President John Dramani Mahama did the unexpected during his recent tour of the Upper East region when he on his own accord lay on a student mattress inside a new boys’ hostel. And the authorities of the Fumbisi Senior High Agric School in the Builsa South District, where Starr News captured the surprise, are considering making more than just a memorial out of what the president did.
The hostel was among a number of projects the president commissioned and inspected during a two-day tour that also saw him cut the sod for work to begin on the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom Road and the Tamne Irrigation Dam in the Garu-Tempane District among others.
The president, moments after he had commissioned the hostel block, took a walk into one of the rooms which were already stuffed with bunk beds, accompanied by traditional chiefs and government officials. And in what is perhaps the first time in recorded history that a Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces has laid on a student mattress, the president sat on the edge of a metal bedstead for about 10 seconds and, then, curled up into a foetus position on a cushion with neither a pillow nor a bedspread.
Applause greets surprise
Applause greeted the surprise from those who saw it as the president lay down, wearing his trademark smile and dark spectacles, in a display that lasted about 40 seconds.
“We have not given that dormitory a name yet. I will propose the name of the president in our next board meeting. We are very happy about what has transpired. And I was just joking with some of the staff that the first-year student who is likely to lie on that bed may be a future president,” the headmaster of the school, Francis Adajagsa, told Starr News.
But it is yet uncertain if any student will ever use that mattress from the next academic year when the 250-bed dormitory block will be occupied for the first time. This is because the headmaster also did indicate in his interaction with Starr News that the school might withdraw the mattress from the dormitory and keep it as a token of remembrance.
Apaak celebrated, Azong unrecognized
The headmaster may have ruffled some feathers whilst celebrating on behalf of the school what he described as “fair share of projects”.
Mr. Adajagsa, who looked overjoyed for his school being the only secondary school in the region to host the president throughout that tour, appeared to be equally over the moon as he was also privileged to sit next to the president on a red-carpeted dais that held about 15 people.
Among the notable government officials on the dais with the president were the Minister of Communications, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, the Head of the Citizens’ Complaints Unit and parliamentary candidate of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak as well as the Member of Parliament for Builsa South and Minister of State at the Presidency, Alhassan Azong.
Welcoming the crowd, the headmaster singled out Dr. Clement Apaak for a shower of praise he said he deserved for the role he reportedly played in the infrastructural growth the school had seen recently.
“I’m happy to inform you that the school has received its fair share of projects which with the help of our son, Dr. Clement Apaak, has increased access to secondary education in the last two years. And we have witnessed massive infrastructural development in that area,” the headmaster said, as Mr. Azong, wearing a smock and sitting two rows behind the president, bowed his head and turned his eyes to and fro in attentive silence.
The projects mentioned are still under construction and they include a 2-storey administrative block with a library and an ICT laboratory, a 2-storey boys’ dormitory, a 1-storey girls’ dormitory, a dining hall complex with a kitchen and a 4-unit staff quarters.
Why Azong was not mentioned
Reasons for the omission were not immediately known as the MP maintained his silence even after the headmaster had finished with an address that took about 4 minutes.
But many believed it may have been induced by earlier protests staged by an angry group believed to be NDC youths who could be heard all over the place with placards, openly questioning the involvement of Mr. Azong, who is a member of the People’s National Convention (PNC), in the NDC Government.
The omission obviously was not to say the MP had not done anything for the development of his area, but, as observable facts suggest, it was only a smart posture employed by the headmaster to prevent further protests from turning the school’s rapture into ruin.
Dr. Apaak, who is in a tight race against Mr. Azong for the seat as the 2016 polls near, may not care much who rejects his political opponent. After all, the open rejection his rival suffered, and the baffling omission that followed soon after, would mean nothing else for him but a boosted approval, especially from the voting public.
Wild jubilations as Mahama promises tractor
At the core of the headmaster’s speech was a unanimous desire for one of the major assets that define the identity and also awaken the potential of any agricultural school. A tractor. And the school’s head did not fail to ask for it.
The school has a vast parcel of land reserved for farming and said to require at least one tractor to boost up food production to a level where the institution can rely on harvests sold to generate internal funds.
“Your Excellency, like Oliver Twist, we wish to state that we shall be grateful if you could help us with a tractor to enhance our performance as an agricultural school. We equally appeal for a bus to facilitate movement of staff and students for competitions and field trips,” the headmaster requested in front of an electrified crowd of teachers, students and members of the surrounding communities many of whom said they had not seen the president face to face until that day.
In response, President Mahama, who extolled the school as gender-friendly because it has an encouraging number of female students with 740 girls and 690 boys, promised to satisfy the tractor proposal.
“Let me commend your headmaster. I’m proud of this school and I’ve acceded to his request. I’m going to ask the Minister of Food and Agriculture to donate an agricultural tractor to your school,” the president announced, as loud cheers and applause from the crowd, punctuated with the blowing of vuvuzelas, trailed the assurance.
It was an unrestrained rhapsody in the crowd soon again when the president threw a challenge back at the school as he added with laughter: “And I will come myself at the end of the harvest season to see what you’ve been able to do with the tractor.”