Africa Education Watch has launched two reports on equitable education at the University of Ghana. Both reports – “Girls’ Participation in Basic Education: What are the gaps?”, and “Towards a Gender Responsive Basic Education system in West Africa”, were funded by Oxfam and aimed at directing education policies in West Africa towards achieving gender responsiveness.

Girls’ Participation in Basic Education: What are the gaps?

The report appreciates that, while some countries, including Ghana, have achieved gender parity at the basic level, the high number of out-of-school children, school dropouts, child labour and child marriage cases, sexual and reproductive gender-based violence, gender non-responsive teaching and school management approaches, corporal punishment, distance commuted to school, etc. continue to affect the full completion of both boys and girls at the basic level.

Towards a Gender Responsive Basic Education System in West Africa:

The report observes that the high levels of basic school dropouts and out-of-school children in the sub-region raise questions about the relevance of gender parity. In Ghana, for instance, while about one million children aged 4–17 are out of school, Nigeria, the country with the third highest number of out-of-school children after India and Pakistan, had about 10 million not in primary school alone.  On dropouts, while Ghana loses about a third of its pupils before basic school completion, about 35 per cent of Nigerian students are unable to transition into secondary schools.

Child labour was identified as a major factor limiting the participation of boys in basic education, with high levels of prevalence recorded in Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana, among others, in spite of West African countries signing the ILO Convention 182 prohibiting all forms of child and forced labour. It notes that, while Nigeria leads the child labour chart in West Africa with some 15 million children, Ghana had about 419,252 children aged 5–17 involved in economic activity. In Mali, over 15,000 victims of child trafficking were trafficked into La Cote d'Ivoire to work on plantations.

For girls, sexual and reproductive gender-based violence was prominent in limiting their participation in basic education, manifesting in teenage pregnancy and child marriage. According to the report, even though many countries, including Liberia, Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Niger, had policies to prevent pregnancy in school and facilitate the re-entry of teenage mothers into school in the unfortunate incident of pregnancy, the fixation on an abstinence-only sex education policy, which has proven ineffective for decades, and poverty remained major obstacles to the prevention of pregnancy in school and the re-entry of teenage mothers.

Performing the launch, Madam Dorothy Konadu, Board Member of Eduwatch, charged West African governments to mainstream gender responsiveness into education plans, policies, budgets, monitoring, and evaluation systems to ensure the factors that kick boys and girls out of school are given a systemic response, rather than the usual ad-hoc, uncoordinated, project-based approach, which has for decades yielded very little dividend.

In his remark, Eduwatch Executive Director, Kofi Asare decried the status quo where about two-thirds of both boys and girls drop out before completing basic education as unacceptable and charged West African governments to pay policy-level attention to the factors that cause both boys and girls to drop, including the full operationalization of the prohibition of child and forced labour in all countries.

While commending some African countries, including Ghana, for banning corporal punishment in schools, he observed that the use of administrative fiats to operationalize the ban was ineffective, hence the need to mainstream the ban on corporal punishment into law for effectiveness. On the next steps after the launch, he indicated that Eduwatch is already engaging the leadership of the Ghana Education Service on the key recommendations and would commence ECOWAS-level engagement in September.

Video documentary:

In addition to the launch of the two reports, Eduwatch premiered its latest documentary on girls’ participation in basic education in Tolon, Northern Ghana. The documentary features Fulera and Memunatu, two primary school graduates who reside in Lingbinsi, a remote village in Ghana's Northern Region, but have to embark on a trek by foot that takes them through rugged terrain and across several miles, just to access lower secondary education.

Their local community has no Junior High School, so after completing primary school, they have to commute to one of the nearest Junior High Schools in Tolon. While in school, many other impediments exist in their way, including corporal punishment; identified as a threat to their retention. Their stories reflect the journey of countless Ghanaian girls in rural settlements, highlighting the importance of accessible education and safe learning environments.

Textbooks report: The convening also included stakeholder validation of a soon-to-be-published primary school textbook monitoring report from 20 districts. The report will be used to advocate increased financing, efficient distribution, and management of textbooks. A high-level validation of the report with the GES leadership is underway.

Present at the convening were district and municipal directors of Education, officials from the Ministry of Education, Local Government Service, Teacher Unions, Student unions, and Civil Society Organisations.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.