Governments have done their bits to make education accessible to citizens. If for nothing at all, things like the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE), Capitation Grant and School Feeding have helped to keep most children in school. We need education to develop.
Article 25 (a) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution says basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to every citizen. The Education Act of 2008 states it as a crime for any parent to deny their child an access to, at least, basic education. Education gives knowledge, skills and ability for better life. The child needs support to enter education and to stay in it for the best.
GES implements policies and programmes for our own good and for the good of our nation. The other day, I heard Education Minister Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang say, “The Ministry of Education with the Ghana Education Service has spearheaded reforms designed to improve access to quality education, with a focus on basic education.” We now have Complementary Basic Education (CBE) programme. It has existed for over a decade now and has made strides. About 150,000 school drop-outs have accessed it and around 80% of them have so far joined the mainstream primary school system. There are over fifty CBE study centers within the three regions of the north and parts of Brong Ahafo Region. It will soon reach other areas.
Non-governmental institutions like School for Life, Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition, IBIS-Ghana, Ghana Institute of Languages, Literacy and Bible Translation, Northern Network for Education Development, Partners in Participatory Development, Roots and Futures, DANIDA, DFID, UNICEF and USAID formed the CBE Alliance in 2011. CBE commits itself to the promotion of good quality basic education. It serves out-of-school children between 8 to 14 years and those that live in ‘hard to reach’ places. It is in line with international best practice and uses non-state institutions to meet educational goals and objectives. Even Burkina Faso, Mali, East Africa, Egypt, India and Bangladesh also run CBE.
CBE is purely a community-based programme with class size of usually not more than twenty-five learners. It uses GES-approved instructional aids and it respects gender balance. Facilitators and volunteers usually reside at the local communities to teach children how to read and write in their native languages. So you see where the point on local language policy is valid again? Some of our teachers are also helping and they deserve gratitude.
Basic education covers two years of kindergarten education, six years of primary education and three years of junior high education. In Ghana, we expect children to enter kindergarten one at the age of 4 years. GES organizes “My First Day at School” at the start of every new academic year to officially welcome kids that enter school (that is; kindergarten one and primary one) for the first time in their lives. This year, I was part of the team which visited schools in Ningo-Prampram District to engage with fresh pupils. In 1992, just over half of children aged 6 to 11 years entered primary school in Ghana. The 2010 Census said 540,127 children within 6-14 years had never attended school or had dropped out of school. By 2012, as a result of FCUBE, the proportion of primary-age children out of school had fallen to 18.3% but still with vast regional variations.
Children may drop out of school due to remoteness of their schools and homes, socioeconomic barriers, physical disabilities and abuse. Out-of-school children are persons that enter school and drop out temporarily or permanently. According to the 2013 UNICEF Out of School Report for Ghana, 24% of children within 8 to 14 years in northern Ghana are out of school. Mr Stephen Adu, an Acting Deputy Director-General of Ghana Education Service (GES), has just returned from Tamale after attending the 20th Anniversary of School for Life, a founder member of CBE, where he said, “There are children who are out of school because of the remoteness and inaccessible nature of such communities. There are also communities which, even though, have schools, they record extremely low enrollment as a result of unfavorable socioeconomic and cultural factors.” He added,“Even though basic education is expected to be accessible to all Ghanaian children, it is unfortunate that we have over 400,000 out of school children in the country. We are denying all such children the opportunity for them to contribute their quota to the development of this our great nation.” Meanwhile, the 2003-2015 Education Strategic Plan has advised us not to forget children who are hard to reach and have dropped out of school.
Findings say most children lack the literacy and numeracy skills needed to enter school at higher grades when they miss the initial or normal years of primary education. CBE has been set up to give a second chance to out-of-school children to enter primary education. It helps the child to develop basic skills of literacy and numeracy in their mother tongue for entry into grade 3 or grade 4 of primary education. It uses an accelerated approach to teaching and learning. Facilitators provide basic guidance services to children so as to stay in education.
CBE institutions, including those run by School for Life, usually give three hours of literacy and numeracy lessons to children a day for about nine months. The child is helped to develop skills of the first three years of primary education at one third the cost of teaching children in the regular school. CBE uses state-approved curriculum of literacy, numeracy and life skills as core areas; local language of the community in which the child is enrolled and flexible time schedule as determined by the community. The method of instruction used is that of participation. Just like Non-Formal Education, CBE has an effective partnership structure between government and non-state bodies in the process of education delivery.
Lack of education yields illiteracy, ignorance and poverty. The state and stakeholders should continue to work in tandem to remove all obstacles to education. Though not part of the formal school system, creches and nurseries are about 6,218 in Ghana. GES has in its records about 20,960 kindergartens, 21,309 primary schools and 13,840 junior high schools spread across the country. Parents must always give food, education and other needs to their wards. No child must sell ‘pure’ water as her friends are in school and studying. Proper education on career, sex and reproductive health is good for the child.
The writer is an educationist and a Public Relations Officer at the Headquarters of the Ghana Education Service.