Some regional chairpersons of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) are on the verge of closing down schools if the government fails to provide food supplies.
The association served notice to the Ministry of Education after it failed to meet a two-week emergency food supply deadline to provide the schools with food and money.
According to the heads of these schools, students will be sent home until enough food and money are made available to the schools.
The Fourth Estate has learned that the problem, which is threatening to affect teaching and learning is already starting to cause a stir among students in some schools.
The regional chairmen of CHASS said they had relied on support from parent associations to feed students, breaching the Free SHS policy which does not allow parents to contribute to running the schools.
The issue of food shortage is not new, but the government has often denied the problem.
In an interview with The Fourth Estate, heads of senior high schools in the Greater Accra, Northern, Upper West, and Upper East Regions say this never-resolved situation has turned them into “magicians.”
In a letter sighted by The Fourth Estate, the headmistress of the Avatime Senior High School in the Volta Region, Rebecca Mawusi Veny, said she would have no option but to ask the students to feed themselves should the challenge remain unresolved.
The letter from the Avatime Senior High School headmistress to the Volta regional director of education seeking permission to let students buy their own foods.
“…this unfortunate situation has been reported to the regional buffer stock company and other officers that matter, but the situation has remained the same. Director and Board of Directors, please I seek permission for my students to buy their own food come next week if nothing is done about the food situation,” her September 29, 2022 letter said.
At the Alavanyo Senior High Technical School in the Volta Region, the Headmaster of the School, Rev Samuel Pius Elewokor, told the Regional Free SHS Secretariat that the students were no more given lunch due to the alarming situation the school found itself in.
The letter from the Alavanyo SHTS headmaster to the Volta Regional Free SHS Secretariat about the shortage of food supplies.
“We hope our request would be given a quick response because we currently feed the students with only breakfast and supper, and this can take us to Friday 30th September 2022.”
The Volta Regional Chairman of CHASS told National Executives of CHASS that all other SHSs in the region were faced with similar or more challenges.
He warned that should there be any further delay, “children can no longer stay in schools with empty stomachs.”
“I am sad to communicate to you that schools in Volta Region are completely out of foodstuff and money. We are becoming helpless as we see our students go hungry. As parents and heads, we cannot stay unconcerned. … If nothing is done, children can no longer stay in schools with empty stomachs,” he said in a notice to CHASS national executives.
In the Ahafo Region, the CHASS chairman has told the national executive committee that, heads of senior high schools have asked the regional director of education for an indefinite break until a solution is found.
“The two weeks emergency food supply as promised on Monday is a mirage. Nothing has yet come to the schools in Ahafo with empty accounts. The situation is dire. We wrote through our regional Director to DG to grant us permission to give open exeat to the students to go home today, Wednesday, 5th October 2022 and stay until such a time that enough food and money arrangements could be made and sent to us. We have not received any response, from our Regional Director so what should we do?” he queried in a notice to the CHASS National executives.
In the Northern Region, the CHASS Chairman, Edward Azeka, says the heads of SHSs have written a letter to the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service to close the schools if there was no money.
“Financially, it is tough, when we made noise, they gave us some money that could only pay for the debts owed. Now we are in a dire situation. In the school I head, my form twos are in school for 18 weeks, and not a pesewa has been paid for their feeding.
“It takes nothing but magic to feed over 1300 students for 18 weeks without any funding from the government. They owe us money even for the last academic year. Right now, we have written a letter to the Director-General that if there’s no money, they should close down the schools,” Mr Azeka told The Fourth Estate in a phone interview.
In the Upper West Region, the CHASS Chairman, Magnus Innocent, said donations from parents and philanthropists had become the lifeline for the schools.
“What has happened particularly in the Upper West Region is that many of the suppliers are refusing to give because they say they have not been paid. If the supply is delayed for one more week, that will be terrible. It will be a disaster. We have appealed to the PTAs [parent-teacher associations] and old students to help and that’s what’s moving the schools on.”
When asked about the last time his school had received supplies, he burst out laughing for more than a minute, explaining, that was his answer.
In the Greater-Accra Region where Paul Amoasi Aquinas is the CHASS Chairman, he said the situation was no different. He said although the education minister, Dr. Yaw Osei-Adutwum, had promised to dispatch food suppliers to the schools, the schools were yet to receive them.
“The last time any funding came for feeding was in May for day students and July for the boarders,” he said. “Now the monies or the food are not coming. We had a meeting with the minister and the director-general last Monday and they promised to supply some food, but it’s not in.”
“We told the minister that we’d feed the children with what we have so in some schools, they take rice water in the morning, Jollof in the afternoon and probably plain rice in the evening,” he told The Fourth Estate.
This is not new to the challenges the heads of the schools complained of to The Fourth Estate.
In July this year, heads of senior high schools in the Upper West region threatened to close down schools if an urgent food supply was not extended to them.
The Upper West Region CHASS said the shortage at the time had resulted from the “non-payment of outstanding monies owed food suppliers.”
During the same period, the Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei-Adutwum, said in parliament that the government owed the National Food Buffer Stock Company GHS340million.
A senior manager in charge of corporate affairs at the National Buffer Stock Company, Enmanuel Arthur, said the company did not the money to provide enough supplies to the schools.
“It’s something that has been reoccurring and everybody has spoken about it. The minister is aware and all stakeholders are aware. The issue is money, and since January, we have been finding a way to deal with the problem,” he added.
When asked about how many suppliers the Buffer Stock Company owed, he said, “We are talking about suppliers across the country so it’s quite a number.”
He, however, assured the schools of getting food supplies by midweek to prevent a shutdown.
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