A Watershed in girls? education in Ghana

Thu, 4 May 2006 Source: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

How Akosua Boateng (Shannan McGee) wants to use modern Technology to empower girls in the land of her ancestors.

Education in Ghana is now a lottery and the poor, especially the rural girls and girls living with relatives, as ?house girls? in the urban areas are the most discriminated against.

One person who wants to change the way girls are educated in Ghana is Shannan Akosua Boateng McGee.

Although Akosua was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, however, since her teens she has always wanted to do something to uplift the image of her motherland. That opportunity came Shannan?s way in the early 1990s when she visited her native Ghana for the first time on vacation from her busy work schedule in Atlanta.

As someone who has been interested in girls in inner cities? education in Atlanta, Georgia, Shannan became disturbed at the number of girls being failed by the educational system in Ghana. Until the late 1970s education policy in Ghana was fairly successful, though most lack modern equipment. Shannan saw the opportunity to do something positive that would have great impact in girls? education in Ghana.

Soon after independence, Dr Nkrumah gave opportunity to a whole generation of Ghanaian children to be educated, and girls in particular benefited most. Girls? educational institutions up and down the country became seats of academic excellence. Aburi Girls, St Louis Girls Schools in Takoradi and Kumasi, Accra Girls, Wesley Girls School, Holy Child, Infantisman Girls and others came to the fore with their high academic standards. Ghana?s premier university, University of Ghana, Legon, had an all female hall of residence, the Volta Hall, where girls excel in different disciplines. Dr Nkrumah?s overthrown in 1966 halted his educational expansion.

In the 1970s, misplaced economic policies tied to lending by the IMF; the World Bank and other financial institutions led to huge debt by African countries.

In the early 1980s, also known as the ?Lost Decade? as results of Africa?s massive debt to IMF, the World Bank and most Western countries and financial institutions, African countries including Ghana adopted the Bank/Fund Structural Adjustment programs. Ghana was the first African country to adopt all the Structural policies presented to her by the Bretton Woods Institutions in its totality. This period also witnessed massive capital and skill flight from Africa. Countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia lost all their professionals due to the civil war. Ghana was the only country in Africa that lost most of her professionals. It was also around this period (1983) that Ghanaians who have been living in neighbouring countries for generations were expelled to the motherland. Ghana, once the pride of sub-Saharan Africa and an aid donor to the most African countries in the 1960s and refuge for freedom fighters was brought down to her kneels.

Education and Primary Health Care took the greatest impact of the Bank/Fund Structural Adjustment Policies in Ghana.

The Ghanaian government was forced to shift financial resources away from priority social sectors such as education and health to servicing debt. User fees were introduced in education and health sectors. The impact on the poor and girls in particular was marked.

Access to education for the poor became elusive and the reforms that were introduced in the 1980s and government cut back in funding exacerbated this.

At the micro level, most families began to cut back on their household expenditure. The first casualty on a typical household expenditure was a school fee. Girls were withdrawn from school to save household income. Also as the HIV/AID pandemic kill the breadwinners, girls are forced to withdraw from school to look after male siblings.

Due to the matrimonial lineage in southern Ghana, mostly among the Akan speaking people the education of boys are given prominence over girls. Thus generation of girls were denied education. Most were sent to live with relatives in the big cities and towns, serving as ?house girls?.

It was in the light of this disadvantages against girls and the technological gap between boys and girls that Shannan Akosua Boateng McGee decided to set up a school to educate girls in her motherland. Working tirelessly with other professionals, academics and educators she set up the first Girls Institute of Science and Technology in Ashiaman, Tema.

The Girls Institute of Science and Technology aims to empower Ghanaian women to achieve high academic standards in science and technology and as well as help in the socio-economic development in Ghana. The role of women in Ghanaian society is legendary. In Akosua?s native tribe of Asanti, Queen mothers play an important role in the selection of kings. Poignantly, the school has a quote of the famous Yaa Asantewaa as its motto: ?I shall call upon the women?..we will go forward?.

This quote was the driving force behind Shannan Akosua Boateng McGee?s quest to use technology to help empower the womenfolk of her native Ghana in the 21st Century.

On sustainable development, which is the cornerstone of the country?s drive for poverty eradication and economic development, this is what the school has to say:

?The Girls Institute of Science and Technology is the first model school in Ghana with a curriculum specifically designed to engender engineering, communication, health and science industries in Ghana. The Girls Institute of Science and Technology is fully committed to work towards the social and economic aspects of Sustainable Development in Ghana?

The Girls Institute of Science and Technology would be offering the following core subjects, Linguistics and Technology Integrated Science Math and Entrepreneurship Global Studies African Aesthetics .

By 2010, Akosua wants to Girls Institute of Science and Technology established in every region of the country. Like Nana Yaa Asantewaa did in last century, Shannan Akosua Boateng McGee, another great daughter of Ghana and of the Ashanti Kingdom is taking up arms (21st Century Technology) to empower the womenfolk of her native Ghana.

Almost 49 years to the day that Dr Kwame Nkrumah made his famous independence speech at the old Polo Grounds in Accra when he declared: ?We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity?.we again rededicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate our countries in Africa; For our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent?. And 43 years that Dr Martin Luther King Junior made his famous ?I have a Dream? speech Shannan Akosua Boateng McGee has taken up the challenge thrown by these great sons of Africa to emancipate the womenfolk of her motherland, Ghana.

Akosua Boateng?s efforts to education girls in her motherland must be supported and encourage by all Ghanaians in Diaspora and home. The school?s web site is http://www.thegirlsinstitute.com

Akosua says, ? God asks no man whether to choose life, for you must. The only choice is how??????? Dream Big! And Shannan Akosua Boateng McGee is living that dream.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

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