Education in Nzulezo: Counting the cost (Monday, January 13, 2014, page 43)

• The front view of the Old Nzulezo D/A Primary School
The front view of the Old Nzulezo D/A Primary School

“TE..LE...VI...SION!  It is too big. I can’t spell it. Let me open the book, I can see the letters and spell it,” Derrick  said in Twi, as he  struggled, trying to pull Boakyewaa Glover’s latest novel, The Justice, which was firmly in my grip.

At 13 years and in primary five, he couldn’t complete a five-minute conversation in English, neither could he find the word television from the page I opened for him after his pleas.

Like many children in Nzulezo—the stilt community in the heart of the Amanzuri wetland and lake — quality education is like a needle lost in a bundle of  hay.

Although the concerns of the people of Nzulezo are too numerous to recount, education remains a priority. That, however, does not translate into the teaching and learning facilities available in the stilt community.

Manned by one trained teacher who also doubles as the headmaster, the school—Old Nzulezo D/A Primary School — also has four pupil teachers, all paid by the community.

“With the exception of the headmaster, all the teachers sent here refuse to come because we live on water. How do we educate our children without qualified teachers,” a community leader, Francis Erzoah, said, pointing to the school which had shut down for the Christmas holidays.

“Our main concern is getting teachers here for our children. The children in primary school are too young to travel on the water to attend school outside our community,” he added.

The school is a six-classroom structure built from raffia, bamboo and plywood, with falling windows.
With a motto that said, ‘Pursue the Ultimate Always,’ the school’s environment is not one that inspires.

Teachers and their problems

Just like most rural communities in Ghana, accommodation for teachers is a major difficulty. The community has teacher’s quarters but the rooms, the headmaster said, are rather small.

Then, there is a problem of transportation for three of the teachers who live outside the community. The headmaster said since the teachers did not have their own canoes, it was difficult for them to get to school on time or even go back home after school.

He, therefore, made a passionate appeal to the government and the Jomoro District Assembly to come to the aid of the school and provide offices, canoes for the teachers and toilet facilities for both pupils and teachers.

“When we get these things, we will have the peace of mind and some convenience to encourage teaching and learning in Nzulezo,” he added.

Library turned into office

The library is a room that best qualifies to be a storeroom.  A pile of books lay cluttered on shelves. Two reading tables had books strewn all over. While a bench stands close to the tables in the middle of the room, a number of benches and chairs were packed in a corner, leaving no room for the library to used for its purpose.

The Ghana Education Service (GES) supplies textbooks but these textbooks are not sufficient for the school’s 100-pupil population from kindergarten to Primary six.

In the absence of a staff common room and an office for the headmaster, the library is everything for the teachers.

“Since there is no office, we use the library as our office. This makes it difficult for the children to get places to sit and learn in the library. It is a big challenge, the headmaster of the school, Mr Evans Cudjoe, told the Daily Graphic.

In the classrooms, the desks were parked in the corner. Rather interestingly for a community with pupils who could not express themselves in English, a number of Japanese characters had been scribbled on the blackboard—a handiwork of a Japanese volunteer.

30-minute toilet journey

Right behind the classrooms are toilet facilities that have seen better days and are out of use.  This creates some difficulty for both teachers and pupils.

In the case of both teachers and students, it takes 30 minutes to paddle out of the community to attend the call of nature, by which time a subject being taught may be over
“When the children want to go to toilet, they suffer because they use canoes to travel to an appropriate place to ease themselves. The class cannot wait till they return half an hour later,” Mr Cudjoe lamented.

Dry season football

Nzulezo, like other parts of Ghana, is passionate about football. The dribbling and hard tackles are, however, limited to the dry season when the school field is dry.

The game is put on hold during the rainy season when the park becomes a pond filled with blackish-looking water.

Junior high school education

After the primary school education in Nzulezo, the next step is a difficult one.  The children have to spend hours paddling to the Beyin Catholic Junior High School (JHS) in Beyin, the nearest town which is almost about #an hour-and-half away.

Fighting in canoes?

To prevent pupils from fighting in canoes after school while they are not accompanied by elderly people, every pupil going to JHS has his/her own canoe.

That notwithstanding, in some cases, education for the children  ends in primary school, especially those who have no zeal to cross the murky waters for junior high school tutoring.

The dangers and consequences

For these children, the dangers are many and real --the risk of getting drowned or getting attacked by wild animals, including crocodiles.

A JHS graduate, Kwame Mensah, told the paper that throughout his three years of schooling at Beyin, he went to school late almost everyday.

After crossing through the arteries and veins of the swamp, one enters a jungle-like forest populated by tall leaning raffia palms and shrubs growing everywhere, giving a dangerous appearance to travelling to school.
But Kwame said; “I never feared the water, animals or anything. I was most of the time late to school or tired,” he said, before jumping into the lake for the night’s bath.

In the end, Kwame’s hustle and bustle on the Amazuri Lake reflected in his Basic Education Certificate Examination —he had aggregate 36. That result did not qualify him for senior high school education.


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