In an impoverished windswept community in Ghana’s Northern Region, a five-year-old girl struggles to carry her sobbing little sister – a six-month-old infant.
Little Rahina is not doing this at home; she’s in school and taking a lesson.
Rahina’s classroom is the shade provided by the big dawadawa tree on the compound of the Tuya Primary School in the Mion District of the Northern Region.
She’s one of about 270 pupils who study under trees, thatch-roofed sheds or in a classroom with no windows.
Pupils in the school come from four communities dotted around the district. The children balance their stools – pieces of log – on their heads and walk for several hours to school. That’s a daily routine.
The school was started by two senior high school leavers who wanted to give children in their community some education.
“We these two teachers, we found ourselves necessary that there’s a time there’s no school here. So due to these circumstances we found it necessary that there are more children in these communities so we should find them out and teach them small, small,” Hudu Mohammed, one of the teachers, mumbled to JoyNews' Francisca De Souza.
Most of the over-one-thousand farmers and petty traders at Tuya and other communities in the district have no formal education. The few who ever went to school dropped out at early ages to either help their parents on the farm or to sell farm produce.
Some parents prefer to send their boys, instead of their girls, to school. Many of the girls in the community would have to do house chores or assist their parents on the farm. The few who are allowed to go to school, like Rahina, are sometimes made to carry their younger siblings to school.
While mothers are away on the farm, the men are home, resting and chatting under dawadawa trees and drinking pito, a local brew.
In one of the classrooms at the Tuya Primary School – a shed, roofed with dried straw – a 10-year-old boy wearing a dirty, tattered and unbuttoned shirt and a pair of loose shorts, leads a group of pupils to learn numerals.
Alhassan is a Class 5 pupil but decides to help his friends in Class 3 because there’s no teacher in the class. A pupil teaching other pupils during normal school hours is a common sight at Tuya.
The little boy struggles to express himself in the English language; his response to the question, “What are you teaching?”, is a complete mumbo jumbo. One would have to do a lot of guess work to understand what he means.
The District Chief Executive for Mion, Daniel Makanda, has big dreams, dreams to turn his district into a world class education hotspot.
But that hope remains an imaginary sketch because there’s no plan on paper about what could done to help the poor children of Tuya.
Speaking on Hotline on the Super Morning Show, Mr Kakanda said his district is an “infantile” district created to help boost development. According to him, his district is too young to solve all problems affecting his people.
Mr Makanda, however, says while windows in the only one-unit classroom block there would be fixed in two months, the dawadawa trees and the thatch-roofed sheds serving as classrooms would remain as they are until after two years when a new school block is constructed.