2001 GHA: Rights and Equity in the Classroom: A Case Study of Classroom Interactions in Basic Schools in Ghana
Author: Asiegbor, I.; Fincham, K.; Nanang, M.; Gala, E. E. K.; Britwum, A. O.; Curriculum Research and Development Division, Ghana Education Service
Being a signatory to the most important conventions on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Ghana has the responsibility to ensure that the contents of the conventions are translated into practice. The classroom is one of the important sites for the transmission and practice of equity and rights and gender inequity, and how it affects teaching and learning.
Purpose / Objective
The study set out to assess the extent to which gender equity and human rights education is taught and practised in Basic Schools in Ghana. Central to the research was an examination of strategies used by schools to perpetuate gender discrimination and, consequently, the denial of human rights. The research among others sought to:
- Examine the code of discipline of Ghanaian Basic Schools
- Evaluate pupils' and teachers' awareness of child rights and gender issues in Ghanaian Basic Schools
- Assess the perceptions of teachers on the effects of the abuse of the rights of the child and gender discrimination on the development of children
- Examine the practice of human rights and gender equity in classroom interactions in Public and Private Basic Schools in Ghana
- Solicit from Teachers of sampled schools, structures that can be put in place to ensure gender equity and human rights teaching/learning and practice in schools
- Suggest strategies for promoting human rights and gender equity education in Basic Schools in Ghana
The study covered 48 Basic Schools selected from 3 zones in Ghana, some public and others private schools. Some of these schools were located in urban communities and the rest in rural areas. In all, 80 pupils and 111 teachers/head teachers were the main respondents of this study. Other respondents covered included officers from the Ghana Education Service Offices in the regions. Documents on educational policies and research reports on girl child education were consulted.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The main findings of the research revealed that no clear-cut policy documents on rights and equity issues exist though gender equity and child rights appear to be the objective of some interventions of the sector. Educational policy documents like the Education Commission Report of 1986 contains the teachings of democracy. The document on fCUBE and the research report on Synthesis of Research on Girls' Education in Ghana outline strategies and activities to address various forms of inequity between girls and boys in education. The girl child happens to be the main focus and no specific mention is made of the child in general and the boy child in particular.
Specific interventions for the promotion of gender equity mentioned included Science, Technology and Mathematics Education, leading to the establishment of the Girls' Education Unit and the Girl Child Education Project.
A national policy on Child Rights and equity education is yet to be operationalized for the education sector. Environmental Studies for primary schools is the only subject area that allows the teaching of rights issues in the Primary Schools.
The majority of pupils did recognise the child's rights to freedom of religion and privacy and freedom of correspondence. The majority also agreed to the fact that children had the right to association and freedom of speech and expression so long as it did not disturb others.
Most pupils found the school language policies forbidding the use of local languages appropriate. Most of them also agreed, generally, that children should not have the right to access all types of information.
Level of pupils' educational attainment, age as well as geographical location appeared to be important factors determining pupils' level of awareness of girls' right to education. Older pupils and JSS pupils were more likely to agree to the child's right to rest and leisure. Pupils in schools located in the Northern zone have the highest proportion agreeing to the right for rest and leisure. The age of pupils, type and locality of school appeared to be significant factors in determining pupils' response to the right to freedom from economic exploitation.
The school environment cannot be said to be neutral since boys and girls do not experience the same type of rights violation. Children have no avenues within the school system to seek redress for the violation of their rights. They prefer to talk to parents and friends than to their teachers, for fear of being victimised.
Teachers' exposure to rights and equity issues is through the media information they hear or material they read. Their ability to handle equity and rights education is hindered by the lack of knowledge and reference materials.
Teachers were more aware of the impact of rights abuse on the child than gender discrimination. More teachers in primary carry out rights education while more JSS teachers cover equity issues in their teaching.
The majority of teachers could not tell correctly the effects of rights violation and discrimination on the growth and development of pupils in Basic Schools. Caning, counselling, suspension and dismissal were the main modes for managing pupils who flout regulations in schools. Caning was most pervasive method and the only offence that was recorded as calling for dismissal was pregnancy for the girl pupil; the male who causes pregnancy was, however, suspended.
Public schools have more trained teachers, private school teachers have higher academic background and rural schoolteachers have a longer experience in teaching. Private schools tend to provide pupils with more teaching/learning materials, better female/male pupil interaction and a wider range of play activities than public schools.
Teachers dominate all classroom activities, providing few opportunities for group work and pupil-pupil interaction. The research findings appear to suggest that teaching and learning activities favour girls in private schools. Pupils in private schools in the central zone had the highest rates of classroom participation while northern Schools had the least.
There is the need for the development of a comprehensive policy on Rights and Equity Education for the formal and non-formal education system. Such a policy should be holistic and cater for all the levels of the education system, and cover all aspects of Children's Rights.
Teacher training should be intensified to ensure that classroom teachers are given in-service training to be able to teach, practice and live human rights in schools in Ghana. Teachers will require training in analysis of school or home situations, which depict infringement on the rights of pupils and gender discrimination. Teaching/learning materials on human rights and gender equity should be made available to schools.
Counselling, legal structures and service points need to be developed for schools to ensure the practice of children's rights and gender equity in the schools. The legal structures would provide easy access to protection for children who are abused in the schools.
Parental/community orientation and training in human rights and gender equity should be intensified to provide advocacy to ensure support for human rights and gender equity education in schools and communities.
Teachers need to be trained and encouraged to apply participatory approaches in classroom instruction to enable maximum pupil participation in lessons.
The code of discipline for schools needs to be examined and revised to reflect current needs and concerns in human rights and gender equity education for the country.
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