When the Ministry of Education set up a resolution centre at the Bediako Conference Room of the GNAT Hall in Accra, it was meant to address anomalies and mistakes in the placement of students into senior high schools.
Investigations by The Fourth Estate, however, revealed that the GNAT Hall had been turned into a market where placements into top senior high schools could be bought like commodities. Top officials linked to the placement executed their trade through a network of intermediaries, mostly security guards and cleaners at the GNAT Hall.
It was easy to mistake them for scammers blowing hot air about their connections, but, as our investigation revealed, a cleaner who took your money at the GNAT Hall was capable of placing a student you presented in a school which only two top officials in Ghana’s educational system–the Minister of Education and the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES)–had the password to effect such placements.
Parents who paid and got their wards placed in the country’s top and well-resourced schools were unwilling to cooperate with us on this story, so we went undercover to ascertain the veracity of the allegations.
At the GNAT Hall, we found a parent who wanted her ward’s school changed from Apam Senior High School, a category B school to Mfantsiman Senior High School, a category A school. She, however, had no money to pay the amount the placement officials, through their intermediaries, were demanding.
We spotted a neatly dressed security man who was about to deliver a brown envelope to a man and his daughter outside the GNAT Hall. We approached him and asked if he could help us with placement into a top secondary school.
“I can help you, but it’s money. You have to pay,” he said.
We agreed and asked to be introduced to the individuals involved.
This security man, who we later got to know as Isaac Adorkor, led us to a seat near one of the conference halls at the GNAT Hall.
After about forty-five minutes of waiting, a man in a bright-blue shirt with “UAS Specialist Cleaning Services” embossed on the left breast appeared. We later got to know his name as Eric Aggrey, a janitor at the GNAT Hall.
He made a call after a short conversation with us and informed a supposed Ghana Education Service (GES) staff, whose phone number he saved as Biggie, of our need for a placement.
When the call ended, Eric told us Biggie’s charges were too high, but he had another person who could be trusted. He later called one Rachel, who he said could help.
“Wesley Girls is GHS10,000 but Mfantsiman is GHS 7,000,” he told.
He assured us that he could lead us to Rachel’s house should she renege on her promise to secure the placement we needed.
Eric said aside from being a staffer at the Ministry of Education, Rachel worked with the Education Minister’s secretary. Rachel also made this claim, but when we pushed for evidence, she could not prove it.
Eric charged GHS 7,000 to change the placement of our student from Apam Senior High to Mfantsiman Girls Senior High School.
When the money was ready, he said Rachel had changed her mind. Rachel demanded GHS8,500 and ended the call when we asked for a reduction.
After several pleas, Eric, Rachel’s middleman, eventually settled on GHS 7,500 to change placement from Apam Senior High School to Mfantsiman Girls Senior High School.
When the placement was delayed and we called Eric for answers, he introduced us to a man he said was called Nathaniel to reassure us that the placement would be effected.
Our investigations would later reveal his true identity to be Simon Bessa Aggrey, Eric’s younger brother, a deacon of the Apostolic church, Kwashieman, last stop branch.
Simon revealed that the student had already enrolled in Apam Senior High School, and it would be difficult for the placement to be changed.
Due to the difficulty we encountered in changing the placement of the student who had already enrolled, we presented another student who wanted her placement changed from Accra Wesley Girls’ High School in Kaneshie, Accra, to Aggrey Memorial AME Zion Senior High School in Cape Coast.
Her parents wanted her placed in a school in Cape Coast, closer to Takoradi where the family lived. She had not selected Aggrey Memorial as part of the six schools during the school selection process. But when we contacted Eric, he assured us that he could make the change.
He charged an extra GHS 1,000 to top up the GHS 7,500 he had demanded to change the placement to Mfantsiman Girls. The reporter agreed to pay only after the change was made.
In less than 24 hours, Eric made the change.
At 9:16 am on Tuesday, April 12, the student’s phone beeped. It was a congratulatory message from Aggrey Memorial Senior High School and a directive on her registration.
According to officials of the school placement system, schools like Aggrey Memorial, KSTS and Ghana National are more sought-after than some category A schools.