By Investigative Journalism Fellows
Three floors of concrete, steel and mortar.
It is the tallest building in the community, towering over other brick and mortar scattered across the quiet farming town.
For many parents, it holds a prospect of a better future for their children. However, for now, it is better avoided because of the danger it presents.
Deserted, rusty iron rods on the last floor stand erect like javelin on the concrete floors. If the using the abandoned building portends danger, the courtyard is not. It serves a different purpose. Where students are supposed to grow their minds, cassava is growing.
It is the last thing one expects to find in the courtyard of a school building. But that is what has become of the fate of the Ntranoa Community Day Senior High School.
Like many such projects littered across the country, millions were sunk into it, but it has been left in the hands of the destructive hands of nature.
Bringing education closer to the people
Article 38(1) of the 1992 Constitution provides: “The State shall provide educational facilities at all levels and in all the regions of Ghana, and shall, to the greatest extent feasible, make those facilities available to all citizens.”
However, for thousands of school children in deprived communities across the country, the value of this constitutional provision is totally lost with the abandonment of projects that would have made education a right, rather than a privilege, to them.
In 2014, the Mahama administration sought to address this anomaly with the signing of a contract to bring education to the doorstep of some deprived communities under the Community Day School Project. Eight years on, that initiative, together with the hopes of some of the beneficiary communities to see better days in education, has been stalled because there was a change in government in 2016.
In keeping with a familiar tradition in the politics of Ghana, the initiative by the previous administration was dumped as a priority as soon as the current administration assumed office in 2017. The Akufo-Addo-led administration has completed some of the projects, but some have been left unattended.
The Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellows of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) travelled across the country to examine the state of the ‘E-Blocks’ projects that have been abandoned. Their findings are an affront to the provision in Article 38(1).
The Government of Ghana and the World Bank Group signed a $156 million financing agreement to improve access to secondary education in deprived communities across the country.
The grant was to support the Ghana Secondary Education Improvement Project, which aimed to enroll 30,000 new students in secondary schools, improve learning outcomes for 150,000 students in low-performing schools, and enhance the capacity of 2000 senior high school (SHS) teachers, headteachers and other education officials.
The $156-million project was intended to be implemented over a six-year period (2014-2019).
It was planned to use a results-based financing approach. Funds were only to be released based on the achievement of specific results expected to help Ghana see improved educational outcomes in an equitable manner.
The project was to help expand access to education through the construction of 23 standard four-storey classroom blocks dubbed ‘E-Blocks’, laboratories, toilets, teachers’ flat, head teacher’s bungalow, technical and vocational blocks, where necessary, and other core structures and furniture/inputs.
The buildings are called “E-Blocks” because they’re designed in the shape of the letter “E”.
In addition to the World Bank loan, the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), in 2018, requested the utilisation of 40 percent of its revenue to secure a loan of US$1.5 billion to be used for the provision of educational infrastructure.
Sadly, a sizeable amount of these funds pumped into the execution of the ‘E-Blocks’ project are yet to yielded the needed results after eight years, as many of them were abandoned immediately after the 2016 elections and assumption of office by the new administration in 2017.
Ashanti Region: Collapsing ‘E-Block’ poses danger to life
In the Ashanti Region, the ‘E-Block’ project at the Sekyedumase Senior High School in the Ejura-Sekyedumase Municipality is at the level of two two-storey buildings. Each floor contains six-unit classrooms, with iron rods sticking out at the top of the structures, indicating the possibility of more classrooms to follow.
On a visit to the project site on March 2, 2022, Michael Aidoo reports it was obvious the un-plastered structures had been abandoned for years, as they looked very dirty, speckled with thick dust and guarded by unkempt surroundings.
A sidewall of one of the buildings had collapsed and the pillars holding it caved in, leaving the top floor almost hanging and posing danger to life.
The Municipal Chief Executive, Dr Kingsley Osei, would not speak on the project no matter how much he was goaded, because the assembly, which he led, was not responsible for the award of the contract for the project.
“It is impossible to speak about such projects when they were not sanctioned by the assembly,” he said
Bono Region: No documents traced on ‘E-Block’ projects
In the Bono Region, Prosper Prince Midedzi reports that there was no trace of documents covering the ‘E-Block’ projects at the district and municipal assemblies.
At Buoku in the Wenchi Municipality, the ‘E-Block’ project, which started in 2015, was abandoned at the first-floor after the change in government.
Building materials are wasting away and the project site is overgrown with weeds, but according to the Municipal Works Engineer, the Assembly is helpless in this matter.
“I have been searching for information about Buoko ‘E-Block’ project, but I have not come across any document. I asked my predecessor to brief me about the project because the contractor stopped working before I took over, and he says the project was handled by the central government and so the contractor did not give assembly any document about it,” he said.
The story is the same at Adamsu in the Jaman South District where the ‘E-Block’ project was started in 2015 but discontinued after the change in government.
The District Chief Executive (DCE) of Jaman South, Andrews Bediako, said the project was awarded to the contractor by the central government at the time, and that the contractor was dealing with officials at the Ministry of Education.
“No file was opened for the project at the district assembly,” he claimed.
At Banda Ahenkro in the Banda District, the ‘E-Block’ project had been abandoned at the second-floor level at the Banda Senior High Technical School.
Some of the pillars, walls and floors of the buildings were broken or cracked, while building materials such as wood and cement blocks were parked at the site, some of them damaged.
Anthony, a security man, who has been working in the school for more than 10 years, said: “The ‘E-Block’ will be a solution to the infrastructure problem in the school when completed, but I don’t know why this special project is abandoned.”
Although incomplete, more than 10 classrooms of the abandoned ‘E-Blocks’ were in use at the time of visit, and the school authorities are likely to use more next academic year, given the lack of classrooms at the moment.
Bono East Region: Communities disappointed in the abandonment of ‘E-Block’ projects
Prosper Prince Midedzi, who also covered the Bono East Region, also reports that construction work on the ‘E-Block’ project at Donkro-Nkwanta in the Nkoranza South Municipality had started in 2014 but it was abandoned at the first-floor level after the change in government and taken over by weeds and other agents of deterioration.
“When the then MP for Nkoranza South, Emmanuel Agyekum, who lobbied for the project, and the NDC, unfortunately, lost the elections in 2016, the new administration decided not to continue the project,” the Unit Committee Chairman for Donkro-Nkwanta Electoral Area, Isaac Boaten said.
Officials of the Nkoranza Municipal Assembly said the assembly could not do anything about the project because the contract was awarded by the central government.
“The ‘E-Block’ projects were special initiatives by the erstwhile NDC government so the central government was in charge of awarding the contracts. Our role was to facilitate or engage the traditional authorities in order to get a suitable site for the project,” the Deputy Coordinating Director of Nkoranza South Municipal Assembly, Alhaji Yussif Mohammed, explained.
The Anyima ‘E-Block’ project in the Kintampo South Municipality was started in 2015 and halted at the third floor after the change in government.
“There is no SHS in this community so we were happy when they started the ‘E-Block’ in our community because our younger brothers and sisters can also attend the school here and would not have to travel to far places like Kintampo and Techiman for their secondary education,” William, a youth at Anyima, said.
The Coordinating Director of the Kintampo South Municipal Assembly, Kwesi James Baffoe, said the “E-Block projects are central government projects; we don’t have control over them in the municipality.”
Officials of the Kintampo South District Education Directorate said a report on the Anyima ‘E-Block’ project had been submitted to the regional minister, but they were yet to receive feedback from the minister.
Central Region: Project site turned into farmland
At Ntranoa, a community in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem (KEEA) Municipality in the Central Region, sits one of the ‘E-Block’ projects on a vast land for the Ntranoa Community Senior High School.
Construction work on the project began in 2014 but the contractor, Konasah ENT LTD, stopped work after the change in government.
According to Josephine Badu-Nyarko, who visited the project site on March 3, 2022, some people had turned portions of the project site into farmlands, growing crops like cassava, with weeds taking a fair share of the remaining land.
A part of the school building was falling off with pipes exposed from the walls, while some building materials, like iron rods seemed to have been cut off from the building under construction. It has also become a makeshift church. Cement blocks were closely packed against the wall with wooden boards placed on them to serve as a bench for the worshippers.
According to a source, desks meant for the classrooms had been delivered to the KEEA Municipal Assembly, although the project was not yet completed.
The Assembly Member for Ntranoa, Samuel Owusu Boahen, said he was in the process of engaging the Minister of Education on the abandoned project.
When contacted, the KEEA Municipal Chief Executive, Solomon Appiah, declined to comment on the project until he had visited the site to personally ascertain the state of the project.
Eastern Region: ‘E-Block’ abandoned and robbed
Sekesua is a farming community in the Upper Manya Krobo District in the Eastern Region. It is the biggest community after Asesewa.
The Asesewa Senior High School is the only secondary school in the district. The district has a population of more than 70,000.
The ‘E-Block’ project at Sekesua was started in 2015 to widen access to secondary education in the district. After the facility was raised to the first floor, it suffered abandonment and three robbery attacks that worsened its already bad state.
A chief of Sekesua, John Kumi, said more than 45 communities around Sekesua did not have senior high school, a reason for the ‘E-Block’ project.
According to Esther Adomah Osei, who investigated the ‘E-Block’ projects in the Eastern Region, the Chairman of the NDC at Sekesua, Alhaji Yakubu, indicated that without access to secondary education, teenage pregnancy was rife in the town, while the male teenagers also indulge in motor riding to eke a living.
The ‘E-Block’ project at Oborpa in the Lower Manya Krobo District suffered a similar fate as the project in Sekesua did, as robbers made away with building materials from the project site.
Greater Accra Region: Work on ‘E-Block’ at Goi to resume soon
At Goi and its environs in the Ada West District of the Greater Accra Region, interest in education is very low. Children here prefer salt mining and other economic activities to schooling.
A few of them who are at the basic level have to travel long distances to neighbouring towns like Ada, Battor and Tema to continue their secondary education.
On the outskirts of Goi, right after Anyamam, about 500 metres from the main road, stands a building that is supposed to be a senior high technical school.
It is a GETFund project for the construction of a three-storey building for the community senior high school. It was supposed to be completed within one year, in 2016.
But work on the project stalled after the change in government, and has since remained at the ground floor level as of March 2, 2021, when Deborah Pokua Bempah visited the project site.
The Assembly Member for Goi Electoral Area, Abraham Ofoe Sotie, said he had had information that work would resume soon, adding that building materials were being mobilised on site.
The contractor, Mohammed Antunmyene, explained that construction work stopped because the government did not pay him early for work done.
“Because it is on the pre-finance basis, I took money and materials from people to do it to its current level with the expectation that it will be reimbursed on time so I could pay back but it took them three-and-half years to pay back. Can you imagine taking people’s materials, money, and investing them into the project and for three-and-half years, you’ve not been paid? How will you complete the project?
“I am organizing myself to get some cement, sand, chippings and money for labour, and resume work. I will try to raise it to the third floor, do the block work so that the community can start using the completed portions and students in Goi and its environs would not have to travel far to access high school education,” he said.
The completion of this project will ease the burden of students who currently have to travel long distances to other communities to access secondary education.
North East Region: Students Langbinsi SHS cry for accommodation facility
The Langbinsi Senior High School ‘E-Block’ project was started in 2015 but stalled after the 2016 elections.
Located in the West Mamprusi District in the North East Region, the ‘E-Block’ project is meant to make secondary education accessible to more than eight surrounding communities.
Some of the students expressed concerns about the lack of infrastructure, including accommodation facilities for both teachers and students.
“We are always inundated with house chores so sometimes some of our colleagues absent themselves from school to help their parents. This is because they stay at home and commute to school each day. But this could have been avoided if there was to be a hostel facility or a boarding house for us,” one of the students told Richard Mensah Adonu.
Savannah Region: 80 communities still wait for first secondary school
At Kpelbe in the East Gonja District in the Savannah Region, the ‘E-Block’ project was started in 2014 but abandoned after the 2016 elections.
When Richard Mensah Adonu visited the project site on March 3, 2022, the building under construction only had pillars standing with a few layers of blocks from the foundation level. The estimated 80 beneficiary communities continue the long wait for the first secondary school in the district and access to quality education.
According to the Assembly Member for Kpelbe, Seidu Daud Tanko, attempts to get the current government to continue the project had been unsuccessful.
“It’s really affecting the community totally because as of today [March, 3, 2022], our JHS children move far away to enjoy senior high school in Tamale, Karaga, Gushegu, Kumasi, Accra, Salaga and other parts of the country.
“And some of them stop school because of the long distance to attend senior high school.
But looking at the situation, we have nothing to say because we have appealed to the district, regional and national [authorities] but nothing is happening,” he lamented.
Upper East Region
Redeemer Buatsi visited some ‘E-Block’ project sites in the Upper East Region and reports that the story is not different, as some community members expressed dissatisfaction with the current government’s lack of interest in the ‘E-Block’ projects.
“Why have they spent so much money on this building and just left it like that to rot?” a resident of Yamiriga said in frustration, as students in the community struggle for conducive space to learn.
Construction work on the ‘E-Block’ project at the Yamiriga Community SHS in the Talensi District began in 2014 and was in steady progress until 2017 when it stalled, following the change in government.
A visit to the project site on March 6, 2022, showed that construction work was almost completed, but parts of the roof and window frames were falling off as a result of its abandonment.
At the Azeinamoo Senior High School located in the Bongo District, work on the ‘E-Block’ project was as asleep as the caretaker of the project at the time of the visit.
According to the caretaker, construction work on the project began in 2014 and was scheduled to be completed in 2017, but no work had been done after the change in government. School authorities were unwilling to speak on the progress of the project because they did not have any information regarding the project.
At Mirigu Senior High School, although the ‘E-Block’ project had been roofed, the facility had not been operationalized since 2017 and there were already signs of deterioration. Parts of the building, especially the roofing and window frames, were falling off at the time of the visit.
Nonetheless, the school is making good use of the facility in its current state, with portions of it used as classrooms.
The construction of the ‘E-Block’ project at the Sapeliga Senior High School started in 2014 and was scheduled to be completed in 2017, but five years after the completion timeline, the project is far from done.
Currently, the facility is used as a centre for writing the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), although the floor tiles in some parts of the building, as well as parts of the roofing, ceiling and window frames, were coming off.
The Chiana Senior High School is a GETFund project that is almost complete with only painting needed, but for five years, that has not been done.
The project involves the construction of a girl’s dormitory, administration block and classroom block
Upper West Region
In the Upper West Region, Joseph Kwaku Kpormegbey investigated the status of the uncompleted E-Block projects at Dorimon, Naro and Zini, as well as an assembly hall complex project at Lawra, which is different from the ‘E-Block’ project.
At Zini in the Sissala West District, the E-Block project, which began in 2015, has been abandoned, although it is almost completed.
“Who are you to go and ask the government why it has been stopped. We have appealed through the district assembly and some politicians since it’s a political affair but there is no response. So who are we going to ask,” Wajiwie Mensah, an elder in the community and representative of the Chief of Zini, has many questions unanswered.
A native of Zini, Issifu Abubakar Bannu, said due to the lack of a senior high school in the community, his four children travel to Tumu and Wallembele, about 62-kilometre journey, to access secondary education.
At Dorimon in the Wa West District, the ‘E‐Block’ project started in 2014 and was expected to be completed in 2019 but it has been abandoned in the bushes of the town.
According to the caretaker, Beliratu, she has lived on the project site for six years without seeing any progress.
Pointing to a new building some 100 metres away, she said that was the new senior high school built by the Akufo-Addo administration in 2020 but it is yet to be commissioned for use.
Currently, senior high school students in Dorimon are left with the option of using an abandoned ICT centre that has been converted into a classroom, or travelling to Wechiau, about 40 kilometres away, to access secondary education.
As a result, some of the students have relocated to Wechiau in order to save themselves the trouble of travelling that long distance daily to and from school.
A foundation guarded by weeds is all that exists for the ‘E-Block’ project at Naro in the Nadowli-Kaleo District.
Mats and pillars of iron rods bound together for the project have been left at the mercy of the weather.
The case of Lawra Secondary School in the Lawra District is not about E-Block project but an assembly hall complex project staggering in execution.
The Headmaster and the Senior House Master both declined to comment on the project unless permission was sought from the Regional Education Director.
However, a student of the school (name withheld) confirmed that work on the project sometimes halts for months.
At the time of visiting the project site, there were heaps of sand and gravel, as well as bags of cement on the site.
Volta Region: Students pay Ghc80 on transportation to attend school
At Agave-Sondo, a farming community near Sogakope in the South Tongu District in the Volta region, work on the 24-unit classroom block and office complex painted in light yellow and burgundy colours, an iconic feature of the ‘E Block’ projects, halted more than a year ago when the contractor abandoned site due to lack of funds.
The situation has led to many students from the community dropping out of school after completing basic education.
The very few lucky ones who brave the odds to pursue further education have to make long travels daily to neighbouring communities to achieve their goals.
According to an opinion leader in the community, Wellington Dolby, the MP for the area, Kobena Mensah Woyome, had informed him that the government had asked all contractors to stop construction works indefinitely.
The E-Block project, according to the contractor, is 75 percent completed, but it has been left to ‘rot’, having been turned into a place of convenience for livestock.
The Sondo SHS, if or when completed, will serve students in Agave-Sondo and eight other communities who currently travel about 35 minutes on a lonely, untarred road to Sogakope, the South Tongu District capital, en route Adidome, Aflao, Keta, Denu and Akatsi to attend school.
The cost of making a trip on a motorbike, the fastest means of transportation, from Agave-Sondo to Sogakope is between Ghc35 and Ghc40, which means the transportation cost for a daily-return trip is between Ghc70 and Ghc80.
The Sondo SHS ‘E-Block’ project was awarded to Defiat Development Co. Ltd.
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Timothy Awuku Fiador, his outfit can no longer raise internal funds to execute the E-block project, adding that all efforts to get the government to release funds had been futile.
Western Region: Pastors, snakes, insects take over ‘E-Block’
In November 2019, the people of Samreboi in the Western Region hit the streets to demonstrate for the completion of the ‘E-Block’ project after it was abandoned since 2016.
The ear upon which the pleas of the townsfolk fell – Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Adutwum – upheld their pleas with a bold step which raised the hopes of the people.
He ensured that teachers were posted to the community school, which was almost complete save the interior furnishing, exterior modifications and roofing.
In addition to the posting of teachers, desks were also supplied for the classrooms, while trucks and heavy machinery were moved in ostensibly to complete the project.
All was ready for action, as the entire community was filled with ecstasy because their children would no longer travel long distances to other parts of the country to access secondary education.
But three years later, in 2022, Leonard Kofi Agyei reports that the ‘E-Block’ project is still stuck at the level it was before the demonstration, except that this time around, it has new occupants – insects and snakes.
Some of the classrooms which did not find favour in the eyes of the government for use have found faith in the eyes of some local pastors who use them for church services.
Who completed how many?
According to figures from the Ministry of Education , as at January this year, 21 out of the 23 earmarked for completion, had been opened.
The Mahama government awarded contract for 124 schools out of the 200 E-blocks, Mr Mahama promised during the 2012 campaign.
There had been a raging controversy over the number of E-blocks the Mahama administration had completed. A Deputy Minister of Communication, Felix Ofosu Kwakye, had in 2019 rebutted claims that the National Democratic Congress government only completed 29.
He said 36 projects were commissioned when the Mahama administration handed over in January 2017.
Source : The Fourth Estate