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The state of public schools in Ghana
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Ghanadot

The Mayor of Accra’s intention to end the shift system for public schools in Accra is highly commendable. But the idea that he could correct this problem with the taking over of unused public buildings is rather fragile at best.


The Ussher Fort and Accra Community cited as examples should and must not qualify fr school building takeover.

The school system has been run on shift basis for the past two decade or more. Truthfully this approach has led to some social ills, truancy and poor education being some of these. What was meant as stop gap measure has become a permanent feature of our educational system today. The mayor is right to seek correction.

But why take over historical landmarks like Ussher Fort and the Accra Community Center buildings to convert to schools?

As an educationist in his previous professional life, the mayor must know that the mere sight of Ussher Fort, for instance, provide more civic and historical lessons in a day than the same building turned into a school can provide in a life time.

He is right to assume that Ussher Fort and the Accra Community Center are poorly managed, but wrong in concluding that they they fit his plan for space resuscitation for schools. He needs to think what these same buildings will look like with rambunctious kids running around in them.

To destroy the historical import and insignia of the two buildings, in the name of education, is wrong headed. The mayor would be better off looking in another direction for resources to solve the same space problem.

A better plan would be if he should target the housing loan of $10 billion the government has secured with the help of the South Korean government. This hefty amount will be spent in the next six years on housing projects. Why shouldn’t rehabilitating or construction of school buildings be part of the project?

After all, education is as important as housing. When you give people a place to live, where they educate their children should obviously be a matter of concern, therefore school buildings must be part of the plan. Just one billion of the total could easily satisfy the mayor’s ambition to provide school space; even on a national level. Under this plan, both the Ussher Fort and the Accra Community can be spared.

The Ussher Fort is historic because our independence struggle, together with our growth as a nation, is wrapped in it. That alone is a big civic lesson, yet no one went to school in that building.

Also, I recall the days when the Accra community Center served as a recreational center for school kids in the 50s. It was a social as well as sports center for many kids in the Accra region. Some of us learned how to play table tennis, badminton and other sports within the center’s walls.

That was in the 50s. However, the fact of this decade being in the 2000s should not negate the importance of a social center like the Accra Community Center for kids from all shades and backgrounds. If it stands moribund for its purpose, the mayor must come up with a plan to restore that purpose.

Recreation is an important aspect of growth for a nation and the Accra Community Center was built purposely to fulfill this need. Within its walls, children could gather to learn some social graces as well as entertain themselves.

Our schools are presenting problems now, not solely because of lack of space, but because of past experiments with its system and programs. We have reversed many things that used to work well for schooling our kids.

It used to be a time when you saw a kid, you knew which school he or she came from because of the uniqueness of the uniform. Now the uniform is the same for most. A kid can always skip school and have the shift system for excuse. The worse is, you have no way of tracing him back to the school he is on a shift from.

The Ussher Fort must remain a historical building and the Accra Community Center must continue to serve its inimitable purpose. For all the decades of its existence, that Center has had an important message as signage that few, unfortunately, read today.

The message in Ga says, “Kwe boni ehi ke boni eyeo feo ke nyemimei fee ekome….” Meaning, how good it is for all brethrens to live as one.”

For 10 billion dollars for housing, we should be able to build some schools too.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher, Washington, DC, December 10, 2009

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