High Enrollment Levels not Reflected in School Retention Levels in Ghana
The Volunteer Services Organization (VSO) has bemoaned the fact that increases in enrollment levels of children into basic schools in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions of Ghana has not translated into their retention in the upper primary and Junior High schools (JHS).
Gender parity and the enrollment of children with disabilities which have also improved at the enrollment level in recent years are not also reflected at the upper primary and JHS levels in these three regions.
Speaking at the launch of an innovative project aimed at enhancing education in the three regions, the Country Director of VSO, Mr.
Amidu Ibrahim, said those children who manage to transit into upper primary and JHS have generally under performed in all educational tests as compared to their colleagues in other parts of the country.
Hence, it is against the backdrop of these problems that the new project, dubbed “Tackling Education Needs Inclusively (TENI) is being implemented to address all issues that militate against quality education holistically to ensure the retention, high performance levels and improved completion rates of school children in the three affected regions by the year 2013.
The first phase of the 10 year project will initially be implemented in the Talensi Nabdam District in the Upper East Region, the Jirapa District in the Upper West Region and the West Mamprusi District in the Northern Region from the year 2009 to 2013. During this phase, TENI will improve the retention rate of pupils in 80 percent of the schools in the selected districts and their transition to JHS by 30 percent, targeting about 50,000 pupils, 50 percent of whom will be girls.
The 4.5 million phase one TENI project which is being co-funded with 3 million pounds from Comic Relief and 1.5 million pounds from the VSO will support the development of educational strategies that integrate child-centred and inclusive methodologies into pre-service teacher training.
It will also support continuous assessment and performance of pupils through School Performance Reviews (SPRs), advocate for improved teacher motivation to enhance their performance and conduct more research on best practices that ensure systematic change in education in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions.
Under the TENI project, the capacities of implementing partners and civil society organizations would be strengthened to whip up their ability to engage with the state to guarantee quality education. Implementing partners are the Link Community Development (LCD) in the Upper East Region, PRONET North in the Upper West Region, Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) in the Northern Region and the National Service Scheme (NSS).
Mr. Ibrahim said the Kayayei phenomenon is a terrible indictment on the quality of support that girls receive at home, from their communities and in schools to enable them to access quality education. Some of the causes that undermine support for education include the lack of teachers in classrooms, especially in the rural and deprived areas, and the incapacity of teachers to support all children in their learning. The lack of trained teachers is also another factor with only about a 100 out of the 500 teachers at the primary level in the West Mamprusi District being trained teachers.
Other factors include the weak engagement between communities, district assemblies and school authorities to improve quality education for all children and socio-cultural believes and practices that discriminate against girls and children with disabilities thus denying them access to quality education.
He noted that, set against this gloomy picture are the efforts of government at making quality education available and affordable to all children. These range from the upgrading of teacher training colleges and incentives for teachers serving in deprived areas to the establishment of the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) which will provide the development framework, the coordination and the synergy for all development efforts in the three regions covered by the project.
Mr. Ibrahim said TENI seeks to build on and support these efforts to ensure that all stakeholders work together to break the socio economic barriers to the retention and performance of children in schools.
In a welcoming address the West Mamprusi District Chief Executive, Mr. Sulley Abudu Zackaria , said two notifying government interventions, the school feeding programme and the capitation grant, have significantly enhanced education in Ghana. He lauded the recent increment of 100 percent per child in the capitation grant, saying, it will further go to consolidate the gains that government has made by introducing these interventions.
He mentioned the vastness of the district coupled with its scattered human settlements which are inundated by a number of rivers and streams as one of the challenges facing education in the district. The district also has inadequate professional teachers since most professional teachers refuse postings to the area because of the difficulties associated with the terrain, the poor road network and the lack of social amenities such as electricity and water. Poverty, rural urban drift of children of school going age, absenteeism among teachers, teenage pregnancy, and the negative attitude towards female education were also cited as some challenges.
The Chairman for the occasion, Naa Professor Nabila, Chief of Mamprugu Traditional Area and President of the National House of Chiefs, said education is the best gift that any parent can give to a child and opens doors of opportunities that would otherwise be closed if one were not educated. He therefore extended gratitude to VSO and Comic relief for taking the initiative to invest in the education of children in the three beneficiary districts.