Free SHS: SDA school ‘forced’ to accommodate more students

Sanity has been restored to the Seventh Day Adventist High School in Koforidua after the headmistress yielded to pressure from parents to accommodate their wards in boarding house.

Some aggrieved parents spent weeks on the school premises demanding their wards are admitted into the boarding house.

These parents from Savlugu, Takoradi, Konongo, Swedru, Akim Oda and Sogakope, massed up at the Regional Coordinating Council to petition the Eastern Region Minister, Eric Kwakye Darfour, and later moved to the Regional Education office where the Eastern Regional Education Director, Madame Gertrude Mensah, explained to them that the only option available was for their wards to be day students or be transferred to other schools close to them.

Pressure from the parents eventually forced the hands of the hitherto, insistent headmistress of the Seventh Day Adventist Senior High School to accommodate the students into the school’s boarding house.

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Kwaku Bernard, a teacher in the school confirmed the latest development when Citi News visited the school to assess the situation on the ground, a month after the parents picketed.

“Currently, I can tell you we still have accommodation problems, but some structures are in place to solve it, we have a girls hostels which is about 70 percent complete, so when it is done the girls will move in”.

“Most of the students who did not get boarding accommodation were re-posted to other schools. I personally called some parents who confirmed to me that their wards have gained admission into other schools. Those who rented accommodation outside the school have all been given accommodation in the school now by the headmistress, they have all been called back into the school and there’s no one leaving outside the school’s compound.”

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The teacher also pleaded for government’s intervention to address challenges with inadequate classrooms.

“We also need more classrooms because as the number of students have increased, definitely we need more classrooms to help in that regard, so we want appropriate authorities to come to our aid.”

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Shift system at dinning 

Citi News’ next stop was at the Koforidua Technical Senior High School (Kotech). A month ago, Citi News reported about several challenges including the lack of accommodation facilities.

The Headmaster told Citi News the situation persists.

“Our dinning hall was designed to accommodate only 300 students, but now it is being used by over 900 students, so we are trying to do an extension of the structure. Formally, the delay and go slow at the dinning hall was affecting our contact hours, so we have designed a new strategy to curb that delay, so now lecturers close 10 minutes early so students can use the dinning, so I can say the problem is a bit okay now, but still we need a bigger dinning hall.”

Staff common rooms now dormitories/ Teachers relax under trees 

On accommodation, Mr. Dwamena explained that the teachers had to vacate their Staff common room and sit under  trees as their office has been converted into a boarding facility.

“With accommodation, we are facing the same problem because the boarding house was also designed to house below 900 students, but now it is operating above 900. We wanted just 150 boys and 200 girls, but most of the students who gained admission here are from far so the teachers have moved out of the staff common room and it is being used by the students as dormitory”.

“I have written a formal letter to the ministry for approval, I am yet to get approval for that, but it will accommodate close to 50 students, so the teachers saw the wisdom in it, and have moved out. We gave some space at the workshops so they go there to do their paper work, and some also sit under the trees to relax.”

Authorities of the school are meanwhile carrying out regular checks and monitoring at private accommodation facilities, that have been turned by landlords into hostel for students who couldn’t make it into the boarding house.

“Though these hostels are privately owned, the occupants are properties of our school and it’s our responsibility to take care of them. We have teachers going in there from time to time daily to check up on them, and monitor them so as they do not do what they prefer. We are really concerned about their safety and welfare and we will do everything to protect them.”

‘Chop Box’ rooms now dormitories

At the Oyoko Senior High School, where Citi News reported about landlords converting their unhygienic rooms into hostels for new students, the Assistant Headmistress in charge Domestic Issues, Madame Diana Mintah Jiagge, would not comment on the fate of students in private hostels, but said school authorities have converted 3 ‘chop box’ rooms to house more students.

“I do not want to talk about students in private hostels because it is outside the school and we have no business with it. What we are concerned about is the safety and well-being of students in the school’s dormitories, so we have converted two ‘chop box’ rooms, which was used by the students to keep their ‘chop boxes’ into a dormitory to be used by the girls, and when you go to the boys side, one box room has also been converted into a room to provide additional space for the boys.”

“We were expecting 500 boarders, but we were given 700, and we also received additional 71 students who were coming from afar, so we had no option than to give them boarding accommodation. Some of the parents were even pleading to let their kids sleep on the floor, but we managed to give accommodation to 27 students out of the additional 71 we received. I can say that no student is sleeping on the floor here in the school though the spacing in the dormitory is not too good.”

Inadequate furniture/ science labs now classrooms

On lack of furniture, she said the PTA is liaising with the school management to provide a total of 120 dual desks for the first year students immediately.

“I heard the Secretary of the PTA talking to my headmaster about the plans in place to provide 150 dual desks for the first year students. As I speak, some students are using the school’s science laboratories as their permanent classrooms because of the infrastructure and furniture problems we are facing here, the situation is not too bad; as you can see the kids are all in class learning.”

The implementation of the Free SHS which started in September this year with only first year students of about 400, 000, has shot up enrollment drastically, and this has put excess pressure on facilities in most senior high schools.

Government has promised to address the challenges as and when they arise, to sustain the programme.

By: Neil Nii Amatey Kanarku/citifmonline.com/Ghana