Equality in Ghana’s educational system : – a reality or a myth?

Feature Article of Thursday, 4 April 2013

Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede

Ideally, providing equality of opportunity is not an option but a legal requirement for every country that have a long -term vision. A country’s future economic backbone relies on education of its youths and young people. This is because education provides children with opportunities to escape poverty, gain a voice in their community and experience a better quality of life. Yet world wide there are still more than 120 million children who are denied this opportunity.

In Ghana our educational system based on a two to four system. Those in the fourth tier are those from poorer families whose parents are unable to pay school fees or buy supplies. Many in these groups come from communities that often lack suitable school building and qualified teachers. It appears the poorest children among us are denied the chance to have a learning and creativity safe environment. They are in a “catch 22 situation” often from families who need them on the farms or family run business just to survive. Why can’t our children enjoy the same equivalent to the form of education enjoyed in the 1960’s?

I find it ironic to believe that in a well developed country like the U.K child benefits is offered to every child plus free education, school trips. Ghana on the other hand, an under developed country has no child benefits system for its children, or housing benefit and I write some children to date are being educated under the trees in this 21st century Ghana. For example, the child benefit was introduced in Britain in 1798 and later stopped but reintroduced in 1909. How could our system help poor families to help with Ghana economy? What is stopping Ghana in addressing poverty within families and emulating this forward thinking attributes of British in eradicate child poverty. This approach from make a difference and give children and families a better chance in life.

Women in Ghana must campaign for financial assistance for children as a form of social support to families. With discovery of oil every must change with child benefits for every child to stop child labour activities. Child benefits need to be introduced in Ghana. This is an option, which stop child maltreatment across Ghana. Ghana must lead the way to ease the long term suffering of children and families.

Reasons are as follows:

Report on ghanaweb 5/7/11, 23.3% of children engaged in the hazardous activities in various sectors. When is Ghana going to strictly implement the national child labour policy? What strategies has the Ministry of employment and social welfare adopted to put in place a monitor, review and evaluate mechanisms to support its implementation strategies? For example, child protection policies should be the standard practice in all our institutions where children are involved. This includes the police, schools, churches etc. People should be by the police to ensure their clean profile to be among children.

According to an article on ghanaweb 6/7/11 which reported that the former Education Minister, Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, highlighted that a total of five thousand schools hold classes under trees across the country. How long has Ghana been receiving the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and the rest from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) resources? Ghana has been receiving such funds since 2003. Where does children in Ghana and many African countries rights fall in this circumstances?

Over the decades various Governments in Ghana failed Ghanaian children, and young people apart from our late President Kwame Nkrumah who himself saw the benefits of what education brings to the individual. Late President Nkrumah like President Obama both escaped from the poverty through their education. The biographies of these two people are very inspirational for any youth with a vision to transform.

How could any Education Minister allow under the tree the education to continue in our present day Ghana? Is this form of education not denying children their right of being educated in purposeful classrooms with purposeful playgrounds? Ghana has no child protection policies for institutions to abide by and therefore our children are being neglected under the child protection category neglect and physical abuse. Some are even sexually and emotional abused by teachers and parents yet it seems O.K to continue these abuses in our society.

Most of these children are not only powerless, voiceless given their situation but also classified within our society as under class and looked down upon in this our adult controlled selfish environment of ours. When would Ghana education system adopt the unannounced school inspection visits?

This why I have decided devote time and one of my skills as specialist community practitioner to write thought provoking articles in their defence.

Ghana educational system should seriously also adopt “Ofsted” which means (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s services and Skills) currently used in the British educational system. In the Britain the role of the “Ofsted” is as follows: Inspecting schools In Britian schools are inspected to provide information to parents and carers, to promote improvement and, where applicable, to hold schools to account for the public money they receive. School inspections are required by law. Each council provide an independent assessment of the quality and standards of education in schools, and check whether pupils are achieving as much as they can. When schools are notified of their inspection, they are asked to provide the inspectors with some information before the inspection begins. This may include an evaluation of their provision, if available. Before they arrive at a school inspectors analyse the information provided by the school and other information that Ofsted already holds or is publicly available. When they arrive, they talk to the headteacher, governors (in maintained schools), staff, pupils, parents and carers. They also observe a range of lessons and consider the effectiveness of key leaders and managers. This is worth emulating in Ghana because this system ensures that standards are met. How do inspectors assess a school? When a school is inspected , inspectors adhere to the following guidance, which shows how the general principles and processes are applied to inspections, including the judgements that are made and how inspectors undertake their work: • The framework for school inspection, which applies to the inspection of maintained schools and several other types of school • The framework for non-association independent school inspections • The framework for inspecting boarding and residential provision in schools. Inspecting initial teacher education in schools The approach inspect all accredited providers of initial teacher education (ITE) leading to qualified teacher status (QTS) and publicly funded training of further education teachers. There are programme on Raiseonline ( this is an online form of teacher updating training) which helps teachers to update themselves to help pupils to attain and achieve their full potential. Is there any way Ghana could also invest into this to improve our educational standards? This systematic approach not only enhanced the standards of education throughout Britain but also encourages best practice in all schools.

Parents in Ghana are unable to sue the Government to challenge under the tree form of education. It appears the practice has been endorsed by our educational system anyway. Parents from this group are not empowered to act in this strategic route and go to UNICEF or Human rights with the breakdown of their bills on hospital bills etc incurred as a result of the negligence of a Government to provide a safe environment for children to learn.

What is the plight of a qualified teacher teaching in these circumstances? How can he/she motivate and encourage his /her pupils. During the heavy raining season these children miss school and school absence becomes the norm due to the negligence of the Education Ministry in providing a better infrastructure This is why I would strongly recommend that the Education Minister have a day experience with the children schooling under trees in Ghana.

(2) Equality in Ghana’s educational system : – a reality or a myth?

The plight and impact of children who are educated under the tree and their teachers should not be ignored. Is it because children from these group are considered the underclass families therefore being educated under the trees is acceptable .

This is irresponsibility on the part of the Education Ministry who is fully aware of this primitive way of education. It is only the current Education Minster who has been bold enough to speak out. The views of writers on education, community leaders must be taken into accounts during the planning stages of any educational initiative.

A good best is to scan media news on education everyday to see if there are any issues of concerns they could work on and not just dismiss the concerns of the general public.

Ghana is now over 55 years however since its independence this primitive form of education is still on going with over 5000 schools under- the- tree education formally recognised across the country. It is not a laughing matter any more but rather matter of grave concerns.

Any family reading this article must act now. Fight for your rights your children deserve treated like anybody else if even you consider your self as underclass. Inequality must be completely be eradicated in from Ghana now. Why is the government allowing a stigma to be attached to our children’s education that is under the tree form of education? What type of educational tier system do we place under the tree form of education? No family should have to endure the humiliation of having to tolerate their children being educated under the tree by 2013.

Is it rather pathetic that many Ministers are educating their own children in foreign schools with better facilities when the majority of Ghana ’s future young people the economic backup are educated under the tree schools across the country? These are true fact.

The system does even not have a vision to allow young people age 15 yrs to have work experience age to taste working life as part of the school curriculum even if it is a week’s experience. What kind of education are we offering our children when they are having to competing with bright witty foreign students globally? With the discovery of oil in the country poses even more challenges of finding the right people for the right jobs. Do we have the capability and capacity to cope with the demands of oil discovery as all kinds of expertise would be needed.

Who in the Ministry of Education have called this practice acceptable to allow this to go on for such a long time and receiving annual reports from head of these under the tree form of schooling. Whose people should be held accountability for these failing at a strategic level?

Does nursery and primary school children have a compulsory form of health check which is usually conducted by school nurses?

Are there any dental and eye check service health promotion programmes in nursery and primary the country at all? There was one at Accra New Town Experimental School in 1960’s which was started by our late President Kwame Nkrumah however this was short lived.

Is there form any counselling or youth advice centre within schools to help promote right choice of career for our youths?

Are there any school welfare officers in our schools or localities to ensure children welfare are focused due to the complex nature of out society?

What happens to children who are born with Down’s syndrome in Ghana and what strategies are in place in all our hospitals to ensure that these children reach their full potential, as their educational needs are complex?

Is there a Statementing process in hospitals to ensure that community paediatricians assess so that money is earmark for the help they would need in primary school? This processes ensures special needs children are looked after in special schools with purposeful equipments to suit their needs in order for to attain and achieve their full potential?

Are these group considered as Under class in our society so there is no back up for them and their families or respite arrangements. Sadly families from these groups are not empowered in Ghana. This is simply because we do not have a citizen’s advise offices to help its citizens when there is crisis of this nature.

Is there a process of identifying children with special needs in Ghana?

Is there speech therapy training in Ghana for catering for group of children who would need these services? Often some children from these group are sent to psychiatric hospital and labelled as idiots simply because our education system does not screen children to assess every child before they enter primary school.

Is there engagement of parents and teachers regarding the progress of their children each term in all schools including the under the tree schools? Is there any parent and pupil evening in Ghanaian schools?

How could parents know the day-to-day progress of their children if teacher are not engaging with their pupils and families?

Is there dental service provision in schools as dental care is expensive? Is there a cheaper service available with hospital setting to offer s similar service?

Is there sexual health promotion with the distribution of free condom in all secondary schools? Knowing very well that it is in secondary that many youths practice their sexuality. There are no backup to help schools thus allowing our youths to engage in prostitution and ending up with blocked fallopian tubes and other complication as a result of lack of knowledge about sexual health.

Is there a drug, substance abuse and alcohol abuse health hubs or centre in schools to create the raise awareness and stimulate positive life style in school and the media?

Are there alternative approaches to children education, as some would not like the formal type?

What happens to children with learning disabilities needs and speech delay and developmental concerns? Do we have speech therapy training in the country?

Is there an annual meeting between the community leaders, traditional priests, Church Ministers, general public, DCE and influential people in every community to identify the educational needs of their community? Does Education Minister and her directorate communicate to these groups on how can they then negotiate identified needs of a community? This should be done in every community via the DCE.

Main issues of concerns:

The children of the wealthy often boost of their privileged background however they live in a fool’s world. Why do we have arm robbers and all sort of scam operating in country? This is because this group of people lack the skills needed for the job market. Ghana needs to invest in every child and open the opportunity for every child to reach its full potential?

This is why in the U.K the Every Child Matters outcomes are the key areas every professional working with children & families, all statutory bodies and schools and Universities work with.

They have 5 clear outcomes:

Be healthy – Meaning there should be mechanisms to ensure children receive all their immunisation and health checks to allow them to be healthy.

Stay safe:- Meaning ensuring child protection policy in place in all schools, the police service, churches and all recreational centres where children are involved. The child protection policies cover areas like physical abuse so beating of children is not acceptable,

Neglect: for example: a Government allowing under the tree form of schooling when it is receiving money to eradiate this.

I am so pleased that this year the Education Minister was bold enough to report back to us and has acknowledged that “Under the tree” form of educational is no longer accepted by her Ministry and therefore would be eradicated across the country within her term in office. I would strongly recommend that this should be done within a twelve month period.

Sexual abuse: mechanism in place to safeguard child and young people. There are so many issues happening among some members of the family, uncles and stepfather etc.

Emotional abuse: Mechanism in place to safeguard children suffering from their own parents and extended family or community for example, children being deliberately belittling and insults thrown at them in a negative manner. This is where most parents lack the conflict resolution management. Whether positive parenting classes would be helpful and could be linked to nursery schools and primary to nip such issues at an early stage of a child’s life.

Enjoy and achieve: – Children are happy and keen to study in a safe environment

Make a positive contribution: – when young adult is working and active within the community

Achieve economic well-being: -Working and thinking about life in a positive way, giving something back to the community, being part of an organisation and reaching self-actualisation to start on projects.

Better education must be for all schools and not just cheery picked schools because their heads are more articulate and demanding than the head teachers in rural areas.

There is evidence, which clearly shows that educational achievement in the most effective route of getting out of poverty.

Let us stop the inequalities in Ghana education system and instead empower the helpless and voiceless group of parents in our communities through recognised channels.

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