Special News Analysis: Ghana Needs Education Infrastructure Policy
Education is a fundamental human right for all children and this right may not be realized in Ghana if strategic measures are not put in place to ensure adequate infrastructure provision to schools.
A review conducted by Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) as part of the Stop Violence Against Girls in School (SVAGS) project goes to suggest that for Ghana to address its current school infrastructural imbalances, the country needs to institute a comprehensive policy on education infrastructure.
The Stop Violence against Girls in School (SVAGS) is a five-year project being implemented in Ghana with funding from the Big Lottery Fund of UK, an NGO.
It primarily aims at helping more girls go to school and to be safe both in school and in the community.
School infrastructure is everything from electricity, toilets, safe buildings, tables, chairs, libraries, computer rooms, safe classrooms, sports fields, laboratories for science experiments, running water and fencing. Without these things, a school cannot work properly.
For schools, we can also call infrastructure resources. (GNECC’s Working Definition) It is vital when we consider the fact that school infrastructure or resources, impact on how well teachers are able to teach and learners are able to learn. Learners attending schools with better infrastructure tend to perform better than learners who come from schools with not enough resources.
By this definition, a school must have all these in place before it could be called a good school and this cannot be said of some of the schools in Osu-Klottey,Okai-Koi South and others in the Accra metropolitan area and some other parts of the country.
Realizing that, the standard building designs recommended by the ministry is without a firm implementation clause for which service providers’ could be accountable for.
The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition-GNECC decided to appraise Basic School infrastructure provisions in the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) by the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service vis-à-vis the situation on the ground and the learning outcomes of the school pupils.
GNECC’s research has revealed and points to the fact that the absence of a comprehensive and operational basic school infrastructure policy in Ghana has largely contributed to the poor outcomes of the strategic Objective of Access, Quality and Equity.
The strategies and indicative activities of the broad policy provisions are supposed to serve as the Ministry’s guiding principles for the provision of Basic Education Infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the poor state of school infrastructure was evident in the number of public schools under trees, the lack of appropriate infrastructure for kindergartens (KGs), poorly ventilated classrooms, inadequate textbooks, inadequate school furniture, poor lighting in classrooms and lack of sanitary facilities for boys/girls among others.
In the Nanumba North and South districts of Ghana where SVAGS project is being piloted, the challenge of infrastructure for basic schools is affecting school attendance and other outcomes.
ActionAid Ghana in collaboration with GNECC and other stakeholders have reviewed and proffered alternatives to the basic school infrastructure challenges Ghana’s basic schools have been experiencing for some timenow.
The EMIS data (2010/2011) also showed some gaps in infrastructure provision especially in terms of quality and quantity. The data highlighted the lack of /inadequacy of school infrastructure (especially classrooms), regimented and formalized classrooms, and the lack of play and learning materials.
GNECC believes that there should be appropriate number of classrooms, accessible to all, with adequate and separate sanitation facilities for girls and boys.
Schools should be equipped with the necessary accessories for both able and disabled children and be resilient to natural risks and disasters. Suffice with this, stakeholder involvement at the policy formulation and adoption stages will be an added commitment to assisting in monitoring compliance to building plans.
It could be expected of stakeholders especially Civil Society to complement the efforts of the District assemblies and the Ghana Education Service at the local level. The Coalition thinks it is therefore critical to promote participation in decision making as far as schools are concerned to guard against education delivery as a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
This would discourage the dependency of schools on central government direct intervention to address problems of quality when in most instances these are best handled through the combined efforts of head teachers, schools and their local communities.
Sufficed with the above,the Education Reform Act, ACT 778, empowers and enjoins the District Assemblies to have oversight responsibility, which also translates into the responsibility of providing infrastructure including water and sanitation in schools – District Assemblies therefore needed to be supported to carry out these functions, it observed.
Key issues for us as a coalition in education are that we need NORMS and STANDARDS for basic schools infrastructure provision as a country.
Secondly, there is the need for measures to be put in place to address gender concerns and inclusiveness coupled with Special Needs.
Finally, there is the need to start analyzing the prospects and challenges for meeting infrastructure needs under a decentralized basic education system.
The author is the Gender Programme Officer of The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC). GNECC is a network of civil society organizations, professional groupings, educational/research institutions and other practitioners interested in promoting quality basic education for all.
Formed in 1999, the coalition has steadily grown over the years with a current membership of about 200 organizations.
***The author can be contacted Through: firstname.lastname@example.org***
Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Incoming Education Minister For Ghana