There are about 2.3 million children in Ghana’s public basic schools, who lack desks, according to education think tank, Africa Educational Watch (EduWatch).
Africa Education Watch disclosed this in an alert dated February 6, 2023.
It quoted the Ministry of Education’s data that indicated that by 2021, about 596,000 KG pupils, representing half of the national KG population and 1.28 million pupils in primary schools lacked desks in school.
EduWatch added that another 425,000 pupils, representing 30 percent of JHS pupils were without writing spaces.
“This brings the total number of public basic school pupils without desks to about 2.3 million,” EduWatch stated.
The Education think tank observed that the desk situation is worse at the primary level in the most underserved regions in the education sector, namely, Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East, Upper West, Bono East, and Oti.
EduWatch mentioned that the Northern Region leads with 213,252 public primary school pupils without desks, followed by Upper East (118,340) and Bono East (86,074).
The Education think tank added that cumulatively, 638,008 representing 61 percent of public primary school pupils in the seven underserved regions in Ghana’s education sector do not have desks.
“Proportionally, while all the seven regions have the percentage of public primary school pupils, lacking desks higher than the national average of 40 percent; the North East Region leads with a maximum of 80 percent of primary school pupils lacking desks.
“The Northern Region followed with 70 percent with Upper East, Bono East, and Savanna regions all recording 60 percent,” it noted.
EduWatch emphasized that the lack of desks affected pupils’ learning, handwriting and health, as they adopt uncomfortable postures to write when classes were in session.
The Education think tank stated that a recent study revealed that about 24 percent of pupils in sampled schools within the Nkwanta South Municipality sat on stones to write on their laps, while 25 per cent lay on the floor in selected schools in the Zabzugu District.
EduWatch estimated that 800,000 dual desks, 150,000 KG tables and 600,000 KG chairs were urgently needed in Ghana’s basic schools.
EduWatch added, “this is estimated to cost between GH¢330 to GH¢350 million, an amount equivalent to how much Ghana’s Government spends on the free SHS in just six weeks.”
The education think tank noted that current budgetary constraints, manifested by cuts in the basic education budget and GETFund did not provide a budgetary solution in the short to medium term.
Touching on the perceived cause of the lack of chairs and desks, it blamed poor funding of basic education infrastructure, which manifests in the construction of schools without an adequate supply of furniture or the absence of schools and furniture in some communities.
Eduwatch added that between 2014 and 2020 the share of the education sector discretionary expenditure to basic education declined from 19.2 percent to 10.9 percent.
“The Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) is Ghana’s main funding engine for education infrastructure.
“In recent times, the quantum of GETFund expended on basic education has been on a steady decline, with only 16 per cent GETFund’s infrastructure expenditure budget allocated to basic education in 2022, with secondary education receiving about 44 percent,” EduWatch stated.
According to EduWatch, the Government must change its regular public procurement approach to providing desks, which have proved grossly insufficient in resolving the challenge, to an alternative of exploring innovative, inclusive decentralized approaches that were cost-efficient.
EduWatch also urged the Ministry of Education to roll out a coordinated strategic approach, involving corporate Ghana, local governments, religious groups, traditional authorities, civil society and the Forestry Commission.
This, it noted, should culminate in a transparently managed Fund, with seed money from the Government and contributions from stakeholders, adding that a matching effort to mobilize local timber resources to produce desks at a cheaper cost at the regional level for distribution to underserved districts and schools was also workable and cost-efficient.