Written by Isaac Kuugaayeng
Education has always proven to be a pivotal tool for any country’s development. It is a connecting element to expedite the realization of most of the goals and targets of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the fundamental rights of every child is the right to education according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is instructive to note that not only is education a human right but an indispensable element that facilitates the realization of other human rights (UN,2001). As a result of the great significance of education, many institutions including governments and NGOs across the globe have been making efforts to promote education. For instance, the World Conference on Education for All held in March 1990 in Jomitien, Thailand, sought to universalize basic education and wipe out illiteracy (Haddad et al. 1990). According to the 2012 Global Monitoring Report (UNESCO, 2012), the government of Ghana has made significant strides in efforts to ensure the realization of quality education accessible to all. Major miles made in the educational sector in Ghana include the cancellation of school fees and the introduction of capitation grants in 2005, the introduction of compulsory preschool education in 2007, and the achievement of gender parity in basic school enrollment in 2010. These initiatives have enabled Ghana to be one of the leading countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of reaching the EFA Goals for 2015. Despite all the initiatives the government and other civil organizations including NGOs have put in place to combat the challenges of education in Ghana, rural education in Ghana is still fraught with many challenges that demand the government’s attention and swift action. A study conducted by Adams et.al in 2016 revealed that while basic school enrollment in Ghana has improved significantly in recent years, one major challenge facing it has been the ascendancy in the levels of dropouts among school children triggered by a myriad of factors.
The situation is even worst in the northern part of Ghana. The persistent inadequacy of safe and sound school buildings with basic facilities such as books, library facilities, and computer labs among others for children remains a major barrier to children’s access to basic education as a right. The few school buildings which happen to be found are very poor and deplorable with some virtually serving as death traps to these innocent school children whose future remains bleak. Children as small as kids from kindergarten to primary school usually have to trek longer distances between homes and school and no means of transportation are available to convey the students to and from school. This blatantly disincentivizes and kills the enthusiasm in many of them leading to the ascendancy in school drop-out among many rural school-going-age children. A study conducted by Imoro in 2009 on the dimensions of basic school dropouts in rural Ghana confirms that dropout rates remained high at about 20% for boys and 30% for girls at primary school and 15% for boys and 30% for girls at Junior High School (JHS) level. The situation becomes worse for rural districts and much uglier for the northern part of Ghana. The challenge is even compounded by the glaring inadequacy of the requisite human resources to fill the minimum criteria of the school which is causing an average of 30 dropouts daily(Africa Education Watch, 2021). This becomes a bane to educational success in many rural areas in the northern part of Ghana.
It is heartbreaking to learn that most of the existing schools are badly maintained thereby rendering most of the classrooms not safe enough for children and their teachers to conduct teaching and learning activities.
Consequently, this thwarts the pace of educational development resulting in a whooping gap between children from rural and urban areas in terms of quality education.
In all these, the female child becomes the more unfortunate one. Some parents will end up encouraging their female children to get married since school is nothing better and they will not make anything out of it leading to a high rate of female dropout after primary level. According to UNESCO (2022), there are over 192,500 school dropouts in Ghana, with over 102,000 being girls. Up to 30% of school dropouts occurring among girls is attributed to teenage pregnancy emanating from social-cultural and economic factors. The Ministry of Health reports 555,575 teenage pregnancies between 2016 and 2020, with 109,865 teenage pregnancies in 2020 alone. A study by Linus Mwinkaar and Martin Ako in 2020 on Female Education in Senior High Schools in Gomoa West District of the Central Region of Ghana revealed that factors such as cultural practices and entrenched beliefs, poverty, low level of education of parents, unconducive school environment, early marriages, teacher absenteeism, parental negative attitude towards education, inadequate parental attention to girl’s education affect female education negatively. Not forgetting the immense blow covid-19 had on the educational terrain of the country, the closure of schools across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic on education can never be overemphasized, and teenage girls are the most affected in this case. A report by Africa Education Watch during their monitoring of the partial re-opening of schools for finalists indicates that, 20% of schools recorded between 1-3 girls not returning to school due to teenage pregnancy and migration. The COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, had a massive negative impact on education which is still a problem even now as many students have been lost to teenage pregnancies while others have dropped out completely.
This hit me as a reality when I visited a farming community called Sietori in the Jirapa municipality. The community has not got even a Kindergarten. Children have to usually trek longer distances to attend school. This puts these younger children and disabled children at such a great disadvantage because it becomes impossible for some to even go to school if no one helps them due to the distance they have to travel to go to school. This phenomenon is troubling. These children are deprived of their right to education.
Although the 1992 constitution of Ghana provides that the State shall provide educational facilities at all levels and in all the Regions of Ghana, and shall, to the greatest extent feasible, make those facilities available to all citizens, this I will say is still mere rhetoric rather than reality, especially where children in rural areas are concerned. Despite the constitutional provision, there still exist great disparity and unequal access to quality education in the rural areas against the urban setting. This has marginalized and deprived the multitude of children in their quest to achieve their dreams and potential because the system is unkind and unfavorable to them.
It should not be misconstrued that urban education has no educational challenges. Students in the city are exposed to many social and environmental happenings in their surroundings and daily interactions making them far better in terms of depth of knowledge and academic performance than rural students.
The challenges of rural education far exceed the reality of urban education.
Rural education is characterized by gross unequal distribution of educational infrastructure, inadequate human resources(teachers), constant paucity of funds to finance educational activities, poor planning, and defective policy implementation. On November 3, 2021, Africa Education Watch in a TV interview raised concerns about unfair distribution of trained teachers to parts of the country. According to the group, the situation is contributing greatly to the poor teaching and learning outcomes, particularly at the basic level especially in many rural settings when there a lot of teachers in urban areas to the detriment of students in rural education. The resultant effects are no different from consistent abysmal performances, loss of enthusiasm, and finally high school drop-out because the readiness and efforts of these school children are inhibited by factors beyond their control. In this unfortunate situation, rural education continues to suffer deprivation partly because of politics in educational planning which makes it difficult for policy implementers to deliver their tasks due to political manipulations.
Education provides people with the knowledge and skills to help improve economic growth and reduce poverty. Children must therefore not be denied a quality and equal education system.
Hence, there is a need for policymakers, government officials and NGOs, advocacy groups at all levels including the national, regional, district, and community or grassroots levels should join hands in ameliorating the conditions by igniting qualitative and sustainable change in rural education to lessen the deprivation of children of their right to basic education.
Casely-Hayford, L., Seidu, A., Campbell, S., Quansah, T., Gyabaah, K., & Rukayatu, A. (2013). The quality and inclusivity of basic education across Ghana’s three northern regions: A look at change, learning effectiveness and efficiency: Research under the tackling education needs inclusively (TENI) project. VSO. Retrieved from: Final Policy Brief – TENI Quality of Education.pdf
Abdallah, H., Fuseini, M. N., Abudu, A. M., & Nuhu, Y. (2014). Dilemma of basic school pupils in Northern Ghana with respect to their learning context. Education Research International, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/edri/2014/140737/
Adam, S., Adom, D., & Bediako, A. B. (2016). The Major Factors That Influence Basic School Dropout in Rural Ghana: The Case of Asunafo South District in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(28), 1-8. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1118546
Imoro, B. (2009). Dimensions of basic school dropouts in rural Ghana: The case of Asutifi District. Journal of Science and Technology (Ghana), 29(3). Retrieved from https://www.ajol.info/index.php/just/article/view/50093
Inequitable distribution of teachers hampering education in rural areas – Africa Education Watch: TV interview by Nii Lartey (2021): Retrieved from: https://citinewsroom.com/author/nii-larte/
Africa Education Watch (2022):8 p. Re-entry of pregnant Girls and teenage mothers to school: a critical policy and strategy brief: Retrieved from: http://healtheducationresources.unesco.org/library/documents/re-entry-pregnant-girls-and-teenage-mothers-school-critical-policy-and-strategy