News / Africa

Ghana Lauded for Free Primary School Program

In Ghana, primary school enrollment has been boosted by the elimination of fees and the introduction of supportive social programs. Today, over 90 percent of all children aged six to 12 [or nearly 3.2 million] attend primary school. But development specialists say they’re still concerned about the quality and number of teachers available for the schools.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joana Mantey
This is Part 3 of a 12-part series:  Education in Africa
Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /
6 / 7/ 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12

In Ghana, primary education is free, and in recent years, more students have been enrolled.

Fees were abolished in public schools seven years ago when the government introduced yearly grants of about $2.50 for each pupil.

The funding covers the cost of learning materials, sanitation and sports equipment, and minor school repairs.

Primary school students at Akebubu, Ghana.
Primary school students at Akebubu, Ghana.

Kofi Asare is the executive director of the NGO Action for Rural Education and a former national program officer for the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition.

He says the government has also introduced other forms of support for school children.

“They include the free school feeding program where each child is entitled to a square meal a day in school," he expalined. "It is currently on-going and involves about one million children out of the 7.5 million children in basic [including primary] schools. Though it covers barely 10 percent of the population of pupils, it has made significant impact in rural areas where issues of nutrition affect school enrolment and retention.”

Success brings new challenges

Despite these successes, there are also drawbacks.

Asare says school administrators complain of staff shortages.

“There is a deficit of 20,000 teachers," said Asare, "which has caused some 15,000 classrooms to be empty. In some cases, you have to merge classes one to three for one teacher to handle.”

Asare says it’s also difficult to recruit – and retain – instructors.

Part of the problem, he says, may be due to low pay: The average primary school teacher earns about 300 dollars per month.  As a result, Asare says many teachers who go on paid study leave refuse to return to the classrooms. And, he says only about half of the nearly 4,000 teachers who receive advanced training each year return to work.

Many teachers prefer to stay in urban areas, depriving children in rural areas of the right to an education. In comparison, he says that three years ago, it was reported that over 550 teachers in and around the capital Accra were underemployed due to the excess number of instructors.

He also says the growing number of students has led to the hiring of many teachers who are not qualified. Currently, 38 percent of primary school teachers have not been trained.

Asare says these challenges have had a negative impact on the performance of pupils in basic schools, which include nursery school, kindergarten and primary school.

“Standards have been compromised hugely in the past 10 to 15 years," he asserts. "Available data from the National Educational Assessment suggests that less than 40 per cent of pupils in basic schools are proficient in English and math, and that is a worrying scenario.”

As a result, Asare said, many pupils fail to qualify for senior high school.

Improved training, accountability

Asare says action is being taken.

In 2006, the government and foreign donors including Great Britain’s Department for International Development introduced the Untrained Teacher Training Diploma in Basic Education program, a four-year effort to help 25,000 teachers obtain diplomas in basic education. Funding shortages have delayed the start of the second phase.

Asare says the problem could be eased by cancelling paid leave for teachers, which costs nearly $9 million per year.He also recommends an increased allowance for rural teachers and improved supervision of teaching and learning in primary schools.

Ghana spends over 10 percent of its gross domestic product and 31 percent of its budget on education. Asare says school administrators must protect that investment by eliminating waste and mismanagement.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid