BY Manasseh Azure Awuni
Our wise elders say if someone's corn planted in the second rainy season does not grow well, no one passes through it with a destructive amulet on his feet. For this reason, I would not have reacted to Mr. I. K. Gyasi’s article but for his disdainful attack on my alma mater, Krachi Senior High School (Krasec).
In his article, “Facts Which Awuni Ignored,” published in the Daily Graphic of October 19, 2010, Mr. Gyasi created the impression that Krasec is one of those low performing schools which admit BECE “candidates with anything between aggregate 20 and 30.” He ended by his article by asking, “How can he [me] compare Mfantsipim School to Adansi Akrofuom Senior High Technical School, for example? Or to his own KRASEC?”
Apart from stating that Krasec was selected to benefit from the Model School Project initiated by the NPP government, I didn’t mention Krasec anywhere in my previous article to which Mr. Gyasi was reacting. But he ended up personalizing the issues as though he had a personal problem with my school and me, and not my opinion.
I find it unfortunate that, Mr. I.K. Gyasi, a retired educationist and former Headmaster of a Kumasi-based senior high school is among the people with the jaundiced perception that it is dim-witted and daft headed B.E.C.E. candidates (perhaps like me) who find their way into schools such as Krachi Senior High School.
My opinion on the change of years of the SHS programme from three to four has always been and will forever remain the same. With the three years, some schools were recording almost hundred percent passes in the final examinations while others hardly got a single candidate progressing after the SHS. The number of years for all schools was the same but the value, as we often say, was not the same. The first class schools had all the necessary teaching and learning materials while the rest lacked basic infrastructure. So if there must be a solution to the problem, then it is the infrastructure, and not the number of years, that needed to be tackled. And my claim that some schools outperformed others cannot be said to be “superficial,” as Mr. Gyasi accused me.
It is however not true that students who find their way into first class SHSs are naturally more intelligent (judging from the BECE results) than those in schools such as Krasec. Education in Ghana is accessible to all, but quality education is a preserve of the rich.
If Esi’s father is “big” man, she will not attend Sempe, Chorkor or Kanda Cluster of Schools. She will attend Christ the King, Roman Ridge, Ridge Church School or one of those expensive private basic schools, which seem to have been insured against failure. With a little effort, she will graduate with aggregate six (with 10 ones). She’ll again gain admission into Wesley Girls High School to pursue the General Science, Business or any course of her choice. After three years, her place in the Medical School of KNUST or Legon, Business School or any of the competitive programmes in the university will be as secure as NPP’s parliamentary seat in Bantama or NDC’s Ketu South seat.
My father is not a big man so I could not afford to go to a private school. I made do with Kete-Krachi Local Authority Primary School, and continued at Henkel Memorial JHS, a few metres away from the primary school. After the B.E.C.E I managed to get an aggregate that could have earned me a place in one of the first class senior high schools in the country. It was the best B.E.C.E. grade for the Krachi District in 2001. However, my father could not sponsor me out of Kete-Krachi. Luckily, the Krachi Senior High School was a beneficiary of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s Northern Scholarship grants. When I was asked to choose Krasec, I wept. But there was no option. And I wasn’t alone!
Asua Asirifi Wellington, currently a Level 400 Geography and Rural Development student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, received the 2004 President’s Independence Day Award, for his sterling performance in the 2003 B.E.C.E. Like me, Wellington had to choose Krasec before the BECE because he could not be sponsored outside the district.
Like Liverpool FC fans, Wellington and I never walk alone. There are other more intelligent students who find themselves in our situation, or even worse. Is Mr. I.K. Gyasi therefore justified in thinking that the Krasec admits students with “anything between aggregate 20 and 30”? Some aggregate 20s and 30s from the rural schools can outperform aggregate 6s from the city if given the same platform in the SHS.
Why then do brilliant students from schools like Krasec perform poorly in final examinations?
Our elders say if a man with healthy teeth is chewing his food awkwardly, then one can be sure there is sand in it. Like many deprived SHSs, Krasec lacked many facilities. There was no water so we had to go to town (Opare) to fetch water for the kitchen and then for our own usage. But that water system was predictably unreliable so most of the time, we had to walk several kilometres to fetch from the Volta Lake. On most occasions classes had to come to an end when we had to go hunting water. Thanks to Mr. Thomas Fordjour Ababio, the headmaster transformed Krasec a great deal, that problem was resolved at the time I was leaving. But the most daunting challenge was (and still is) inadequate teachers.
Krasec relies mostly on National Service personnel, most of whom even refused posting to the area. I had to get to the tertiary institution years later to realize that some of those National Service personnel survived from semester to semester by the gracious mercies God. I sometimes wondered how some of them made it to the tertiary institutions. But our fate lay in them, as some of them never failed to boast. The worst affected area was with the core subjects. For instance when Mr. Etse Louis was transferred to Kadjebi Asato SHS in 2003, Mr. Collins Boafo remained the only substantive English Language tutor for the entire school. Yet we would take the same exams with our counterparts in Mfantsipim School.
In 2006 when I entered the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and some lecturers were talking about submitting assignments through the internet, I was totally at sea. In my mind’s eyes, the internet was a machine like the computer, but I could not fathom what the electronic mail (Email) looked like. The only desktop computer in back Krasec sat in the Chemistry Lab and we worshipped it like god. I never touched it till I left the school in 2004.
But it didn’t take me eternity to catch up with my colleagues. And I can boast of more articles on (national international websites) than any of my mates with whom I started four-year journey in GIJ. I also realized with time that the students from the first class schools were not in anyway, better than those of us from hinterlands. And it is a painful fact that many of my Krasec mates who failed and are still grappling in vain to get the necessary passes to continue, are far better than some students from first class schools pursuing enviable courses in the universities.
Mr. Gyasi is therefore not fair to say that Mfantsipim, Presec and the rest are my “dream schools.” I have not regretted attending Krachi Senior High School because, like a lot of Old Krasecans, I’m not a failure. In the words of Dalai Lama, “It is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck if we fail to get what we want.” The few students who are able to make it out of those deprived schools can compete with the best anywhere.
When I had the opportunity to do a practical attachment with GTV in Level 100, the Head of TV News once asked me whether I was actually in the first year. “Were you practising journalism before coming to GIJ?” he asked. “Which secondary school did you attend?” he enquired when I said I came to GIJ right from the SHS. “Krachi Secondary School?” he asked again, surprised. Had I mentioned Prempeh, Mfantsipim, PRESEC or Adisadel College, he would have exclaimed, “That’s why!” In the four years I was in GIJ, I was the only Krasecan there. But that didn’t stop them from voting me their SRC President. My running mate was a past student of Donkorkrom Agric SHS. Our four competitors were from first class SHSs.
What Mr. I. K. Gyasi and those who miss no opportunity to ridicule those of us from deprived schools should note is that the educational system is deteriorating in favour of a select few. We are all running the same race, some on asphalt roads, while others are grappling with potholes. But the modest gains schools like Krasec have made and continue to make over the years must not be glossed over. Students there should be encouraged to strive to make it despite the difficulties instead of being ridiculed.
Krasec will turn 40 next year. I invite Mr. I.K. Gyasi to come and realize that Krasec, despite her challenges, has produced many great Ghanaians, including the current BNI Boss, Mr. Edward Yaw Donkor. Our motto is “Always the Best!” And we are the best in our own right!
Long Live KRASEC!
Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [www.maxighana.com] Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The writer is a freelance journalist based in Accra, Ghana. To read more of his writings, visit www.maxighana.com
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