled that after the Weija dam footbridge was closed by the authorities, the assembly member for Weija came with a proposed sketch footbridge but since then nothing had been done to start the construction of the bridge.
He said although the municipal assembly had promised to get a Metro Mass bus to convey the pupils to school daily, after months of waiting, the promise was yet to fulfilled.
Mr Kodam said over 80 percent of school pupils from the Weija cluster of schools lived at Ayigbe Town, SCC, Old Barrier, Bortianor and Broadcasting areas.
Reacting to the situation, the Managing Director of GWCL, Mr Kweku Botwe, said the closure of the Weija bridge was to protect the dam.
He explained that the bridge was constructed for the workers of the Weija Treatment Plant to use during the spillage and other activities of the company.
‘’The bridge was not meant for the schoolchildren or the residents living on the other side of the dam,’’ he said.
Mr Botwe noted that one major problem GWCL faced was that most of the residents who used the bridge dumped waste substances into the dam, which made it difficult for the dam to follow its natural course.
Others, he said, used the bridge to construct pipes to discharge their sewage into the dam.
The Ga South Municipal Director of Education, Mrs Florence Addo, said her outfit had not received any petition from the various heads of Weija cluster of schools concerning the students’ dropout rate that has arisen because of the closer of the bridge.
The Daily Graphic in its June 21, 2012, edition, carried a report about how 400 pupils crossed the Weija Dam on canoes or change vehicles three times before getting to school.
Story: Dominic Moses Awiah