Tag Archives: Girl Child 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.”

Rationing Out Equality

Dakurah Rubby at Sankana Junior High School

Dakurah Rubby is from Sankana, a small rural community in the Upper West region, where many families(including her own) depend highly on agriculture and small-scale farming as their primary source of income. Dakurah is 14-years-old and the eldest girl in her family. Typically, she would have been withdrawn from school over her brothers to work for the household or the farm. Instead, she will be entering her final year of junior high school (JHS) in September, leading her closer to realizing her hopes of becoming a nurse one day. Dakurah is one of the 10,000 JHS girls from food-insecure communities benefitting from monthly take-home rations (8kg of cereals, 2 litres of oil and 1kg of iodized salt in each package) donated by the World Food Programme (WFP) over the past two years.

The Upper West region is one of the least developed areas in Ghana. Its population, along with the Upper East and Northern region, makes up 70 per cent of the 28.5 national poor living on one dollar US or less a day. Factors such as a low, or “lean”, production season (March- September) and susceptibilities to adverse weather conditions (floods and droughts) prevent abundant year-round harvests in the region, leaving many families unable to access sufficient and nutritious food or meet their other basic needs. For many, education is considered a luxury, and not a necessity when battling these realities. When sacrifices need to be made, it is most often the girls who bare more of the burdens.

Matilda Bannerman Mensah, head of the Girl Education Unit at the Ghana Education Services, adds , “there are also traditional socio-cultural practices that put preference on boys’ education rather than girls’.” According to Mensah, arranged and early marriage, female genital circumcision and bondage are degenerative practices that are still predominant (particularly in the deprived rural areas) and constitute some of the other barriers preventing a girl’s access to education.

Food assistance in the Upper West aims to alleviate the effects of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and the inequalities such conditions can lead to. Therefore, WFP’s take-home ration programme not only provides an income transfer and food relief to girl recipients and their families, but encourages their equal access and regular participation in school. In order to qualify for the ration package, girls are obligated to attend school 85 per cent of each month. According to the WFP, girls’ retention rates have doubled to reach 99 per cent attendance, with significantly fewer girls dropping out of assisted schools and continuing to higher education. The programme gives many females the chance to receive an education and pursue their dreams; opportunities many of them in the rural areas normally do not have. Even families who maintain very traditional beliefs are beginning to see the importance in formally educating their girls. “Most parents know that they will benefit more by sending a girl to school,” says Rosalia Babai, the Upper West Regional Coordinator of the Girl Education Unit.

Male and Female Students at Sankana Junior High School

As helpful as it is, the programme is unfortunately in its final phase and is supposed to be replaced by the National School Feeding Programme by the end of the year. Vital programs such as school feeding, that help address basic human needs, and that improve people’s access to equal participation and opportunity in society are crucial to the development of the country. As the National Government aims to develop Ghana into a middle-income country (by reducing poverty and accelerating the country’s economy), it (together with development partners) will need to strengthen the systems supporting its people, particularly the youth, who make up 50 per cent of the country’s population- Ghana’s capable workforce and it’s future leaders. For the northern population, further social support is needed to alleviate the burdens of poverty and to allow people (young and old, male and female) to live dignified lives.