Information by Country

Ghana: Background

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Ghana has made good progress towards increasing access to education and narrowing gender gaps. In 2005, the Ministry of Education abolished school fees nationwide in basic education and introduced a capitation grant for all basic schools after a successful pilot in 2004. Because it effectively addresses poverty – one of the main barriers to access – the grant demonstrated that eliminating school fees leads to narrowing gender gaps and has an immediate and substantial impact on enrolment.

This was particularly the case for kindergarten. Enrolment went up from about 500,000 students in 2004-2005 to more than 800,000 in 2005-2006, an increase of 67 per cent. During the same period, the primary net enrolment rate increased from 59.1 per cent to 68.8 per cent, while net enrolment at the junior secondary level increased from 31.6 per cent to 41.6 per cent.

The increase in enrolment was higher for girls than for boys, thus further narrowing gender gaps. The national primary gender parity index (GPI) has improved from 0.93 to 0.95. A similar trend is observed in the poorest and most remote areas, confirming that abolishment of school fees benefits the poor.

The increase in enrolment has, however, led to a number of emerging challenges, including shortages of teachers (especially in remote areas), a shortage of school infrastructure, and implications for financing that could negatively affect the quality of teaching and learning, and thus learning outcomes.

Girls’ education initiative

UNGEI has not been formally launched in Ghana, but partnerships for girls’ education have existed for some time, especially since the 1997 establishment of the Girls’ Education Unit in the Ghana Education Service under the Ministry of Education. At decentralized levels, every region and district has a Girls’ Education Officer.

The Ministry of Education, with UNICEF’s support, developed girls’ education strategies and implemented them with other partners.

The country’s national Education Strategic Plan 2003-2015 comprehensively evaluated Education for All, the Millennium Development Goals and the Poverty Reduction Strategy. These are closely interrelated and put a great emphasis on increasing girls’ access to quality basic education and to achieving gender parity by providing female children with material and financial support, such as scholarships, food rations, bicycles and textbooks.

Partners

ActionAid, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), Ghana National Commission on Children of the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs, UK Department of International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Food Programme, World University Service of Canada, members of Parliament, local governments (regional coordinating councils and district assemblies) and traditional and religious leaders.

Barriers to girls’ education

  • Negative social and cultural perceptions about formal education, especially for girls (typically in the northern part of the country, where the poverty level is high and Islam is a dominant religion).
  • The inability of parents or guardians to bear related costs of education, including uniforms, stationery and food, as well as the opportunity costs of sending girls to school.
  • Long distances from home to school, too few facilities and a lack of child-friendly environments in the schools that are available.

UNGEI in action

Although there is no formal UNGEI partnership, the priorities for advancing girls’ education are:

  1. Advocacy and communication strategies to change negative attitudes towards girls’ education and ensure that those who have respect and authority in the community work towards sensitization.
  2. Reaching poor and vulnerable children. One major boost has been the introduction of capitation grants, funded partly by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative but now fully integrated in Ghana’s budget.
  3. Targeted construction and rehabilitation of schools, classrooms and other facilities, such as separate toilets and urinals for girls and boys.

Progress

Ghana’s Ministry of Education established a Girls’ Education Unit within the Ghana Education Service in 1997. Girls’ education is integral to the operational work plan of the Ministry of Education, and every region and district has a Girls’ Education Officer. The abolishment of school fees, in combination with the introduction of a capitation grant, has been one of the most effective interventions in years to increase girls’ access to education. Other activities include providing scholarships and bicycles for girls; training and deployment of female teachers to rural areas; promoting girls’ clubs and camps; capacity-building with Girls’ Education Officers in all districts and regions; and the publication of a national status report on gender parity in education.

UNGEI within other national and international frameworks

  1. The sector-wide approach to planning has been in place in the education sector, based on the national Education Strategic Plan 2003-2015. One of the 10 policy goals of the Strategic Plan is to achieve gender parity and equality at all levels of education.
  2. The first poverty-reduction strategy paper, Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS), covered 2003-2005, and the country reached its HIPC completion point in 2004. The current strategy paper, Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II), covers 2006-2009.
  3. Ghana’s proposal to the Fast Track Initiative, which put a major focus on promoting girls’ education, was endorsed in 2003-2004. The country received US$8 million from the Fast Track Initiative Catalytic Fund in 2005, with US$11 million expected for 2006.
  4. Ghana has formulated its third United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) as the management tool for coordinating UN system activities during 2006-2010, based on the Common Country Assessment (CCA) 2005. Girls’ education is featured in UNDAF for the area of joint programming – especially between UNICEF, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) – and is one of six theme groups identified by the framework.

 

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