BRIGHT ‘CHAPS’ IN THE DARK

“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance,” Roy T. Bennett.

About 17 hours from Accra lies Kalvio, a village in the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper East Region of Ghana.

The sunny yet dry and dusty weather greeted members of the One Cedi for Change (IC4C) team, a non-governmental organisation, whom I had embarked on a three-day outreach programme, with from Accra.

The aim, to reach out to community members particularly children and youth, in the area of improving educational standards through whipping up the culture of reading, and in health, increase awareness on the sexual reproductive health rights of young adolescents to reduce teenage pregnancies.

Reality soon set in when the sun begun setting and the clouds got darker; apparently, Kalvio is one of the communities in the North yet to be connected to the national grid.

Apparently, the high-tension power lines, electricity poles and transformers spotted along the streets into the village was only mounted during the last electioneering period (2016) for obvious reasons, a resident whispered to me.

The over 2000 population in the small village seem to have accepted their fate but not without the glaring challenges affecting their daily socio-economic lives due to lack of basic amenities in the 21st century.

Evident amongst them is the threat to quality health and education in Kalvio.

Quality education undoubtedly reduces inequalities, breaks the cycle of poverty, foster gender equality, and empower people to live more healthy lives and attain productive livelihoods.

Goals three and four of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocates for healthy lives and wellbeing for all persons at all ages and an inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.

However, circumstances at Kalvio leave much to be desired. While the health of residents are at risk because the only Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHIPS) compound is virtually ill-posed particularly at night, school children are compelled to choose between walking several miles to access electricity for studies, learn with a lantern or completely forgo their books.

The IC4C, on its first leg of engagement had donated assorted medical supplies to the CHIPS compound and reading materials to re-stock the library of the Kalvio Basic School and JHS, the only school serving the community and its environs to whip up the culture of reading and improve learning outcomes.

Soon, we hit the ground running to begin a reading session with the students.

Pupils in classes two and three sat on the floor as my colleague and I entered the classrooms to interact with the children. Why? “Since 2016 that our last set of furniture got damaged, they are yet to be replaced as several appeals to authorities and philanthropists have not yielded result,” a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity explained.

The silver lining in the cloud was however clear; the pupils had extreme eagerness to learn, express themselves in the English Language and brace the odds to achieve their dreams in life as they responded positively to the exercise. 

Much fascinating was when team members engaged final year students preparing for the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) in Literacy and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) lessons.

Facing stiff competition with over 600,000 candidates nationwide and a million others on the sub-region, the students are determined to burn the midnight oil and make excellent grades to enter their preferred choice of Senior High Schools.

“We sometimes walk about 45 minutes to an hour to the next town, Awenia, to learn in the evenings because there is light over there, but, if not, we use lanterns,” 16 year old Emmanuel Aloo, who swept the team off its feet with his level of intelligence and articulation, lamented in an interview.

Headmaster of Kalvio basic school, Kutumowo Ignatus corroborated the plight of students saying, “the lighting issue is greatly affecting us. For instance, we have computers but we are not able to use them because there is no light.

The machines are just there and once in a while, we send them to the nearby town to test them to see whether they are still functioning or not.”

Asked how the ICT subject is taught then, he replied, “we only teach them the hardware which they can see and then use textbooks for the other aspects.”

It was a sight to behold when the IC4C presented some brilliant students with flash lights and other educational materials to aid them in their academic performance.

“I am very happy to have this torch light. I will use it to learn hard and become a doctor,” 20-year-old Comfort Akemwora, a teenage mother who had beat off competition with other colleagues in a spelling bee exercise, said.

National Coordinator of the group, Helaria Wemeye Dalu expressed the group’s determination to improve learning outcomes in the area through inculcating in students the habit of reading.

“We believe readers are thinkers and thinkers are achievers and through our year-long engagement with the Kalvio community, we will engage students periodically in our reading clubs with assistance from teachers,” she said while inaugurating the school’s first ever readers’ club.

Ms Dalu appealed to stakeholders, philanthropists and institutions to support the campaign with resources to improve the lot of children and youth in the community.

Mr. Kutumowo appealed to the general public to come to the school’s aid and the community at large.

A bird whispered that Kalvio may be connected to electricity come next electioneering period but until then the over 100 BECE candidates, children, men and women in the farming community can only hope for light at the end of the tunnel.A member of the IC4C team interacting with pupils during a reading session.

By Abigail Annoh

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