Corporate support for the government’s Free Senior High School Policy (Free SHS) has played a very significant role in meeting the infra-structure needs of some deprived schools.
Notable among these inter-ventions is the announcement by Tullow Oil Ghana in 2018, of $10-million to improve senior high school infrastructure across the country over a period of five years.
The support, which commenced immediately after the announce-ment, has seen some infrastruc-ture completed while others are ongoing. The Tullow Free SHS Infrastructure Project will see the construction of nine fully fur-nished 570-bed capacity dormitory blocks and six classroom blocks to be fully furnished with modern furniture for selected schools.
The Tullow Free SHS Infra-structure Project marks a departure from the mere previous donation of structures without any accesso-ries.
The design ensures the facilities are fully furnished, have improved water supply system, electricity, modern toilet and bathrooms, box rooms, laundry area and dry lines among others, to ensure that oc-cupants have the perfect ambiance to rest and get ready for academic work.
The scope of work also covers the provision of a fully furnished bungalow for the resident house-masters/housemistress to enhance supervision and discipline.
The classroom blocks, apart from being well furnished with the needed furniture plus whiteboards, also spot disability friendly features for use by all.
The estimated students pop-ulation in the Western Region (including technical schools) since the announcement of Free SHS, enrolment in both SHS and techni-cal education has quadrupled.
Naturally, inadequate infra-structure became a conspicuous challenge that faced the implemen-tation of the policy in the imme-diate aftermath of the announce-ment. The situation became even more critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic where proto-cols required more space or social distancing.
The classroom and dormitory blocks intervention by Tullow then became timely to mitigate the spread of the pandemic and to support the continuation of academic activities.
Especially for some of the day schools, where parents had to rent accommodation for their teenage children and thereby granting them undeserved independence but also exposing them to all forms of so-cial vices, the provision of dormi-tories has no doubt improved both social and academic disciplines.
Schools such as Nsein SHS, San-kor SHS and Nsutaman SHS which have already benefited from the project under phase one, according to management of the schools, have led to the reduction in over-crowding and improved general health and sanitation while adding over 500 students per school to their boarding house population. This means a marked improvement in the quality of housing for each beneficiary school, with its atten-dant extra benefits.
The provision of dormitories has also reduced absenteeism and truancy, apart from affording many more students accommodations and saved them from trekking long distances from homes in nearby villages to school.
The completion of phase two covers additional blocks at Kikam Technical Institute (KIM-TECH), Bonzo-Kaku SHS both in Ellem-belle and Anor-Adjaye SHS in the Jomoro Municipality. These are expected to add an estimated 1000-bed boarding and over 600 classroom accommodation for the beneficiary schools.
The third phase which is currently ongoing, will provide dormitory blocks for Axim Girls in the Nzema East Municipality and Bompeh Senior High School in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis, and a much needed 10-unit classroom block for Shama SHS in the Shama District.
Members of the Social Perfor-mance Team of Tullow Ghana, Mr Edmund Fiifi Enchill and Elijah Boye-Ampah assured that all the phases of the projects will be completed on schedule. The team assured its readiness to commission three dormitories in Jomoro and Ellembelle soon.
The Western Regional Public Relations Officer of the Gha-na Education Service, Ms Betty Elizabeth Etroo said the project came as a great relief for selected schools, explaining “one important thing about the project is that the selected schools are facilities that really needed it.”
The region, she said, has 36 se-nior high schools and two technical schools with significant improve-ments in enrolment.
“I must say improvement in enrolment will naturally create the need for perfect and spacious am-biance for academic work – dormi-tory and classroom blocks.”
“We needed enough dormitories to accommodate more students as well as classrooms blocks to enhance intake. To us, the Tullow Free SHS Infrastructure Project is an apt intervention, since the government cannot do it alone,” Ms. Etroo said.
The government receiving support from private sector in the area of educational infrastructure projects, especially the ongoing projects from Tullow, would motivate teachers and students for the improvement of teaching and learning.
At the facilities, some managers of the beneficiary schools de-scribed the support from Tullow, as unprecedented owing to the fact the company is providing the blocks and equipping them with all the needed utilities.
The Western Regional Minister, Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Men-sah in his comments said the construction of the dormitory blocks by Tullow means a lot to the development of education in the Western Region.
Since its inception, he said Tullow Ghana’s invaluable support and commitment in helping the government realize fully the vision it has for the Free SHS policy is highly commendable.
The benefits these dormitories and classroom blocks bring to the beneficiary schools and the entire communities are enormous. “I know of other interventions such as the Tullow Tertiary STEM Scholarship Scheme, the Scholars Aid where stipends are given to hundreds of students in SHS, radio school programme, and sustainable kindergarten among others.
“As we strive to encourage girls’ enrolment, improve sci-ence, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in our drive towards national development, the facilities will provide a decent place for students to lay their heads and come out more refreshed daily for academic and extra-curricular activities.” He also added that the intervention will build a brighter future for the youths and thus, a more resilient community.
The oil and gas industry, to this end, is not only contributing to the revenue but through their social performance activities are sup-ported in the areas of education, health, road, water and sanitation, loan scheme for fisher folks and regular engagement with stakehold-ers.
The commitment of funds for the project and its actualization should be a source of encourage-ment to the rest of other corpo-rate institutions in the country to emulate and join the clarion call for national development.