Education at the secondary level is free in Ghana, but students of Yabram Community Day School in the Krachi East Municipality have to pay a high price to access it.
Every day, the students have to walk at least five hours to and from school. Because of this and other daunting challenges, more than 90% of students posted to the school from outside the region refused admission last academic year.
Manasseh Azure Awuni travelled to Dambai and reports the school is situated nine (9) kilometres from the town and there are no commuter vehicles there. The school is one of the community day schools built by the John Mahama administration.
It is, however, situated far away from the Dambai town, where a majority of the students and the teachers reside.
On weekdays, the road between Dambai and Nkwanta Junction in the Krachi East Municipality is often littered with students of Yabram Community Senior High School.
A few ride bicycles and an even fewer number use motorbikes. A majority of them have to cover the nine-kilometre journey to school on foot.
For students like Charity Gmachim, a second-year student, it is even worse. Her home to the main road is about one kilometre. And she has to walk about 20 minutes before reaching the main road to continue her journey of nine kilometres.
“You are often too tired by the time you reach school and you are late,” she told Manasseh. “Some of the teachers are not patient, and they will not go over what they have already taught.”
Some passers-by and farmers who ply the route often offer the students a ride on trucks, motorbikes and tricycles. But this is sometimes dangerous.
Fifteen-year-old Bless Osabutey was recently involved in an accident when a motor rider offered her a ride. The burn from the exhaust pipe the motorbike is yet to heal.
On Monday, the Member of Parliament for Krachi East and Deputy Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Mr Michael Gyato, presented a bus to the school to reduce their suffering.
He emphasized the bus was only a temporary measure. He said he was touched by the plight of the students and lobbied the Ministry of the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry to release the bus for the school.
Mr. Michael Gyato questioned the rationale for siting the school so far away from the town. He said the best way to solve the problem of the school was to convert it into a boarding facility.
“I’m also reliably informed that most of the students here are not from this community. Accommodation for them is a serious challenge. This reinforces my position for the conversion of this school into a boarding one,” he said.
He said the Ministry of Education was in the process of procuring vehicles for schools across the country and he hoped the peculiar situation of Yabram Community Day Senior High School would get additional vehicles to improve their situation considerably.
He told a gathering of students and school authorities, chiefs and people from the Krachi East Municipality that the Akufo-Addo administration was committed to improving their lot and urged them to take advantage of government’s policies.
The headmaster of Yabram Community Senior High School, Vincent Korsi Atiku, said the bus would be of immense help to both students and teachers since they were all faced with the same problem.
He added that the school would need at least three buses to convey all students. He was thankful to Mr Michael Gyato for taking a keen interest in the school and helping to solve a number of their challenges.
However, the biggest challenge still remains. The children, some as young as 13 years, who are posted to the school have to rent rooms and live on their own, a situation that breeds indiscipline and sexual promiscuity among the children.
The headmaster said some of the girls had become pregnant and left the school. He said if they were in a boarding facility there would be greater supervision.
Mr Atiku said the school had a capacity to admit more than 1500 students, but it had only 501 students because some of them reject postings. In the last academic year, for instance, more than 90% of the students posted to this school from outside the region refused the admission because it lacks accommodation.
“In the 2017/2018 academic year, 510 students were posted from seven regions excluding the Volta Region. Only 54 out of the 510 students reported, and out of that number, nine of the students reported, went away and have since not returned,” Mr Atiku said.
The John Mahama administration built the community day schools to improve access to secondary education. The Akufo-Addo, on the other hand, has introduced the free SHS policy to improve affordability.
But from evidence at the Yabram Community Day School, both interventions appear to have failed to achieve their aims. Secondary education here is neither free nor affordable.
And some parents would rather look elsewhere than risk sending their teenage children to unknown communities to rent rooms and walk five hours a day to access secondary education.