It’s a bright, sunny Monday here at the Mamprobi South ‘4’ Junior High School, near Chemu, in the coastal areas of Accra. The school, which shares the same enclave with the Chemunaa Basic School, is visibly short of its total number of students.
This was a Monday – supposed to be the busiest day in the week – yet most classrooms were almost half-empty.
“That is the problem we face here [students’ refusal to attend school],” Headmistress of the Mamprobi South ‘4’ JHS, Augustina Bannerman told Pulse Ghana.
“In this community, very few children are serious with schooling. In fact, the number has even improved. Previously, the apathy towards school was even more worrying. It is still worrying, but what can we say?” she added, whiles shaking her head.
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According to a 2015 report by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), 76.6% of the Ghanaian population are literates. Out of this, male literacy constitutes 82%, whiles female literacy stands at 71%.
Per the statistics in the report, it is easy to conclude that Ghana’s literacy rate is not that bad. However, on the ground, the situation is entirely different. And, it is even worse when you consider technical, vocational and informal education.
The UNESCO report fails to clearly define what literacy means, with its main parameters being one’s ability to read and write. As a result, if a person is able to read and write, then he or she automatically qualifies as a literate.
But does being able to read and write really make an individual educated?
Like the situation at the Mamprobi South ‘4’ JHS, many basic schools across the country, especially those under the wings of government, cannot boasts of having full classes.
Pupils are torn between attending school and making money. There was a popular saying among the older generation that “Education is the key to success”.
However, in this generation, many of the youth believe that that is no longer the case. In fact, the aphorism has now change to: “Of what use is education if the padlock it is supposed to unlock has many keys now?”. In other words, why waste time on education when they can start making money now?
Basic Needs Still a Problem
There is no doubt the cause of this apathy towards education has been caused by a collective negligence – from parents, government and every other citizen.
“You know this place is near the sea. As a result, most parents prefer to have their children with them when going to work. The fathers usually choose to take their children along when going for fishing, whiles the mothers, mostly traders, prefer their children helping them at the market. All this at the expense of education,” Mrs. Bannerman laments.
The fact is that in some communities, education is simply not valued. Parents see it as a waste of time. “When you speak about it at PTA meetings, they will ask you ‘if our children don’t help us to work, how then do we take care of them?’,” Mrs. Bannerman subtly adds.
But the problems run deeper than that. How quality is the basic school education system in Ghana? Gone are the days when every average parent could afford to take their wards to private schools. However, education has now become very expensive, which has in turn forced many parents into enrolling their wards into public schools.
Basic school is the most important in the cycle of education, however, most of these government schools are, in all honesty, nothing to write home about. Lack of libraries? Check. Lack of adequate teachers? Check. Poor school facilities? Check.
It will be unfair to say the government has done nothing about the situation. Strides have been made, but they have just not been enough. The introduction of the free feeding programme is a great idea, but even that does not cover pupils at the JHS level.
Although basic school students in public schools do not pay school fees, the country’s economic situation means some parents still struggle to provide the other needs of their wards.
Getting books are still a problem, uniforms are a headache and transport, feeding and other basic needs still blight the education of some pupils.
Problems Caused By Illiteracy in Ghana
Once these basic needs are unable to be provided, the pupils begin to drop out of school, therefore, increasing the illiteracy rate in the country. Those who are fortunate get to complete JHS, but are unable to continue at Senior High School.
Again, per the criteria used by UNESCO, most of these JHS dropouts would qualify as literates, but what can a BECE certificate really do in this modern era?
Enter fraud boys, street children and deviants.
Once the certificate cannot get the individual a job, they are forced to consider other ventures since they need to survive. Consequently, those who do not get the required guidance become deviants.
Illiteracy may not be the immediate cause, but in the long term the frustrations of sitting at home is what leads to the smoking, drinking, teenage pregnancies, et al.
That is not to say all those who are not educated enough turn out to be deviants, but the fact still remains that the devil finds work for the idle hand.
How Individuals Can Strive to Get Better Education
Sometimes, aside all the problems associated with the educational system in Ghana, there is still the need for the individual himself or herself to make the conscious effort to get educated.
Nothing good comes easy, and that is the general rule with every aspect of life. Education does not only mean going to school. If you can’t afford formal education, then informal education is a must.
An individual who lacks both formal and informal education is as lost as a bee in the desert. You don’t always need a degree to make it in life.
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Learn a trade, start something and make it worthwhile. The most successful men and women are not always those who attained the highest level of education, they are those who educated themselves in a particular field and took it to the next level.
How Can Better Education Can Tie Into Making Ghana Better?
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist, Malcolm X, once said.
The import of this message is that whiles education may no longer be considered as the ultimate key to success, it still opens doors to success.
There is a difference between literacy and education. Whiles both can be interchangeable; they still have different meanings in context.
That is why in spite of the 76.6% literacy rate in Ghana, the country is still battling with high unemployment rates, low productivity and other avoidable national issues.
Education spreads across various fields. The unemployment situation is so high because almost everyone wants be involved in white-collar jobs.
To tie education into making Ghana better, then we will need to build up our knowledge in agriculture to be able to grow the agrarian sector, we need to be more tech-savvy, we need to get educated on how to expand all other sectors.
It’s not too late to turn Ghana into that paradise we all wish for, but to do that we need education.
And although it must not be limited to the classroom, getting schooled is still very much relevant in the cause.
It is also always worth remembering that an investment in knowledge (education) pays the best interest.
This is just one of the many steps every Ghanaian can take to make Ghana a better place. Know some more? Email us at