They were born on the same day and shared a school uniform for a year but they are not Siamese twins, just twins who have had a lot of pain and deprivation thrown at them because theirs is a broken home.
Pushed to the wall by destitution, their academic performance suffered and, in the end, one of them had to drop out of school.
With their parents at each other’s throat, resulting in a separation, the two girls had to fend for themselves.
Irene Panyin Amoah and Irene Kakra Amoah, the two teenage twins of Twifo Praso in the Central Region of Ghana, had to sell soft drinks and sachet water and wash plates for food vendors to get by.
It was 1.30 p.m. when The Mirror team arrived in the quiet farming community last Wednesday to listen to their tales of hustle.
It was almost closing time at the Twifo Praso Methodist Primary School and lines were hurriedly formed on the grassy and dusty school compound in an assembly to end the school day.
Kakra walked out of her Class Six classroom in the company of her teacher, Mr John Wesley Ofosu, who said Kakra’s performance was very poor because she was not punctual in school.
At a point, Kakra and her elder sister dropped out of school because of financial difficulties, but Kakra returned because a Good Samaritan, a food vendor, had taken her in.
Her sister had not been so lucky.
Mr Ofosu said Kakra had to repeat her class.
“In Class Six, there are basic things she should know, but she is struggling with them. The good thing is that she’s so determined to learn. With the right tuition and time for her, she can make it. In class, even if others raise their hands, I give her the opportunity to answer questions, so that she can build her confidence,” he said.
He said he believed that domestic issues were to blame for Kakra’s performance.
Kakra agreed. As her mates closed from the afternoon assembly, she pointed to the Twifo Praso D/A A&B Junior High School (JHS) as her sister’s school.
Panyin had, however, dropped out at the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year to be with her mother on a farm at Damang, a few minutes’ drive from Twifo Praso.
Days of hardship
Wearing a yellow uniform, with blue strips at the waist and neck, Kakra launched into their struggles.
According to her, when their parents split up, the twins were left to struggle and fend for themselves. She said the situation got so bad that for a whole year when she was in Class Five and her sister in Class Six, they had to share a school uniform.
“My school uniform was torn and so we had to share my sister’s. Our school ran a shift and so when I went to school in the morning and returned around 12 noon, my sister went in the afternoon.
“We washed the uniform in the evening when it was dirty. Because of that, we didn’t play much,” she said.
Kakra said while she had overcome their parents’ break up, she wished they were still together.
With the food vendor, Madam Fati, now taking care of her, Kakra said her daily routine was to sweep in the morning before going to school, adding that when she returned from school, she helped to prepare the food to be sold.
“By 6 p.m. the food is sent to the roadside and Aunty Fati would insist that I go home and study. I try hard to study until I fall asleep,” she said, smiling.
Within two hours, Kakra had changed her future aspiration from being a police officer to being a hairdresser.
But she was upbeat about completing school and becoming what she described as a “big woman” because she admired women who drove their own cars.
“I really want to go to school. I love school and I want to complete school. I want to drive my own car too,” she added with a smile.
At 16, and with most of her age group in senior high school, Kakra said she would not give up, even though things were tough.
Madam Fati, who sells rice and stew near the Twifo Praso Market, described Kakra as “humble, hardworking and very passionate about school”.
“I can’t say much about her sister because she is not very close to me. She came to me on a few occasions but Kakra always came to me when they were living on their own.
“It is the reason I went to look for her and insisted she go back to school when the two of them dropped out,” she added while busily chopping onions.
A struggling twin
Panyin’s performance was no different from Kakra’s when The Mirror went to the Twifo Praso D/A A& B JHS, which is on the same compound as the Twifo Praso Methodist Primary School.
There, the Headmaster, Mr Victor Emeka, confirmed that Panyin had quit school.
Going through the class attendance register for the 2015/2016 academic year, he said out of the 75 schooldays in the first term, Panyin was in class 50 days. In the second term, she was in class 43 days out of 64, and in the third term she was in class for 55 days.
Absenteeism took its toll on Panyin’s academic performance, which resulted in poor results in her examinations, as she placed beyond the 40th position in almost all the subjects, out of a class of 45 pupils.
Mr Emeka said when Panyin dropped out of school, her father came with her to make a case for her return, and the father gave an assurance that she would return but she never did.
“From what we understand, it was because of domestic issues that she didn’t return. It is not our business to interfere in that. Our main concern is to help our pupils. We have tried to reach out to the parents but it did not work.
“As a headmaster, I believe all our pupils are not on the same level and so the least we can do is give all of them a chance, but it looks like domestic issues are affecting her badly,” he explained.
Panyin, who spoke to The Mirror on telephone, cried throughout the interview.
Faced with poor academic performance, a broken home and financial difficulties, she said, she had to stop school because there were times when neither parent could afford to buy her needs, including books and sanitary pads.
“I got tired of everything and stopped school,” she said while sobbing.
Panyin said she wished her parents could be together, as her mother had taken to drinking because of the separation.
“I want to be in school but because of the financial situation at home, I can’t. I now help my mother on the farm,” she added.
When contacted, the Twifo Ati-Morkwa District Director of Education, Mr Amos Kwansah Hammond, observed that parental neglect was one of the challenges affecting education in the district.
“I try to engage parents at all parent/teacher association meetings to encourage them to support their children’s education. This is because there are some parents who would not buy even pencils for their children because they have heard about free education,” he noted.