Is there equality of opportunity in Ghana’s educational system?

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 Source: Adede, Mercy Bolus

Providing equality of opportunity of education is not an option but a legal requirement for every country with a long-term vision. A country’s future economic backbone relies on education. This is because education provides children with opportunities to escape poverty, gain a voice in their community and experience a better quality of life. Yet world wide there are more than 120million children who are denied this opportunity.

In Ghana there seems to be many children from poorer families whose parents are unable to pay school fees or buy supplies. Many communities also lack suitable school building and qualified teachers. And families more than often need some input from their children on their farms and family-run business just to survive. If developed countries have reached that stage of offering child benefits to families why can’t a country like Ghana with vast natural resources offer a deal to all families offering fully financed form of education to all schools which would be equivalent to the form of education enjoyed in the 1960’s. The child benefit was introduced in 1798 and later stopped but reintroduced in 1909. What is stopping Ghana to address emulate this forward thinking attribute of Britain to eradicate child poverty from this angle and offer children and families a better chance in life.

Women in Ghana must campaign for financial assistance to all children as a form of social support to children and families. With discovery of oil in the country every child must be entitled to a child benefits to stop child labour activities. It is about time a child benefit is introduced in Ghana in the next Government manifesto for the 2012 election. This is not an option but a necessity to stop child maltreatment across Ghana. Ghana the Black Star must lead the way to ease the long term suffering of children and families.

Reasons are as follows:

Report on ghanaweb 5/7/11, stated that there are 23.3% of children engaged in the hazardous activities in various sectors. This revelation is not good enough. When is Ghana going to strictly implement the national child labour policy? What strategies has the Ministry of employment and social welfare adopted to put in place a monitor to review and evaluate mechanisms to support its implementation strategies?

According to a report on ghanaweb 6/7/11, which quoted the Education Minister, Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, that a total of five thousand schools hold classes under trees across the country should send shivers down the spine of concerned Ghanaians in the diaspora and calls for a redress in the system. The situation in these modern times when technological advancement in the western world has made it easier to teach children needs immediate attention and calls for readdressing our priorities. How long has Ghana been receiving the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and the rest from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) resources? Ghana has been receiving such funds since 2003. Where do children’s rights fall in this circumstances I may ask? Over the decades various Governments in Ghana failed Ghanaian children, and young people apart from our late President Kwame Nkrumah who himself saw the benefits of what education brings to the individual took drastic steps to ensure that most people had at least fee free education to university level. This enabled some people to escape from poverty and enjoy better lives

How could any Education Minister allow such a practice to go on thereby actually denying children their right of being educated in purposeful classes with well planned playgrounds?

Parents of these children are not only made powerless and voiceless but are also classified as under class in our adult controlled selfish environment. This why I have decided to devote my time, energy and skills as a specialist community practitioner to share my thoughts in their defence so that those in authority address this.

I would take up the Government to the appropriate authority if I were any parent of these children schooling under the trees across the country. Parents from this group are not empowered to act in this strategic route and go to UNICEF or Human rights with the breakdown of their bills on hospital bills etc incurred as a result of the negligence of a Government to provide a safe environment for children to learn.

How could a teacher teach in such an environment and feel happy to motivate his /her pupils knowing very well the impact of school on children at that relatively young age. I would like to suggest that the Education Minister take time off her busy schedule to experience what these children actually go through in a day.

The plight of these children and their teachers have been on going for so long simply because they are considered as coming from low class families therefore being educated under the trees was deemed acceptable by previous Education Ministers.

This is irresponsibility from the Education Ministry. . It appears the current Education Minster has been bold enough to speak out. .

I would also like to suggest that administrative officers from the Education Ministry must scan the internet to see if there are any issues of concerns affecting children so that they could work on them and not just dismiss the concerns of the general public.

Ghana is now 54 years since its independence yet a report from Ghana’s Education Minister indicated that over 5000 schools are under the tree learning. Since children have retentive memory it is vital that their formative years are carefully nurtured so that they grow up to be responsible citizens. What type of educational tier system do we place under the tree form of education? No poor parents should have to tolerate any more of under the tree education by 2012.

Is it rather pathetic and ironic that many Ministers are educating their own children in foreign schools when the majority of Ghana’s future leaders are being educated under the trees across the country. . The system even does not allow work experience for all teenagers age 15 to taste working life for just weeks as part of the school curriculum. What kind of education are we offering our children when they are competing with bright witty foreign students globally? The discovery of oil in the country poses even more challenges of finding the right people for the right jobs. Do we have the capability and capacity to cope with the demands of oil discovery as all kinds of expertise would be needed.

The Ministry of Education must wake up and address this imbalance and address the situation and not encourage receiving annual reports from heads of these under the tree form of schooling. We should all be accountable

I would also like to ask if nursery and primary school children have a form of health checks apart from immunisation programmes.

Are there any dental service health promotion programmes in nursery and primary schools in the country at all?

Are there any counselling and career advisers within school to help promote right choice of career for our youths?

Are there any school welfare officers in our schools or localities to ensure children’s welfare are focused due to the complex nature of out society?

What happens to children born with Down’s syndrome in Ghana and what strategies are in place in all our hospitals to ensure that these children reach their full potential, as their educational needs are complex? Is there a stalemating process in Ghana? This calls for an urgent need for the Ministry of Education to tackle these basic issues to ensure that these children are looked after in special schools with purposeful equipments to suit their needs. Are these group considered as under class in our society so there fore with no back up for their families or respite arrangements. Sadly families from these groups are not empowered because Ghana does not have a citizen’s advice offices to help its citizens when there is crisis of this nature.

Is there speech therapy training in Ghana for helping children who would need these services?

Is there engagement of parents and teachers regarding the progress of their children each term in all schools including the under the tree schools?

Is there dental service provision in schools as dental care is expensive? Is there a cheaper service available with hospital setting as we used to have in the past?

Is there sexual health promotion with the distribution of free condom in secondary schools?

Is there a drug, substance abuse and alcohol abuse health promotion in schools to raise awareness and stimulate positive life style in school and the media?

Is there an annual meeting between the community leaders, traditional priests, Church Ministers, general public, DCE and influential people in every community to identify the educational needs of their community? If the Education Minister and her cohorts do not communicate to these groups how can they then negotiate what that community needs?

Main issues of concerns:

The children of the well off in Ghana are privileged however don’t we live in a fool’s world if we do not invest in every child and give them the opportunity to reach their full potential?

This is why in the U.K; the Every Child Matters outcomes are the key areas every professional working with children & families, all statutory bodies and schools and Universities work with.

They have 5 clear outcomes:

Be healthy – Meaning there should be mechanisms to ensure children receive all their immunisation and health checks to allow them to be healthy.

Stay safe- Meaning ensuring child protection policy in place in all schools, the police service, churches and all recreational centres where children are involved. The child protection policies cover areas like physical abuse so beating of children is not acceptable,

Neglect for example: a Government allowing under the tree form of schooling when it is receiving money to eradicate this.

I am so pleased that this year the Education Minister was bold enough to report back to us and has acknowledged that “Under the tree” form of educational is no longer accepted by her Ministry and therefore would be eradicated across the country within her term in office. I would strongly recommend that this should be done within a 12 month period.

Clearly there is evidence that shows that educational achievement is the most effective route of getting out of poverty.

Columnist: Adede, Mercy Bolus