Tag Archives: Access to Education

Victoria, 23, was trafficked to Kumasi in the Ashanti Region and has never gone to school.

Poverty prevents some Ghanaians from seeking education

Very little light illuminates the abandoned railway line that cuts down the center of the squatter community of Kejetia. The large field where the rusting tracks lay unconnected and the train station simply wasn’t built sits in the centre of Kumasi’s business district.

Overhead view of a section of Kejetia, a sprawling squatter community and market in the city of Kumasi.

Kejetia is a sprawling squatter community and market in the downtown core of Kumasi.

It is very dark at night despite the constant hustle and bustle of shop owners packing up their goods and chatting with customers. The stalls serve as both businesses and homes for many of the people who live in the area are unique, each selling items ranging from belts and bags, to banku and kenkey.

Among the shops a group of young women pack up quietly on a raised wooden platform. Victoria, 23, originally from the Brong Ahafo Region, says that when she was young, a woman brought her to Kumasi under the guise of being able to care for her. Instead, Victoria was forced to sell sachets of pure water, and as a result, she did not attend school.

Now, she says she no longer sees education as an option, as she has to sell banku to support her two-year-old daughter Francisca.

“I would love it if education in Ghana is free. As a result of the kind of struggles people have to go through, there’s no money in the system, there’s poverty in the system,” she said in Twi, the main language of the Ashanti Region.

“If the politicians should go on ahead and make education free, I would be more than excited if they would only implement it and move away from the talks. I would love it,” she added.

Victoria, 23, was trafficked to Kumasi in the Ashanti Region and has never gone to school.

The Ghanaian constitution states that, “all persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities […],” and as such, “basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all.”

Ghana’s Ministry of Education eliminated basic education fees in 2005, and 75 per cent of girls were attending school as of 2010, according to statistics released by UNICEF.

Yet the group of women in Kejetia say poverty has been the main obstacle that stopped them from getting an education.

Rukaya, 19, moved from her town of Bokoe in the Northern Region to Kumasi because she had heard from travellers that it was possible to make a lot of money in the city.

Rukaya has never been to school and says she feels that education is still a privilege for people who can afford to send their children to school, instead of requiring that they work instead.

Rukaya, 19, doing her washing in the Kejetia open air market where she lives and works.

Both Victoria and Rukaya say they feel it is too late for them to get an education and want to return to their hometowns when they save up enough money, which will be difficult since they work for “masters” or “mistresses” who control their wages.

The young women say they hope to be traders – Victoria says she hopes to sell cosmetics and Rukaya says she wants to learn how to become a dressmaker.

Despite their disenchantment with the educational system, Victoria says she still hopes Francisca can go to school to become a lawyer or nurse.

“If I had the means, I would allow Francisca to get the education that I couldn’t have.”

Clemente stands in front of his neighbour's house

Who Owns the Land?: Deconstructing Joma

Clemente stands in front of his neighbour's house

Clemente’s house is one of the few buildings in Joma with a roof. In fact, it’s one of the last structures still standing in the devastated area. From his front porch he can see the smashed bricks and mortar that were once the homes of his friends and neighbours. “Afterward, it looked like a tornado (had) blown through. Ripped and broke everything. You can still see where the foundations were.” He said, while surveying the damage in his neighborhood. But this destruction was no act of nature, weather or plate tectonics. In Joma, the catastrophe was man-made.

The village was once home to nearly four-thousand people and sits in a river valley just outside of Accra. Clemente lives in the pristine region with his mother, sister and brother. Everyday he commutes to work in the Capital’s business district. He says they’ve been here six years, but many of the displaced people had lived and fished along the riverbank their whole lives, “we watch more go everyday. I don’t know where they go. I guess they just have to move on.”

Francis and family outside their house

At dawn on December 10th, residents were rousted from their homes and told the settlement they’d spent generations building was being torn down. Francis is a fisherman and a single father of eight. His house was destroyed that morning, “I was out on the water in my boat. Didn’t know what was happening until I saw my children on the shore-line calling me to come. They said military men were here breaking down houses.” He says he has received no warnings before demolition and no offers for compensation since. By evening, nearly 500 homes, several businesses and a school had been destroyed.

The disputed territory lies along the banks of the Densu river. The river is a part of the water table feeding the Weija dam reservoir. The Ghana Water Company (GWC) says the Joma settlement is illegal. In an official release, the GWC stated Weija is the critical fresh water source fueling Accra and say they can’t risk the possibility of encroachment contaminating the supply. However, Joma is several kilometers from the dam site and larger settlements exist along the reservoir’s edge.

While military carried out demolitions, many villagers sought refuge at the Chief’s palace. Their respite was only temporary as the palace was also destroyed by order of the GWC. Chief Nii Ayittey Mayatse, says he thinks there are other motivations at play. “They tell us we are making the water dirty. We aren’t, we’ve fished here, lived here, died here for centuries. We take care of the river, it gives us life. They don’t want this land for them. They don’t benefit, they want to sell it. How can they? It’s our’s,” he says the dividing lines between government property and his ancestral territory is clear. “My Great-Grandfather started the building here. The land was his, the people (villagers) came and buy (it) from him. Now they want to take it and say we are here illegally. We are not.” A recent court injunction confirmed Chief Mayatse’s account. The decision ordered an immediate halt to the demolitions, but provided no provisions or compensation for repairing the damage.

WIth their homes in pieces, no school to send their children to and no money to rebuild many were forced to leave. The court-order stipulates un-occupied land may be annexed, but many have vowed to remain amidst their rock-piles and broken timber. The hold-outs say they have seen surveyors and trucks bearing the logo of Regimental estates, a real-estate developer specializing in pre-fabricated condo complexes, exploring the territory. They also say the have noticed an increase in military and police presence and report regular instances of harassment.

Their school was knocked down.

The cynic in me gets a slap in the face

Every once and awhile the generosity of strangers can floor you.

The community of Fishula is a 15-minute drive outside the bustling regional capital of Tamale. Despite the nearby streetlights, restaurants, colleges and swimming pools in Tamale, Fishula’s water comes from a dirty well, there is no electricity and worst of all, an entire generation has not received any formal education.

An elder in Fishula shows Diamond FM's Maxwell Suuk the well they use for drinking water

Politicians in Ghana will often use distance as an excuse for depriving rural villages of basic services but clearly that wouldn’t fly in this case. I travelled to Fishula with a district assembly member and Maxwell Suuk, a reporter at Diamond FM.

When visiting any rural village in Northern Region it is customary to go and visit the chief to pay your respects. He usually lives in one of the larger mud huts and if he is Dagomba – the majority of chiefs in this region are – you enter, squat and clap your hands quickly and gently and say “naa…naa…naa” over and over again.

You inevitably are asked to offer kola. In the not-too-distant past, this actually meant a kola nut exchanged as a symbolic gesture, but with the influx of NGO’s to Northern Ghana and as modern comforts slowly seep their way into villages it usually means cash, especially if you are visibly Western.

I sat quietly on a goatskin waiting to be asked for kola. I huffed and puffed internally – at times I felt like a walking ATM. Pleasantries were exchanged in Dagbani for what seemed like an eternity and as Max tried to wrap things up I could sense he was anticipating the same thing as me.

Suddenly a procession of men entered carrying a heaping bowl of groundnuts, a bag of guinea fowl eggs and a huge duck.  It was a knobby, red, ugly duck that screeched and flapped as it tried to scramble lose from the man’s sturdy grip. I stared in disbelief at Max as it became clear the chief of this incredibly poor community wanted to offer us gifts for coming to hear their plight.

I put up my hands to protest. The district assembly member mumbled under his breath to me:  “you cannot refuse, you will insult him.”

My mind began racing wondering how I was going to carry the struggling duck as effortlessly as this man from Fishula. I couldn’t smile at Max, fearing one of us would burst into laughter.

We thanked him for the gifts and asked the man to carry the duck to our Tamale-bound taxi and stuff it in the hatchback. It squawked and kicked as we laughed the whole way home. I called my Ghanaian host family to tell them I was bringing home a surprise.

The following day my grandmother yelled for me to come outside. She wanted me to come see how well she had roasted my poor friend – here in Ghana animals are rarely recipients of generous treatment.

To the Book-Mobile: Ghana’s Library on Wheels

For many rural children in Ghana, a community library seems like a far away dream. However, a mobile library is giving rural children access to books and computer lessons by delivering them right to their school.

Students enter the mobile library that is visiting their school

The children and youth are excited to get inside the mobile library and anxiously wait in line for their turn. When they get inside, they will have access to books ranging in subjects like mathematics, literature and student government.

Nana, a 20-year-old student at the secondary schools, wants to be a nurse when she finishes school and borrowed ‘Sexually Transmitted Diseases” to aid in her education and inform herself.

Nana explains why she picked a book called "Sexually Transmitted Diseases"

“I took it because I want to be a nurse and know more about sexually transmitted diseases, says Nana. “At this time in Ghana, sexually transmitted diseases are becoming more common so I want to know how to prevent myself from getting these kind of diseases.”

14-year-old Marie took a book on fairytales because she thinks the stories teach her how to be humble and will help improve her English.

When the mobile library arrives in the rural communities, it visits all the schools in the area, including kindergarten, primary and secondary. It only visits schools without a community library.

For many children here, stepping inside the mobile library was their first time in any library.

“At times, this is [the children’s] first time holding a library book. Some of them have not even thought about reading a storybook,” says Ben Koranteng, one of the librarians that travel around with the mobile libraries to the small communities.

“They have heard of ‘library, library, library’ but they don’t know what a library is. Then seeing a library on wheels. It is amazing to see the children react to borrowing books.”

The Ghana Library Board started this project in two districts as a way to bridge the gap between the educational access of rural and urban children.