UNESCO estimates that Global progress towards universal primary education has halted!
As of 2012, 58 million children of primary school age and another 63 million children of lower secondary school age were still out of school. In Africa, it is estimated that 20 % of children are not in school and 22.37% of girls are not in school for primary education. Almost 30% of children and 32% of girls drop out of lower secondary school.
More than ever, it is not enough to promise education for all, a conscious effort is needed to create quality infrastructure and to motivate as well as support children to attend school and stay in school for a complete quality education.
Close your eyes, remember, how many people in your class completed school, how many made it to the next level of education ,how many were poor, how many were girls?
Imagine that you and your family were very poor and you were a girl. Will your society's welfare system give you a chance to be educated?
Imagine yourself with no education, what would have been your likely spot now and Would you have been better of ?
I wonder ...
1. why society, some teachers and you, do not help make education accessible to all?
In Ghana, like many other developing nations, the 'poor' cannot afford education and globally one out of 5 girls who get to go to school drop out of school because they are either married off or are not motivated to go on because of social and economic pressures.
Personal Case study 1: One of my school mates, a very brilliant girl was not able to write her exams because she was expelled for getting pregnant and students were asked to hoot and tease her out of the school.
Now that I know better, I wonder how that solved the problem of her being able to be a better person? We just encouraged another school drop out who will probably never get the second chance to give her child a better life.
Interestingly, there was no talk about who made her pregnant and how to support her. I am not in anyway condoning teenage pregnancy but how does a school solve its lack of sex education and support with possibly free condoms, blame a child below the age of 18 for her inability to protect herself against pregnancy and punish her for the rest of her life. Prior to the final decision, we( some friends, myself and one loving house mistress), had tried to encourage her and change how bad some people made it look but her spirit seemed badly broken and the final judgement did worse. She never returned for the exam.
Why should pregnancy stop a girl from writing her exam?
What can you do?
I like two things that my childhood choir , Taifa Youth Choir, used to do for young people in the group that got pregnant when they were teenagers, we saved up and bought a gift for that member and did mini-events to raise money for a church education fund led by two amazing people Michael Faakye and Olivia Dedaa Obeng. Myself and others who had been able to get to into the tertiary level of education in the group were peer counsellors to encourage and support others to go to school in anyway we could. A simple talk about how school actually is and what you are learning and doing , an extra help with Mathematics or English, Sharing your previous level books with others who could not afford them and so on was enough to inspire and help others to do better at school ,go back to school or move up the education ladder.
So, in your school, in your religious group and in your community , ask yourself each day, how am i making education a priority for me and for others?
2. Why most countries in the world, do not make quality education for all (male and female, rich and poor, etc) a priority?
Personal Case study 2: At the time that i was about attending the university, i found out that out of the numerous peers that were taking the national exam only 3% actually got an opportunity to the 'affordable traditional university' . Of these 97% , a significant percentage of the 'drop outs were female. Amongst the lucky 3% , even more where going to drop -out or perform sub-optimally because of lack of motivation, lack of finance and social pressures. Lack of motivation because, far less of the lucky 3% were not going to read the course they had always been passionate about not because they did not meet the qualification needed to read that course according to the handbook but because they were not the 'exceptionally smart ones' amongst the lot OR they could not afford paying full-fees( no government subsidy fees). I had friends who did not get to read medicine, even with 3.9 GPA! (Note Ghanaian undergraduate studies requirements use only your grades as a qualification)
Challenge: Why should there be economic inequality in getting access to public education?
What can you do?
Some alumni of the University of Ghana and companies, eg, KPMG, have introduced some scholarships for the financially disadvantaged in the university. However, its effectiveness is yet to be ascertained. As a student representative or a student, advocate for transparency in the choice of scholarship candidates. Clean-up events are good but you need to do more to help yourself and other students get a life-transforming opportunity than a one-time show if you really want to make a change. Eg. Erusmus Mundus scholarship , in some cases , publicly ranks applicants for its scholarship and gives clear criteria on score points for each aspect of the application. Transparency on application, recipients and regular case studies on the effectiveness of the scholarship in transforming the lives of financially needy students will not only encourage benefactors to keep giving but also reduce corruption and create awareness for beneficiaries to apply.
As a finance manager of G.K.A Pharmacy limited, I developed a start-up business plan for G.K.A laundry limited that embed a back-to-school employment structure which allowed high school students to not only get work experience but save towards furthering their education. The small business in 2 years , had managed to help two girls further their education and two go back to school. Mind you,i was not 30 years when i did this.Similarly, as a young professional, go a step further to suggest and develop a formidable project which your employer could embark on to support young female education. The little drops will make a mighty ocean.
At my Swedish institute future leaders kick-off event , I met a young Malawian , Maggie Alibewawo-Choonara Phiri, who among others had started an NGO that helps children in a community go back to school. She too was less than 30 then. So, if you are creative enough, start an NGO and be the change that you hope to see. The NGO could work on advocacy, fundraising and\or directly embarking on projects that help girls to go back to school.
Other options include:
1. Volunteering to organise and book a regular time with school(s), underprivileged one(s), or your religious organisation or community to give support, emotional support to young people because the light is brighter at the end of the tunnel with education.
2. Share education opportunities
3. Support scholarship funds and NGOs that support education, etc.
The list is endless and yes! You too can join in!
Ask yourself, what can i do as a youth, an alumni, as a student , as a graduate, as a manager to help make education more accessible to all?