Monday, December 20, 2010
PROMOTING EDUCATION IN THE RURAL AREAS OF GHANA; A DEVELOPMENT DILEMMA OR PARADOX
I cannot stop but think about how education is being developed in Ghana. Severally, I have hesitated to write this article but I guess I can’t hesitate anymore but write out the issue bordering my mind. This is but the beginning of a series of discussions on “Promoting Rural Education in Ghana”. The past three months or more has seen several issues emerging in the educational sector and whether politicians are subjecting the development of this sector to their whims and caprices. My concern began with the inception of Joy FM’s “Read One Hundred Programme”. In addition, the “Spelling Bee”, the SHS problem and currently the issue of child labour in cocoa growing areas in Ghana which I am now preview to have all motivated me to present my views on the educational sector particularly in relation to what is happening in the rural areas of Ghana.
I listened to children articulate in confidence and dexterity to questions posed by the host of the morning show. As much as I was amazed, the question still remains that not every child in Ghana is capable of this. This is true as the dichotomy in education in urban and rural areas, between private and public schools and among high income and low income households present implications worth noting; that is, not every child in Ghana has access to good quality education and adequate environment that promotes a child’s wellbeing and the potential for self actualisation.
In a debate that ensued amongst some friends of mine who similarly admired the children’s confidence and intelligence, their concerns was primarily on the environment that promotes the development of children’s potential. Their argument reminded me of a movie that I watched where the lead actor articulated that and I quote “do not let your society influence you as much as you influence your society.” As much as this may hold truth for some instances it would also not hold water for other circumstances. What is the probability that a child in a rural area will achieve this ability as their colleagues who participated in the programme? More so, would most children from our public schools have achieved this? And would children from poor homes have the ability to participate in such competitions to talk of having the ability to articulate freely and exhibit their intelligence? Obviously, there are situations where this may be possible but the vast majority would not.
So who are we to blame? Is it the family i.e. the immediate (primary) society or the larger society in which these children reside? These were the issues underpinning the arguments that ensued. The extent of each kind of society on children or pupil performance or the stronger influencing factor on performance varies depending on the individual child, location, family size, school friends, etc. or a combination of these factors.
If I am right, over ninety percent of the children who part-took in the “Read One Hundred Programme” were from private schools, from an urban community, from a middle to high class home and therefore access to quality education was assured. Yes of course, it is true that it was voluntary and I bear no grudge with the FM station, but my concern is in relation to the issues or factors that have limited other children in Ghana from having good quality education and why there seem to be limited attention to the sector.
The discussion on the importance of education to development has been overly discussed and so I don’t need to reiterate its importance again. The sad news is that as much as awareness has been increased on the subject matter, efforts to ameliorate this situation is no where near adequate and those mostly in this situation are children of poor income households and rural areas.
Evidences point to the fact that in rural areas problems such as illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, broken homes, death of parents, high fertility rates, high incidences of diseases, unemployment, unpleasant cultural practices and gender inequalities are predominant and are also key challenges to promoting education in rural areas. Similarly, there are evidences to suggest that government’s investment in rural education is also not adequate. A study by the Ministry of Manpower, Youth & Employment (MMYE) now Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare in 2006 identified that in rural areas especially cocoa growing areas more than half (62 percent) of respondents are educated up to the JSS/middle school level. Relatively fewer respondents have had secondary/technical school education; and they make up just about 9 percent of total respondents; and about 28 percent of respondents are uneducated. The proportion of adults who can read is higher in urban (72.1%) than in rural (41.3%) areas and adults with higher education in rural areas is estimated to be less than 5 percent.
For child education, the “Ghana Living Standard Survey 5 (GLSS 5)” observed that enrolment levels in both rural and urban areas are impressive. It is estimated that basic school enrolment in urban areas is about 90-95 percent whereas in rural areas the percentage is about 60-85 percent. Ghana has therefore been identified as one the countries likely to achieve MDG 2 by 2015. Despite this achievement, the sheer inadequacies of adult educational attainments over these years and the difficulty for children in rural areas to further their education after the basic level demands critical questioning of this emerging trends. Consequently, questions are being raised as to the quality of education and access to higher education by persons in rural areas.
Several interventions have been initiated to promote education in rural areas but too much emphasis has been placed on ensuring quantity instead of quality in education. Evidently, programmes such as the school feeding programme, free school uniforms, free exercise books, capitation grant and many others have aimed to promote enrolments but without intensive complementary interventions in the areas identified below all these interventions would be ineffective and inefficient:
1. Management: Leadership, Organisational structure, Motivation, Personnel, Curriculum and Performance;
2. Infrastructure: School buildings and allied services, Teaching materials, Information Communication Technology, and Maintenance; and
3. Enrolment: Child Motivation, Attendance/ Drop-out Programmes, and Scholarships.
Again, interventions aimed at promoting education in rural areas have neglected the critical issue of economic livelihoods of parents. Sociologists have identified that children in rural areas are mostly involved in economic activities either to support their parents by working on their farms and workshops as cost of labour are not affordable by parents or to support themselves. Children in rural areas engage in economic activities mainly during the weekends, school holidays, and when they feel like not going to school. Others also work everyday with parents, when their parents need them and when they close from school. Some even absent themselves from school to support their parents at their work places during peak seasons such as market days and harvesting seasons. This is especially true in cocoa growing areas where hands are needed in the cocoa harvesting period. All these affect children in rural areas and limits their potential and capacity to self actualise. These children are affected mentally, physically, socially and morally thus interfering with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, by obliging them to leave school prematurely, or by requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work. For this reason, a comprehensive; i.e. a multi-sectoral; approach to promoting education in rural areas must be the current paradigm. Interventions must aim at understanding and incorporating economic and socio-cultural issues into programme design and implementation if rural education is to be improved quantitatively and qualitatively.
The responsibility therefore rest on Government to take lead roles in adopting integrated approaches and also raising funding for projects and programmes as well as reduce her dependence on international aid. The revenue to be realised from the oil find should be invested efficiently and effectively in the people of the country as a country without a developed human capital is without an identity and purpose. Consequently, we must all realise that education is an investment in the collective future of societies and nations, rather than simply the future success of individuals. However, it takes more than great prospects to achieve the benefits that can flow from greater investment in education; it takes a good comprehension of the nature and role of education and how to design specific interventions to enhance the quantitative and qualitative issues of educations most especially in rural areas.