That the gap between the rich and the poor keeps dilating is, in fact, an absolute reality, and it is so between urban and rural schools where the latter severely lack a lot of educational infrastructures and materials to somehow narrow the gap.
The rural public schools cannot pride themselves on even two per cent of teaching and learning materials (TLMs), equipment and facilities the least-rated urban public schools have.
Sadly, students in both centres-rural and urban-sit for the same examinations-Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE)-the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the West African Examination Council (WAEC) organise annually.
While, for instance, the urban public school students have access to enough computers and some mini laboratory for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lessons, an entire enrolment of the rural public Junior High School (JHS) crowd around one Pentium ‘2’ desktop computer at the corner of their head teacher’s tiny office to learn ICT.
Some rural public schools do not even have a miserable Pentium ‘1’ desktop computer for the lesson, yet both students from the urban and rural communities write the same set of ICT examinations at the BECE and all the students are expected to excel.
Where there is no computer in the rural public schools, a teacher who owns Android phone volunteers it for the teaching of ICT, and it is teary-eyed to witness this phenomenon at a couple of public schools where pupils from three classes or a JHS class crowds around a teacher to learn ICT using the Android phone.
The pains in the heart of teachers posted to the rural public schools are severe, however, for fear of being punished by their superiors, they groan inside them and whisper their worries to only persons they can trust and would not expose them.
Even ICT textbooks with pictures of computers are not available for the pupils to see how the equipment looks like, and so the teacher who is truly ‘called by God’ saves a part of the salary to purchase an ICT textbook and other ICT TLMs to help the pupils, to some extent, understand the subject.
Some of the pupils and students confess that they see a laptop only when a DJ is invited to perform at a funeral or some party in their villages. At such functions, the children stand behind the DJ to eye the laptop and wish they could have the opportunity to touch the keyboard or just operate it to feel okay.
At the Hwakpo D/A school in the West Ada District, Greater Accra Region, for example, both the primary and JHS have only one terrible desktop computer sitting in a small room for their ICT lesson.
But, so pathetic is the news that the school has been disconnected from the national grid, consequently, a teacher has to be volunteering the laptop for ICT lessons.
The entire school has only three classrooms wired but since the school was disconnected from the national grid, the school has reduced the number of periods each class studies ICT. That way, the laptop would have enough battery power to enable the JHS 3 students especially ample time in a day to practise as they have BECE to write in October.
Pupils and students in such communities are compelled to do ‘chew and pour’ to understand subjects like ICT and Integrated Science which are practical. Meanwhile, these are pupils and students who return home after school to assist their parents on the farm, assist in the smoke-filled kitchen to prepare dinner for the family or wait for all the house chores to be completed before they can use the brazier or solar lantern to do their homework.
The pupil or student will have been so overworked by the time he or she retires to bed that recalling what he or she was tasked to ‘chew and pour’ by the teacher is forgotten. More heartbreaking is the fact that the pupil or student wakes up early to perform some house chores or run some errands for the parents before, sometimes, bathing to go to walk school miles away.
This phenomenon is real in the Shai-Osudoku District, also in the Greater Accra Region, specifically Jerusalem, a village between the Asutsuare police barrier and the Asutsuare Military Training Camp junction, where pupils and students trek about two kilometres to and from school.
The only public school at Jerusalem village has no computer at all, according to the teachers, however, the pupils and students learn ICT and in October, the JHS 3 students of the school would write the same ICT as the JHS 3 students in Ashaiman Tsui Bleo Cluster of Schools in this year’s BECE.
These and many other rural communities do not even have phone and accessories shops or an internet café where these pupils or students could visit to touch, learn and understand how the computer functions.
The best grade a rural student scored in ICT in the 2021 BECE was 5. This was hardly disputed because some students who would sit this year’s BECE explained to The Chronicle that they could hardly read, and so the question is: how would they read to understand and answer the Paper Two part of the ICT subject?
So miserable is the situation at these rural public schools that the more one thinks of it, the more legion of questions the mind is crowded with to pose to the political leaders and their allies, who, in many ways, are beneficiaries of the country’s problems. Given this, they will often linger to solve the problems to live in luxury.
The pathetic news is worse at rural communities like Dawa, Shai Hills, Dedukofe, Agortor, Frankadua, Finley, Avadeokome, Gamenu, Jumbo, Pusupu, Brewaniase and Mempeasem, where The Chronicle could travel to, to learn about the predicament of students who are unfairly treated by the GES and WAEC who set the same BECE to examine both the rural and urban students.