I never thought that a topic like education could be such a huge issue in development. I guess I had the assumption before I came that if there were more school facilities and teachers that anyone could learn and a country would be well on its way. I made some very simplistic assumptions, which I am learning the hard answers to now.
At home in Canada, if I think back to my grade school days, I remember getting up and being walked to school by my mom or older school kids, I remember going to school and feeling like I wanted to know everything, I remember parent teacher meetings and report cards. I remember playing sports, recess and kissing boys behind the playground. I remember going home at night and doing homework, I remember being rewarded by my teachers, parents and grandparents, and I remember that when I grew up I wanted to be a Teacher, an Architect, an Engineer.
Here in Ghana, what I see is something different.
It is a truly great site to see so many children going to school in the mornings in their school colours, as I ride my bike to
Market coverted into a school
What was the real need of this community?
work. They are not escorted by parents though, as you will find many small children are very independent and can easily get there on there own. Is this a problem? I am not sure, maybe.
Children here are motivated to learn like all children they are curious and pick up their surroundings like the usually little sponge just soaking it all in. Only problem is whom are they soaking it in from? There is a huge lack of qualified teachers in Ghana, especially the Northern Region. From the statistics I have seen from Ghana Education Services in some areas more than 50% of the teachers employed are not “qualified”. This means someone with a Grade school or high school education is teaching, even levels they have only just past. Why are there not enough teachers? Because this is a cycle!
There are school facilities (some of them however are not proper structures, and can even be open air schools, gathering under the shade of a large tree). There are parent teacher meetings but only at some schools. But here is the bigger problem - Parents are not motivated to send their children to school! Why do you ask?
Because children are used for a number of income generating activities they perform like selling bananas on the street, to working on their farmers, to leading around the blind begging for small change. If that has not held the child back, and they are in school, they could very well be doing these activities at night, weekends and even pulled out of school during certain seasons.
If a child is in school, there is still lack of motivation or involvement of the parents in studying and homework. These also entering a bigger cycle, because some parents are not literate, do not understand English and truly cannot give in that way. Also because of religious beliefs within the Muslim community, there is much more pressure for their children to attend Islamic school, as it is believed that it is more important to learn Arabic than to study there school topics like English, Math and Agriculture.
If they pass all these obstacles, some are left with a huge hurdle. English. English is the official language of Ghana, but there are many many different tribes existing in Ghana all with their own unique language and they are very prominent. The majority
of children will grow up with their tribe language as their first language. This makes learning extremely challenging and can be discouraging. Imagine learning in English at school, speaking Dagbani at home and than going to Arabic classes at night. Did I mention you also have to take a local language class at school and in addition French?
If you are a girl child, you are even less likely to make it to school. If you do, your chances of making it into Senior Secondary (like high school) are pretty slim. Girls here are married off before they even reach this age. Girls in Junior School are already involved in relationships and have older boyfriends (men). The culture of dating much younger woman has definitely set back females in gaining a proper education. Hence, reinforcing this cycle and linking it to the cycle of female inequality.
The largest source of motivation I feel is missing. That is one thing that I will always remember as part of growing up, was figuring out what I wanted to be. Where I wanted to go, and in large part I am always asking myself that.
It seems here, that part
is missing. It falls into a bigger cycle, which is unemployment, especially among the youth. If you cannot see where you want to go, why are you motivated to do it? If you know that at the end of the day you will get whatever you can, why would you set yourself up to fail in an impossible situation.
My spirits went to an all time low when I asked my best friend here, a boy of 15 years old what he wanted to do when he grew up and he said “I don’t know, I will let my brother fill that part out’’.
And the cycle continues.
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