Our current project involves the construction of a school in the village of Damang in Ghana’s Eastern Region. It’s only 50 km from Accra, but the access is difficult, roads are bad and in order to reach it you have to take shared taxis or vans and do some walking. The locals are mainly farmers, literacy is very low and most of the parents have not attended any school themselves.The area currently possesses only one school for the children of the village and the many smaller surrounding communities but it is severely over capacity and lacking quality teaching staff. With conditions that are far from ideal, the level of education and social skills that the children are getting is much lower than expected. The new school – which will consist of an early childhood center and a primary and secondary school, accommodating a total of 560 children – would represent a huge step forward in this regard; it would also set a higher learning standard and provide equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.
Everything is done in collaboration with the local NGO – Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA), who are the owners of the land, but in need of technical and financial help. The preliminary project, a detailed budget plan and the construction schedule are already complete. In January 2016., a part of the team spent a month in Ghana doing research on construction materials and potential partners.
In the words of Hayford Siaw, founder of the VPWA:
“…public school exists in the village but it is unable to absorb all the children. There are other tiny villages surrounding the location and children from all these neighboring communities look up to the only public school for education. Our school is not to compete with the existing school but to complement the work of providing education to the many children. Existing public school have some of its classroom accommodating more than 70 children. This definitely does not augur well for quality education. We will partner with other local schools to share resources and improve on education in the entire village and its environs. Because they are public schools, it is difficult for private organizations like ours to have direct influence in areas of teacher performance measurement and supervision. This is what makes the private schools better off than public schools.”
Early childhood education has many benefits. The children learn at more accelerated rates and are more likely to continue their education through primary, secondary and college level schooling, potentially experiencing greater success and higher earnings during their careers. In rural Ghana, most parents do not have an opportunity to send their children to such centers which leads to a perpetual cycle of poverty in these communities. Children in rural Ghana tend to perform poorly in education due to weak formative years. It is no surprise that it’s been proven that children in more nurturing childcare settings have a greater language ability, warmer relationships with their teachers, and more advanced social skills than children who do not receive such attention. In contrast, children who do not benefit from a stimulating childcare environment have been found to be delayed in language and reading skills, and display more aggression toward other children and adults. Ghana’s youth literacy rate is currently estimated at around 86% (Unicef data) and has been rising significantly in the last 10 years. Still, over 400,000 Ghanaian children of school going age are still out of school.
Although all the way back in 2007 Ghanaian government made kindergarten (KG) education for 4 and 5 year old children compulsory and has since then issued a program how to scale-up KG education, this sector is still facing many difficulties. Statistics don’t seem that bad at first with a 98, 4% gross KG enrollment rate, but the truth is that 40% of those kids (over half a million) are above the KG age and therefore don’t receive education appropriate to their age. Still, much bigger problems are inadequate and insufficient teaching staff and the lack of quality school facilities. As always, there’s never enough funding to make all the necessary adjustments. Since the KG education is a work in progress, the importance of nurseries for younger children (0-3) is not even being addressed.
Here are some numbers and facts about the education in the Eastern region via ghanadistricts.com (sponsored by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development).
Only two-thirds (63.6%) of the population aged 15 years and older are literate, 46.4% are literate in both English and a Ghanaian language. The level of literacy is higher for males (74%) than for females (54%). Of a population of 1,739,535, aged six years and older in the region, 30.6% have never attended school. The proportion with middle or JSS education is around 30%, 26% have primary education and only 2% have reached the tertiary level. Again stats differ between males and females with 37% percent of females not attending school at all. Of the total enrollment number (513,068 students), in all the schools in the region, 62% are at the primary level, 23% at the Junior Secondary School and only 7% at the Senior Secondary School levels. It becomes immediately clear that there are serious distortions at the various levels. Should all the pupils at the primary schools qualify to enroll in the Junior Secondary Schools; the existing schools at the JSS level should run 3 shifts a day to accommodate them.
This attests not only to the stiff competition present in order to get in to secondary school, but clearly shows a significant proportion of students terminate their education at the primary and JSS levels. The pattern of pupils/students, in the lower grades, competing for fewer places at the higher levels is reflected in all the districts. The differences are that there are better opportunities for those districts, which have more social amenities.