A neglected basic school in the Upper East region has turned a busy pit latrine into an administrative office after years of failed distress calls on successive governments.
The 4-unit pit latrine, provided by a benevolent organization, is the only valuable structure on the fenceless premises of the Azudoone Primary School, found within the eastern area of the Kassena-Nankana West District.
The distressing sight of the school’s timekeeper routinely picking up the brass bell from a toilet floor or class prefects searching every morning for attendance registers inside a latrine whilst a desperate queue is streaming into the adjoining restroom to answer the call of nature has got many observers very furious.
The inner walls of the ‘pit latrine office’ are where the teachers’ duty rosters and the school’s lessons timetable are glued for open view. The toilet-turned-office, where even hanging of curtains gradually might not be a bad idea at all, is also where the school’s report cards, cumulative record booklets, and textbooks among other classified materials are well kept.
The majority of the pupils (from primary 2 to primary 5) take their lessons in a near-disaster classroom block with the rest (from kindergarten 1 to primary 1) sharing a shade tree as their classroom and another shade tree, a few meters away, serving as a staff common room for the teachers.
The schoolchildren in primary 6 have quit the school to learn elsewhere in neighboring communities as there is no space any longer for them in their own village.
Fears of a Looming Collapse
Built with mud bricks and lined with multiple deep cracks through the plastered surface, the school’s old lone classroom block looks like it will fall to pieces anytime soon.
The more it rains, the more imbalanced the structure hangs on a red-earth foundation; and the further the foundation melts away, the more the cracks widen.
Aware the building is about to lose its footing, the school’s authorities often do not wait for rainclouds to finish gathering before they release the schoolchildren to go home at any time a downpour threatens.
“When it is threatening to rain, we have to let the children go. That has brought about the number being decreased because parents are not willing to send their wards to [a building that is about to collapse].
“This school was established in 2010. Since then, it has never had any help from the government. This structure (the mud classroom block) was put up by the community itself. We have no option than to use one of the toilets as an office to keep our books and other things,” grieved the headmaster of the school, Dominic Akubase.
They don’t care about us— PTA Chairman slams GES
The toilet was provided in 2016 by the World Vision International in Ghana. The school had wished for a classroom block but their hope did not fit into the action plan of the charitable organization who was rather focused on discouraging open defecation that year than putting a roof over the heads of deprived school kids and teachers.
The multi-room latrine facility had just been commissioned and the donor had barely said goodbye when the distressed beneficiary had to ‘re-commission’ one of its units as an office, with two office boxes placed separately over two latrine holes in the chamber and another office stuffs occupying the space left in the cubicle.
An upset-looking chairman of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), Salam Akanwake, berated the Ghana Education Service (GES), saying no district director had ever visited the school and that supervisor had been indifferent about relaying the school’s concerns to the appropriate quarters at the GES’s directorate in the district.
“We struggled with more than three DCEs (District Chief Executives). They only said they would do it. They never stepped foot here to see what took place. The directors, about three of them, none of them stepped foot here.
“Only the supervisors come here. We’ve also talked to the supervisors but we became tired and stopped. I learned another Ghana Education Service district director of education has taken over. I have never seen her here. They are one as in not making any efforts. When you give the complaints, they only say ‘ok’ and it ends there. They don’t care about us,” the PTA chairman ranted.
We gave World Vision more than it gave back to us—Opinion Leader
A disappointed opinion leader, who claimed the community gave so much to the World Vision International in Ghana, said he expected the organization to have also given back to the community an important project successive governments had denied the area.
“The structure (the classroom block) is below safety standards, cracks everywhere. The World Vision itself, this community gave them free land to build their office complex. For us to exist as brothers, they should have given our school the needed attention, but never. They have never given us any good attention, even a borehole.
“But our chief gave the World Vision free land to build their office complex in this very community. We have been to the district assembly, we have been to the World Vision to talk to them about our school. We are not sitting there. We’ve written to some organizations. We want our voice, our cry, to be heard,” said the opinion leader (name withheld).
A Cluster Programmes Manager at the World Vision International in Ghana, Robert Pwazaga, countered the claims made by the opinion leader, saying his outfit paid for the aforesaid land.
“The donor environment has changed. Funding is dwindling. They (the community) probably would have applied for a classroom block and a toilet facility; but looking around, the policy we have and what we do, we don’t construct classroom blocks unless it’s a special project. And when I say the special project, maybe it’s a grant we have won and that grant is basically to construct a classroom block.
“The construction of the latrine is part of our WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Project. I’m surprised to hear this from an opinion leader that they have given World Vision land for free. It’s not true. We have paid for it and we have drilled boreholes there. They should be fair to us,” refuted Mr. Pwazaga.
Meanwhile, the Upper East Regional Directorate of Education about the state and concerns of the school.