Mr Robert Kumpusi, Assistant Headmaster of the Navrongo Senior High School (NAVASCO) has observed that the Free Senior High School (Free SHS) policy for the past academic year has slowed activities of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) in addressing some significant needs of the school.
He said the PTA played critical role in infrastructural development, provided support in running school activities, which made living conditions on campus comfortable to both students and teachers, which invariably improved academic work.
He said even though the Free SHS policy had some advantages, the major challenge the school faced was irregular flow of funds, and disclosed that “there is cross-financing, we borrow from the PTA while we wait for the grants, so that anytime the grants are paid, then we replace.”
Mr Kumpusi made this known when the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) visited the school as part of its weeklong facts finding visit to the region to ascertain the progress of the Free SHS policy and other projects funded from the petroleum revenue.
He said the PTA levies were gradually fizzling out because only second and third year students were paying PTA levies, and noted that they would have nothing to rely on if the policy takes over and government grants are delayed, and reiterated that “the irregular flow of the funds is a big challenge.”
The Assistant Headmaster said some heads of SHS have had to hide from food suppliers because anytime it was announced that feeding grants were released, suppliers immediately trooped to schools for payments, thereby compelling some headmasters to hide because the monies would usually not hit their accounts immediately, even though announcements are made.
Mr Kumpusi who took the team round to inspect the school, showed the team some PTA funded projects which included renovations of staff bungalows and other infrastructure, and said the PTA as part of its activities to improve on academic work, further supported temporal teachers and some kitchen staff who were not on government payroll with allowances to motivate them.
“There is also a challenge that puts undue pressure on teachers, the teachers will do their best and when the students do not perform, the blame is on the teachers, but sometimes the caliber of grades of the students that are brought here are not the best”.
According to the Assistant Headmaster “There are some of them that at the end of term examination, apart from writing their names, all they do is to reproduce the questions. So how do you promote such students. We are at a loss because we are supposed to go wholesale,” he lamented.
In spite of the challenges including congestion at the dormitories, Mr Kumpusi said core textbooks and uniforms however were provided on time and that enabled academic work to commence early.
Even though the school was on recess, the team was taken round some of the dormitories and classrooms to get a picture of the sleeping and sitting arrangements to get the congestion level and infrastructural deficit.
The situation was not different when the team visited the Bolgatanga SHS (BIG BOSS). Mr Afelibeik Ababu, Headmaster of the school whose concerns were similar to NAVASCO, said there were 769 first year students made up of 500 boys and 269 girls.
He said since the school was established in 1970, there had not been any infrastructural development or renovation works, and added that bed bugs infestation was one of the challenges confronting students on campus.
Mr Ababu, who is also the National Vice President of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) mentioned furniture, delay in grants, congestion and pressure on the limited number of staff, especially teachers among others as challenges facing the school as far as the Free SHS policy was concerned.
Touching on the good aspects of the policy, he said academic work had improved because the first years reported on time, uniforms were supplied on time, student’s menu was enhanced and feeding was improved.