TALKING DRUM: Breman Jamra tragedy – Beyond the official rhetoric

Six pupils died from the disaster[/caption] When 3FM News Central Region stringer, Perry Baka, hinted a school building in the region had collapsed, I got winced and terrified. It was at the Jamra Methodist Primary School in Breman Jamra of the Asikuma Odobeng Brakwa District. Four pupils had been killed on the spot and two others died when rushed to the hospital. It was Tuesday morning January 31, 2017. I had not an iota of courage to download pictures he sent which told the story of the tragic incident. ‘How would parents of these kids receive this breaking news’? I quizzed myself. I have read and watched such a story before and I know how sad it feels seeing one’s child, sent to school to become a better person, only to be killed by the very school. In 2008, Joy FM’s Manasseh Azure Awuni, then working as a freelance journalist, filed a horrifying story for Ghana Television (GTV). The story featured a boy, Kwadwo Njorfuni, who attended the Banda English Arabic Primary School. In November that year, the unfortunate happened when the wall of Kwadwo’s classroom collapsed. “One pupil, Godwin Ayensu, 11, who sat near the collapsed wall, died on the spot. Another pupil, Sumaila Labil, fell into coma. Ten pupils, including Kwadwo Njorfuni and Sumaila Labil, had to be rushed to safety,’ wrote Manasseh. The story of the Banda English Arabic Primary School pupils was never nice even afterwards. The injured children had to endure the excruciating pain of having to travel in a rickety car on the deplorable Banda to Krachi stretch of road for treatment. Kwadwo Njorfuni, after months of struggling for treatment, lost the battle. He died through no fault of his. Sumaila Labil and the other surviving pupils managed to go back to school. They had, however, been abandoned three years after the incident. Sumaila’s case was not anything better. His life was but a disturbing tale to tell. He had been left with mental illness as he was unable to undergo the recommended brain surgery after the incident. One would have taught that after the Banda English Arabic Primary School’s sad story, the Ghana Education Service (GES) and other stakeholders- who were nonchalant about the pupils’ plight- would have learnt their lessons and worked hard to have at heart the welfare of school pupils across the country. This did not happen. On February 14, 2014, a school bus carrying 41 pupils, after school, “had a terrible crash injuring many of the school pupils,” reported GNA. It happened at a spot on the Abesim-Tanoso road in the Brong Ahafo region. Chief Inspector Francis Addo of the Brong Ahafo Motor Traffic and Transport Department told the media the accident could have been caused by excessive overloading. He said per numerous complaints received, the MTTD had sent letters to all private schools in the Sunyani municipality to discuss the poor condition of these schools’ buses. This letter from the MTTD, the Association of Private Schools had not responded. Two days after this Abesim-Tano accident, another accident happened at the same spot. It involved two school buses – the buses of Preprah-Agyeman Capital Preparatory School [located at Abesim] and that of Emmanuel Preparatory Complex [at Duayaw Nkwanta]. An overtaking by the bus of the Emmanuel Preparatory Complex brought about the accident causing parents and relatives of pupils, onboard these buses, to storm the Regional Hospital, Sunyani in search of their injured. I never heard or read the GES launching investigations into these bus drivers and school authorities’ sheer negligence which led to maiming some pupils. In our part of the world, we do what is inspected instead of what is expected. So, I was never surprised when the Ministry of Education and the government thronged the funeral of the Jamra pupils. Coffins were provided for the families of the deceased pupils to bury their lost. I read somewhere on a news portal the government again footed the cost of the funeral. And this gesture, by government, will probably close the docket of someone’s sheer negligence leading to loss of innocent and precious lives. [caption id="attachment_41505" align="alignnone" width="564"] The Education Minister was at the hospital to visit victims on admission and attended the funeral of the dead[/caption] According to media reports, the chief of Breman Jamra had told the Jamra Methodist Primary School to take a critical look at the school’s building since it had cracks. Some other town folks had complained of the cracks too but all to no avail. That Tuesday’s disaster was as a result of collective negligence and a full scale investigation must get some people brought to book. Living in Africa is like being set before you a lion. The ability to escape it is an individual task. We have been terrorized enough by this ‘lion’ of some of our leaders shirking their responsibilities for far too long. This is the time to get serious. Every single life matters. If no one got punished for supervising the collapse of Kwadwo Njorfuni’s classroom wall, which killed and maimed pupils; that of six lives lost at Breman Jamra must not be brushed under the carpet. Nine months of our mothers and sisters bearing the weight of protruded bellies, waking up at night to breastfeed their babies and fathers throwing in cash for diapers and the likes must not just go waste in hands of some irresponsible folks.

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By Solomon Mensah The writer is a broadcast journalist with 3FM 92.7. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect 3FM’s editorial policy. Email: [email protected] ]]>