The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), one of EI’s national affiliates, has commented on an article written by Kwame Akyeampong, Senior policy analyst in the team in charge of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
In an article entitled “For Ghana’s young, skills are the test of progress” and posted on World Education Blog, Akyeampong acknowledged that “Ghana, which aims to become a middle income country by 2020, continues to receive praise from the international media for its impressive progress.”
Progress has been made in education
“After all, what better way to judge efforts to improve Ghanaians’ welfare than to look at whether its most vulnerable and disadvantaged youth are getting education that leads to decent jobs? Indeed, education, skills and jobs have become hot political topics in the run-up to the general election in December.”
He also said that he was also struck by another debate in Ghana among young people asking how to ensure that education offers a gateway to a prosperous future.
He noted that this debate is vital for the numerous poor youth, most of whom are young women living in northern Ghana, who have not benefited from education – as many as 8 in 10 poor 17-22 year old women in Northern Ghana had less than four years of education in 2008.
Ghana has 24.8 millions inhabitants and 41 per cent is under 15 years old (Census 2010). The majority (74.1%) of the population 11 years and older is literate. The proportion of the population which has never attended school in the rural area (33.1%) is more than two times that of the urban area (14.2%). There is also a marked difference between males (9.1%) and females (14.3%) who have never attended school. The proportions of the population who have never been to school in the three northern regions range between 44.5 % in Upper East and 54.9 % in the Northern region while in Greater Accra is 10.1%.
All young people must beneficiate from quality education
Akyeampong stated: “Our responsibility to young people includes not only providing a decent formal education, but also offering work experience during school, and schemes for school leavers that offer assistance to find work or begin a small business.”
“Ghana’s current progress does offer the promise of brighter, more prosperous future – but only if it invests in its most marginalized and disadvantaged youth to create a more equal society,” he said.
GNAT General Secretary and EI Vice-President Irene Duncan-Adanusa reacted to Akyeampong’s article by commending him “for tackling this issue from the point of view of disadvantaged youth. The Ghanaian youth’s issue being adequately prepared for the labour market is a priority issue for the nation, especially for players in the education sector.
Link between education and decent work
She stressed the correlation between education and decent work. “Otherwise why should Ghana be currently dealing with the growing numbers of unemployed young university graduates? she asked.
She underlined that Akyeampong mentioned Northern Ghana, which has been acclaimed to be in the heart of the “poverty belt”. Young people from the three Northern regions, most often with barely 4 years of basic education, annually migrate to the South in the hope of a better future. They unfortunately end up in the slums, market centres and streets doing unskilled jobs, such as shoe-shine boys, or even resorting to prostitution, in the case of young girls.
She regretted that this situation is not particular to young people from Northern Ghana: “One often comes across youth from other parts of Ghana on the streets of the capital, Accra.”
Duncan-Adanusa added that Ghana’s New Education Act 2008 provides for a formal 4-year apprenticeship programme for youth, after a 9-year basic education or four-year Senior High School programmes. However, she noted, the implementation plan is yet to be formally launched. Currently, NGO’s such as Camfed, mention in Akyeampong’s article, are filling that vacuum.
“Against this back-drop, GNAT insists that any skills improvement programme for young people between 14 and 22 years should be premised on proficiency in basic areas, i.e. core subjects such as numeracy, literacy and communication, understanding basic theories of science and its effects on the environment, and of course entrepreneurial skills,” Duncan-Adanusa also said.
She went on to say that “the need for value-added skills to make our youth adaptable to the labour market cannot be overemphasised. In countries such as Ghana with a growing youth population this phenomenon cannot be easily swept away. The issue of social equity and balance is very critical in a world, where the individual’s academic and social progress is threatened by the global economic crisis.”
Further investment in education crucial
She finally highlighted that she agrees with Akyeampong that Ghana needs to invest heavily in a more ingenious and effective education system which will equip all youth with tools for their future survival and the country’s development. And this investment should not only be limited to Ghana’s “most marginalised and disadvantaged youth” from any particular part of the country. Ghana spends 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) annually on education, when UNESCO recommends 6% of GDP.
“It is crucial that bright young people enter become teachers and provide future generations with quality education,” EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said. “EI encourages Ghana’s authorities to take adequate measures to attract and retain well-qualified, trained and motivated young professional in the teaching profession.”