Old students storm Bolga SHS as verandas turn into dormitories
Some old students of the Bolgatanga Senior High School (Big Boss) are in a state of despair over the state of disrepair in which their alma mater has remained for about five decades.
A host of the alumni touched down Thursday on the premises of their old school in a major homecoming gathering for the school’s 49th anniversary celebration, its 8th speech and prize-giving day and the 50th anniversary launch coming up this Saturday.
They had expected to see a significant growth on the campus in terms of infrastructure. But the sight that met their arrival was a far cry from the pride a school considered one of the very few premier second-cycle institutions in the Upper East region and, of course, a famous ‘birthplace’ of several celebrated figures should possess in abundance.
Some of the old students had their feathers thoroughly ruffled when they returned to the school for the first time since their graduation over four decades ago and met the hectares-large campus still without a fence wall since the institution was established in 1970.
A number of the boarding students, for lack of dormitory space, have converted the verandas of their residence halls into dormitories and, to reserve some privacy, tied some yards of printed textiles to the rails and the pillars in the buildings. The decrepit dining hall is so small for the 2,800 mouths to feed on campus the students dine in it in batches.
A concerned observer described the “massive congestion” at the school’s dormitories as “a recipe for an epidemic”— a remark coming weeks after a boarding student at the Sirigu Integrated Senior High School died at the Upper East Regional Hospital of what doctors said was “an aggressive type” of Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM), a disease that spreads by airborne droplets easily in overcrowded places.
“From outside, you would think that the school is well endowed with everything. But when you get into the school, you would realise that it is only big from outside but, within, there are a lot of challenges. The first one is infrastructure— especially dormitories, classrooms and staff accommodation. As at now, we have about 137 teachers. We have only 22 bungalows housing the teachers. Teachers are paired in bungalows— some three; some four. The dormitories are inadequate. Some of them have not seen rehabilitation since they were constructed. Furniture for our classrooms is another headache for us.
“For the staff bungalows, in the rainy season we are always suffering. Our rooms turn into rivers and ponds. We have to be scooping water all the time anytime it rains. We also have the challenge of the school not fenced; so, students are able to exit the school through different outlets. And there is free entry and exit of people and animals. They cause a lot of problems to us. Sometimes, we lose our property because of that. Indiscipline is on the ascendancy because of the lack of a school wall. Apart from the bus that was given to the school in 2008, the school has never received a pickup from any government,” the Headmaster, Afelibiek Ababu, told journalists Thursday.
Triumphs in the midst of trials
Despite the chronic challenges gnawing at the school, it has won a significant number of laurels at several academic and sporting competitions, according to the headmaster.
He named some of the laurels won so far and for which Big Boss, although physically disadvantaged, has remained a fearsome force in the region.
“My predecessors worked hard to ensure that the school was on top in academics, sports, culture and other activities. And when I took over, I also continued from there. We have won prizes in quizzes and other activities. And our WASSCE results, too, have been good generally— except that we have had some challenges, but the results are still second to Notre Dame that is always on top.
“In terms of sports, we have moved up. The school is now the brain behind the success of Upper East in sporting activities. The school is topping in all the disciplines in sports. We have been able to achieve two national awards in sports. In 2012, one of our boys, Daniel Azubire, won the MTN Soccer Academy. In 2014, Lariba Zakat represented the nation at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and All African Games Athletics in Morocco. In 2016, she won the Millennium Marathon in Accra,” said the headmaster.
He added: “The school has represented the region at so many competitions. Anytime we go for regionals, we are always about two-thirds of the contingent. In agriculture, we have also chalked some successes. As an Agric-trained person, I devoted my time to agricultural activities. We have been able to plant a lot of trees around the school. Then, we have an orchard and we introduced fish farming. The school now four ponds and we have won some Farmer’s Day awards since 2016.”
Old students to offer more support
Extremely distraught over the current shape of the school that contributed remarkably to who they are today, the Big Boss Old Students Association, also known as Tangabisi, has announced plans to offer some assistance.
“As old students, we are worried [about the school’s infrastructural deficit]. We are not the original owners of the school. It is government’s responsibility. We only come in to help. We’ll be building an ICT and library complex. We have the drawing ready. We have done the costing. We will cut the sod and start the construction next year. We have also requested the headmaster to give us a list of things that the school needs immediately, and one of them that featured is the fence.
“We are considering working particularly on the fence wall. Then, we can consider renovating some of the buildings that need renovation. But I must say that government has primary responsibility and that they must not run away from. And however they share the national cake, they should share and ensure that some is provided for the people who are here,” the National Vice President of the association, Professor Justice Gameli Djokoto, told newsmen.
The old students, he added, had contributed towards the growth of the school in times past by donating books and computers among other supplies.
“We also have contributed to the school in no small way. We have donated books, calculators, computers, television. We’ve also donated a Toyota Hilux pickup to augment their transportation.
“We’ve also donated other gadgets that are used at the ICT laboratory. We have installed streetlights on campus so that the place is well lit in the evening for safety and security reasons. We sponsored the school during the National Science and Maths Quiz [Programme]. We raised as much as Gh¢25,000 just to support them to do that,” he stated.
There was an anniversary march through the streets of the regional capital, Bolgatanga, by hundreds of students from the school in the morning hours of Friday (today). The marathon walk is a prelude to the climax of the celebration slated for this weekend and themed:“Sustaining Free Quality Second-cycle Education for all Ghanaian Children: the Role of Stakeholders”.