The Executive Director of Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch), Kofi Asare, has called on the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ministry of Education (MoE) to consider the construction of fit-for-purpose wooden structures as classroom facilities to make up for the over 540,000 basic schools under trees across the country.
The deployment of wooden structures as alternative infrastructure in the country, he said, is cost-effective because the country is very endowed with quality wood as raw material needed for these projects; and secondly, these infrastructure deficits are mainly in the remotes area where the wood is readily available, hence, less transportation and other value chain expenses compared to bricks and stones.
Recent assessments of the educational sector by policy research and advocacy civil society organisation (CSO), SEND Ghana, indicated that there are an estimated 5,403 schools in critical need of a facelift at the basic level.
This, the CSO mentioned, would require a minimum of GH₵3.5billion to fix the sector’s infrastructural gap.
However, with the increasing cost of building materials – such as skyrocketing price of cement, iron rods, roofing sheets, among others – the CSO believes that the aforementioned amount might have doubled or tripled, hence, the need for government to consider alternatives infrastructure as is being done in other countries.
According to him, countries such as Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Malawi are good case studies of how wooden structures can be used effectively to address the infrastructure gap in the basic education space and beyond.
Mr. Asare, expressing his opinion on the deficit situation at the moment, said: “The cost of a six-unit primary school building is nearing GH₵700,000. Even as the infrastructure deficit widens into several thousands, cement price is nearing GH₵100 per bag. Majority of the deficit is in rural Ghana, where wood is very common.
Apart from being cheaper than cement buildings, wooden schools – when purposively designed and constructed by certified craftsmen – can be aesthetic, durable and beautiful.”
He called for a collaboration between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) Forest Research Institute (FORIG), Architect Council, Wood Industry Training Centre (WITC), Forestry Commission, and the Ministry of Education to design beautiful, cost-effective basic school buildings (not pavilions) using durable, vernacular resources like rosewood, Odum, bamboo, etc.
Eduwatch believes that the efficient execution of this partnership and alternative infrastructure means would be a good avenue to not only address the infrastructure gap in the country, but also create jobs for the youth, add value to raw materials, and serve as import substitution commodities.