“No more school held under trees”

Posted on December 7, 2009


So… a couple of weeks ago the new government presented its first budget. A large part was devoted to public education and a new effort to construct more schools with the aim of “no more school held under trees”-a wonderful initiative to create jobs in this time of economic crisis when there is predicted a 2.5% drop in the economic growth rate.

We always hear the rhetoric on the importance of education, that the future of the country lies in the hands of the youth etc. etc. But so little has been done except when Ghana was under the H.I.P.C. program despite an exponential increase in the population under 25. Did you know that an estimated 240,000 children in Ghana today attend classes under trees and sheds!

I believe, it’s a step in the right direction to put more money in public education. For the past ten years and more it would seem people have come to believe that the private education sector is the only place to receive quality education. For the most part though, I believe, the private education initiative is often really just a business opportunity. The rational for opening private schools  is there is the belief there are great profits to be made in opening a school and wealthy people are doing it all over this country. These people often have little or no background in education and are just interested in balance sheets and not the quality of the educational experience.

The consequences? Well, we are seeing the consequences now from the past twenty of thirty years of stagnation. In the 70’s when I was deeply involved in teacher training here, there were remnants of a strong education system. Mind you there weren’t the numbers present governments have to deal with today. But the system worked. I know at Akrokerri Teacher Training College we produced a great product, a well grounded professional. Now….just in the area of teachers, 43% of primary teachers are untrained! And the consequences of this….surveys have found that fewer than 60% of girls leaving school after six years could read and write a simple sentence according to the Education For All Global Monitoring Report.

Anyways, why now no more schools under trees? The answer came in an article published the day before Obama’s visit to Ghana in July, 2009 entitled “Obama: What is the agenda for education in Ghana?” Ya see, according to Kofi Asare of the Ghana Education Campaign Coalition, Senator Obama during his presidential campaign made a commitment to launch a Global Education Fund with a U.S contribution of $2 billion. It was hope that the G8, the G20 and the I.M.F. would get on the bandwagon and a real global effort would be initiated. The world still waits……

To show her good intentions though, in her first budget, the government of Ghana has focused greatly on school construction with the hope that this might stimulate international partners to move on stated intentions.