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Fri, 10 Oct 2003 Source: GNA

Attaining Quality Education In Rural Deprived Communities

Ghana News Agency Feature, by Ms Josephine Naaeke

Accra Oct 27, GNA - Attaining quality education in rural and deprived areas of the country is the hope and expectation of the people living in those areas. The few schools that exist in rural communities are faced with problems of finance, instruction material and infrastructure. Churches played their part in the building of schools, described as well endowed and disciplined schools. Government subsidised the running of these schools, which had limited student population at the time. The expansion of education in post independence era has also brought with it other numerous problems, including increased demand for teachers and other logistics. Ghana's Educational Sector suffered a lot of setbacks, particularly during the mid 1970's when most of the country's good crop of teachers left the shores of the country to seek greener pastures in Europe and Nigeria.

A number of the educational institutions were left to deteriorate and rural communities were the most affected by the problems that rocked the country. A Canadian Volunteer, Mr Jaya Murthy after his service in Ghana said, "working at the field level in rural deprived communities has painfully elucidated my understanding of the gap between the developed and the developing worlds. "Visiting schools, with dilapidated structures (made of clay with un-screeded floors and without roofs), unkempt surroundings, malnourished children has made me to realise the comparative advantage of my educational upbringing in electricity powered buildings, an abundance of academic resources, well developed sporting, music and art facilities." Given these poor conditions, it is no wonder that teachers refuse postings to these schools. The absence of good schools in the rural areas to some extent fuels the rural-urban drift as parents would want to send their children to the few good schools in the urban centres. Various committees have been set up in the past to look at the educational situation and to recommend reforms. These committees included the Dzobo Committee and Evans Anfom Committee.

In addition to this, many organisations continue to hold workshops, seminars and conferences on education in a bid to sensitise and update education workers and students to enable them to effectively carry out their work to enhance the quality of education and improve students' performance. However, the impact of these workshops has not reflected on the examination results of students, especially those in the rural communities. To handle the educational problems in this country, the Government has appointed a Minister of State in-charge of Basic, Secondary and Girl-Child Education and another for Tertiary Education in addition to the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports. In addition to Government's efforts to achieve quality education for all by the year 2015, as envisaged by the international community, non-governmental organisations like the Orlinga Foundation for Human Development have started training activities at the grassroots level in schools in some rural communities to ensure that school children stayed in schools.

The Foundation, which started operation in 2000, also aims at releasing the human potential through the promotion of universal education, especially for girls and women. It also assists school leavers to build the capacity of community based organisations for achieving higher degrees of human development and to assist individuals and organisations to investigate, identify and overcome socio-cultural barriers to development.

It also helps to train grassroots organisations in areas like project planning and management and education programmes which promote life-long learning. It acts as a storehouse of information to assist rural people with their programmes of action in the field of agricultural development and income generation. It is commendable that focus is shifting towards educational opportunities that promoted the enhancement of rural livelihoods so that parents would not withdraw children from schools because of high school fees. Due to the decline of white colour jobs, it is important to pursue programmes that could empower the people to be economically independent. Provision of information to rural people about the availability of resources at the district and national levels are the keys to the success of such attempts. The operation of the Ghana Education Trust Fund has brought relief to most schools, especially those in the rural areas that did not have any other source of funding apart from the Central Government.

Mention must also be made of government's policy of up-grading a number of schools to first class standard, all in an attempt to bridge the gap between schools and help maintain students in their districts. In a chat with Mrs Leslie Caseley Hayford, a Development Consultant, she noted that empowerment required participation with knowledge of socio-cultural barriers to development. She also emphasized the need for community based learning and investigation into conditions, which prevent people's full development. "The cries of our children, brothers and sisters, who walk long distances and sit on floors of dilapidated classrooms, the poor needy girl-child, who is willing to go to school should be heeded. Some of these children, through no fault of theirs, end up in the streets.

This should be halted. Government needs your ideas, views and help to combat this social problem." Halting this would mean the acceptance and adoption of new and innovative educational programmes that would assist the individual and communities to apply moral principles for the solution of socio-economic problems through a process of consultation, action and reflection. 27 Oct. 03

Columnist: GNA