Local Ghanaian Community Takes School Improvements into Their Own Hands
A.R.B Yeboah is a respected farmer in the community, as well as a champion of Nsakina M/A Junior High School (JHS), where his presence is anticipated and relished by students and faculty members.
Mr. Yeboah, a local producer of okra and watermelon, has served as the School Management Committee (SMC) Chairman for three years now. His wide smile and kind eyes provide a clue into his generous character. He first became involved in the SMC because he “wanted development for my town.” Elected by his fellow committee members, Mr. Yeboah oversaw the minor rehabilitation projects conducted at the school in 2013 as part of the USAID-funded Transition and Persistence (TAP) Project. Just a 30-minute drive from the capital, Nsakina M/A JHS sits in the outskirts of an urban sprawl in the Ga West District, in the Greater Accra Region.
In Ghana, the SMC is a constitutionally-mandated body that manages basic schools for students from kindergarten through junior high school. Without its own funds, the committee must work closely with the parent-teacher associations (PTAs) to secure resources for school initiatives. Given a school population of just over 200 students, Nsakina’s SMC has nine members, including school staff and members of the local community development committee, who meet twice a term to discuss the status of the school and manage appropriate projects.
The SMC encourages the community’s engagement in school affairs and provides a sense of ownership of the school and its well-being. The committee’s Treasurer, Ms. Margaret Quaye, explained that as members of the committee, they must “be very bold, honest, and faithful” to fulfill their responsibilities to the school and community.
Mr. Yeboah led his team and other community members to renovate the school building with additional funds from micro-grants provided by the TAP Project. In Ghana, school enrollment rates drop substantially between primary school and junior high school. The lack of safe, comfortable, and fully-resourced school facilities stands as a key contributing factor to many students dropping out of school. As such, the minor repairs Nsakina’s SMC carried out include improvements to the school infrastructure, such as plastering of the walls and ceilings, painting, and installing windows.
The planned repairs, which included the installation of ramps for students with disabilities, exceeded the TAP Project allocation. In order to make sure the changes happened, the committee and other community members mobilized funds from the District Assembly and also covered some costs from their own private funds. As truly community-managed projects, the contributions of the community went beyond money. The community provided sand and other supplies, in addition to time and labor.
While at times challenging to secure the time of community members, Mr. Yeboah and his team’s dedication to school improvement helped to ensure the community’s participation and commitment. A shining example of Plan’s child-centered community development (CCCD) approach in action, Nsakina’s SMC drew upon the community’s own strengths and resources to improve the teaching and learning environment. Mr. Paul Yidu, a Circuit Supervisor with the Municipal Education Office, congratulated Mr. Yeboah and the committee for their success in effectively mobilizing the community for these efforts.
As a result of the repairs, the committee contributed to increased student enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year. The committee members reported that the building is so attractive that additional parents want to send their children to the school. Though Ghana TAP’s project activities have officially ended, many project activities will be sustained due to the community’s involvement.
Mr. Yeboah hopes for continued infrastructure improvements, such as the construction of an additional building for the increased number of students. Additionally, the SMC hopes to encourage the PTA to sponsor students to attend Girls’ Camps in the future, as these funds had previously been provided by the TAP Project.