The absence of the school feeding programme in the Gbee KG/Primary Basic School in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region is negatively affecting the enrolment of school pupils.
Although the school hitherto had a population of about 250 pupils, it has drastically reduced to 133 as many of the pupils have left to nearby schools which are beneficiaries of the school feeding programme.
The continuous exodus of the pupils is a threat to the survival of the only school in the community which also attracts pupils from nearby communities such as Kpatia, Kpale and Zanlerigu.
According to staff of the school, despite several appeals to authorities for the school to be added to the list of schools benefiting from the school feeding programme to immediately address the dwindling population of the pupils,it has not as yet received the needed attention.
The school was initially a Childhood Development Centre constructed in 2015 for the community by Actionaid, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), with volunteers to take care of the children daily who are picked up later in the day by their parents.
To attract parents to bring their children to the centre, the NGO provided free meals and other support to the children daily so as to keep the children there and achieve its objective.
However, as the number of the children grew, the government took over the school in 2016 since there was no public school in the community to provide basic education to the many children in the area.
Nonetheless, when the government took over, it was unable to continue feeding the pupils as it was previously done by the NGO which introduced feeding in the school.
Sensing danger to the survival of the school, members of the community resolved to contribute food items to cook one square meal for the schoolchildren to attract them to school every day.
However, due to the high level of poverty and harsh economic conditions, the community members were unable to sustain the feeding of the school pupils, a development which led to the exodus of the pupils to other schools benefiting from the school feeding.
Many of the pupils also run home at break time to eat since they attend school on an empty stomach and some of them sometimes do not return to school.
The school, which currently has pupils from Kindergarten One to Primary Six, are being accommodated in the only two-unit classroom block provided by Actionaid.
As a result, the Kindergarten One and Two pupils have been put together in one classroom, classes Five and Six have been put in another classroom, while classes Three and Four and classes One and Two study in cubicles originally meant to be a storeroom and a head teacher’s office.
The combination of the classes is a great source of worry to the teachers and the pupils, as it has made teaching and learning very difficult.
Aside the inadequate classrooms, the school does not have the needed furniture, compelling some of the pupils to either squat or lie on the floor to take part in academic work.
Plight of KG pupils
The plight of the Kindergarten One and Two pupils is a pathetic one as their hexagonal tables and chairs have been given to other pupils by the teachers to use for their studies, while they rather lie or sit on the floor to study.
Other KG pupils also lie on their stomachs daily on mats to take part in lessons, a situation which is demotivating and does not encourage the children to attend school. Some of the pupils without exercise books also write their lessons on the bare floor.
During a recent visit to the school, the staff of school numbering five, including the headmaster, were tight lipped and declined to speak for fear of victimisation.
New primary block
However, the School Management Committee (SMC) Chairman, Daniel Naab, said in an interview that since the current classroom block was meant for KG pupils, there was the urgent need for a new classroom block for the school.
He said “the provision of a new classroom block will be a departure from the current situation in the school,” adding, “We call on the government and NGOs to come to the aid of the school to improve the learning environment for the pupils”.
“As the chairman of the school’s SMC, I believe that the provision of a new classroom block will go a long way to improve the situation in the classrooms and create a conducive learning environment for the pupils,” he stated.
He noted that the community members had good intentions for introducing school feeding in the school which increased enrolment resulting in overcrowding, but the numbers dropped significantly when it could not be unsustained.
On the combination of the classes, Mr Naab said it was unacceptable for pupils from different classes to be put together to perform exceptionally like their counterparts in the big cities and towns.
Further, he appealed to the government to urgently consider enrolling the school onto the school feeding programme to halt the low enrolment in the school.
For his part, an elder of the community, Tii Sampana, said, “As members of the community, we are deeply worried about the situation in the school and therefore call on the appropriate authorities to take the needed action to address the teething challenges in the school.
In an interview, Nancy Naab and Moses Nang, both Class Six pupils, lamented about the situation in the school, saying it was difficult for them to learn with their colleagues in Class Five in the same classroom.
They said “The situation in our classroom is very disruptive as in today’s era, pupils from different classes cannot be taught in the same classroom,” adding, “Sometimes, we have to sit idle and watch our teacher teach the Primary Five pupils and vice versa.”
A Primary Five pupil, Hilda Mbabil, who aspires to be a nurse in the future, entreated the government to come to the aid of the school to put smiles on the faces of the pupils and teachers.