J. Keith Gboe, Vice Principal for Operations at the Quoikapor Elementary and Junior High School in Kokoya District, Upper Bong, was upbeat and overwhelmed with joy when he was informed in 2007 that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was spearheading a Kokoya Millennium Village Project (KMVP) that would ensure that the Quoikapor School is raised to modern standards.
Gboe’s high hopes have been squashed, as there are no signs that Quoikapor Elementary and Junior High School will be any better since the KMVP has proven a project deferred, if not failed.
The rural school Vice Principal divulged that in 2005, the REVOP, an NGO, built Quoikapor School with subvention from the UNDP. The school, he said, lacked the needed facilities for smooth academic operation. “But because of our love and passion for preparing the children of Quoikapor and adjacent villages to be future leaders, we decided to make do with the little facilities available”, Gboe explained.
He further asserted that “When UNDP came back in 2008 with the ambitious plan of upgrading the standard of the school and its teaching staff, we were more than thankful and certainly believed that a new day was dawning in the academic history of the Quoikapor School; behold we were wrong.”
Gboe, like Martha Daniels, Registrar of Tugbablee Elementary School, Michael Nyean, Instructor at the U-LAH Elementary and Junior High School and Morris Laykpdoe, Vice Principal for Administration at the Weseh Gardea Elementary and Junior High School in Botota, are all disappointed over the non-implementation of the attractive promises made by the UNDP-led Millennium Village project in the area of education.
In separate interviews with the Daily Observer, the three rural school instructors recounted numerous stories of poor learning environment and lack of incentives and sufficient teaching staff in the three schools listed as the main schools to be upscale and upgraded under the Millennium Village project.
These schools were slated to have been the pilot for the model of the quality of schools that are expected to be built in the follow-up Millennium Villages across the country.
Daily Observer later established that these promises were more or less a mirage and bluff as much as they were deceptive and far from what is now obtaining at those schools five years after the project was launched.
In its ambitious proposal and project blue print, the UNDP-KMVP inserted under Objective three that in order to ensure full primary school attendance, it will need the following programs: School meal program, School teacher housing construction, School Supplies and equipment and secondary school education.
According to the proposal, these program were expected to be rolled out over a five year period with a total cost of US$60,400 in year one; year two US$29,600; year three 4, 500, US$17,000 and US$11,000 respectively.
With that funding, the project would have constructed and rehabilitated primary schools, eliminate school fees for primary schools, recruit and train teachers, provide school meals for students, provide computer literacy program for students and construct vocational schools in Kokoya District.
By these interventions, the project promised to have transformed the learning environment of the school going age children of Kokoya Districts for the better and ignites a trickledown effect on the lives of the people and the micro economy of Kokoya District.
But five years after the wacky implementation of the project, instructional staff at the three targeted schools have told the Daily Observer that all the promises were practically not met and appears to be a mirage and a scam that have not been achieved in any sense of the word.
Daily Observer investigation established that at all of the three schools, there are no libraries, no laboratories, no training opportunities for teachers, and no supplies of school equipment. A further search revealed that there are no secondary school scholarship programs and no vocational school facilities constructed by the KMVP as projected in the proposal.
A cursory glance at the physical structures of U-LAH, Quoikapor and Botota schools in Kokoya Districts speaks of schools far in the back woods of the deep forest that lack all of the facilities that are appropriate for primary education and the preparation of a student population that is basically from rural poor family that can barely make ends meet on a daily basis.
Tugbahblee elementary school that was tipped to be turned into an educational oasis in the deep forest of Kokoya, has 320 students, six teachers and constructed in 2006. In spite of the attractive line up in the KMVP proposal, the Registrar, Martha Daniel, revealed that the school has no feeding program, and the students sit on pieces of cut rubber trees stumps as a result of the lack of benches.
The female registrar further asserted that, at the school, “there is no library, no reading room and some of the six grade students have not seen a computer since their academic sojourn. They have not seen a microscope nor do they have the appropriate stationery to facilitate learning. There is no computer program, no electricity power by solar panels and the hopes of the students’ remains in limbo”.
A youth activist, Samuel Blackie, described the situation in Kokoya as a fickle, saying, “what is obtaining at Tugbahblee and what is inserted in the proposal are diametrically opposed and there is a need to let the entire world know the hoax in the KMVP.”
The stories at the Wesseh Gardea Elementary and Junior High School in Botota and the Quoikapor Elementary and Junior High School are no different. The two schools, like U-LAH, selected as model of what all schools in the districts were supposed to be, following in line with the KMVP concept, shared commonality in the lacked of libraries, laboratories, internet facilitates, school feeding programs and score of hapless students and an underpaid teaching staff.
In fact, the Daily Observer team noticed that there are no drinking water facilities at both Botota and Quopikapor. At Quoikapor for example, the Vice Principal for Instructions, J. Keith Gboe did not mince words in asserting that, there is no latrine , no play ground, no reading room and the 249 students may go through junior high school without known how a desktop computer looks like.
Gboe, sounded downbeat, when he intoned that there are only five teachers and although they were made to understand that they would have operated a night section, the lack of electricity, power by solar panel, has inhibited the running of a night adult literacy section since 2008.
It was the Vice Principal for Administration at the Wesseh Elementary and Junior High School in Botota, Morris Laykpdoe who expressed the frustration of the citizenry of Kokoya District when he narrated how contrary to the project blue print, not a single vocational school has been built in the entire Kokoya District.
The now disappointed rural instructor said, he and the District authorities do not know of a single student who has been given academic scholarship under the KMVP high sounding program for transitioning students from Kokoya rural school system to the high school in the urban setting.
A youth activist in Quoikapor, a border town with Nimba county, Peterson Toby, expressed his indignation over the apparent failure of the implementation of the Computer Literacy program propose in the project. “Since they promised to have introduced training in the three schools as a pilot project, they have not brought in one computer or a mouse”.
As for the construction of a teaching staff quarters at the three schools, the Develop0ment Superintendent of Kokoya Statutory District, Theophilus N. Mulbah, said, after the project was taken over by the Ministry Of Internal Affairs in 2013, The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) embarked on the project of building a staff quarter for the Wesseh Gardea Elementary and Junior High school in Botota.
However, Vice Principal Laykpdoe of the Wesseh Gardea school in Botota was quick to point to the Daily Observer that what is being described as a staff quarters is a four bed room house.
It can be recalled that in the blue print of the project it was proposed under Objective three that the project will construct and rehabilitate primary schools in the District and eliminate school fees for primary school for all children in the village; provides meals for students with locally produced and nutritional balance foods.
In its ambitious overtone, the project KMVP promised to eliminate gender disparity in school attendance, promote computer literacy, provide secondary school going students from Kokoya with scholarship and establish vocational education by building polytechnic and other vocational institution.
But five years after these lofty promises were embedded in the proposal, what the Daily Observer team uncovered in Kokoya can best be described as a mirage. There is no sign of a vocational schools in the offing and the views of our character interviewees supra on the myriad of failed in the area of education seems to be hard to counter. Stay Tune.