A coalition of civil society organisations on mining in Ghana, is urging the Ministry of Education and the Talensi District Assembly to immediately step in to ensure that the academic future and lives of over 129 pupils of St. Anthony Roman Catholic Primary School in Gbani is protected.
Gbani, a mining community in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region, is host to many illegal (galamsey) mining activities operating alongside a Chinese medium scale mining company called Shanxi.
Unfortunately, the concessions of Shanxi Mining Company Limited include the land of the only public basic school in Gbani, St. Anthony R/C Primary– and their activities per Savannahews investigations, are so far having serious negative impact on academic work.
For instance, the machines used by the Chinese company make excessive noise and according to pupils of the school, this disturbs them and their teachers as they are unable to concentrate fully when classes are in session.
The National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) based in Accra– and their local partners Zasilari Ecological Farms Project (ZEFP) and Tuona Pogaba Women (TUPACO) in the Northern Region are currently leading the charge to ensure that the school is immediately relocated to a safe environment for effective teaching and learning.
Issifu Sulemana Jobila who represents ZEFP told Savannahnews in an interview that, the coalition has been engaging with various stakeholders including officials of the Talensi District Assembly, inhabitants of Gbani and Shanxi to ensure that the interest of the innocent pupils are served.
He said: “The situation currently does not provide a safe and conducive environment for children to learn. Aside St. Anthony School, there is another private school, Bonsa International– that is also in a similar situation. No one knows when disaster will strike and so, we civil society members are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the right thing is done about these schools”.
Giving the urgency and the seriousness of the problem, “we therefore call for the immediate relocation of the schools particularly the children of poor parents who are being exposed to flying rocks, noise, dust, and smoke as a result of blasting carried out by the Chinese as well as the illegal miners as we’re told”, Issifu stated.
However, further checks by Savannahnews uncovered that, there had been plans to actually relocate St. Anthony School but the process stalled due to a legal dispute instituted by Bismark Zumah, Assemblyman of Gbani over who is the rightful owner of the school land and therefore deserve compensation from Shanxi.
When contacted, Mr. Zumah confirmed that he was actually in court to fight for the rights of the people of his community because Shanxi is trespassing on the community’s land and mining in areas that are not part of their legally acquired concession (s).
According to him, where St. Anthony R/C Primary is located is not part of the concession(s) acquired by Shanxi saying “If Shanxi actually had the community at heart, they would have first build a new school for the people before they started mining and that would have prevented the legal action against them”, he added.
A Human Resource Manager of Shanxi Joseph Anokye in sharing his personal views with the paper confirmed that, the relocation of the school delayed due to the dispute in court. “The case was first sent to the magistrate court in Bolgatanga and Shanxi won. The plaintiff….Assemblyman was not satisfied with the judgement given and decided to send the matter to the Appeals Court in Tamale. Judgement will be given on May 26, 2014”, he added.
According to him, Shanxi is ready to build a whole new school with modern facilities to replace the current St. Anthony immediately a piece of land is allocated for such purpose, adding “Shanxi has so far sunk 10 boreholes for Gbani, donated 70 desktop computers to some government institutions and 114 classroom furniture to St. Anthony School”, Mr. Anokye disclosed.
Most of the problems highlighted by the coalition, Mr. Anokye blamed it on the illegal miners. “They are made up of people who are illiterate and so, they lack the expertise to use explosives. They blast anyhow and that causes the severe tremor, smoke and dust emissions which their own people are complaining about,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Assemblyman for Gbani refuted claims by Shanxi that it had sunk ten boreholes in the community and challenged officials of the company to show inhabitants where each of those boreholes are located.