At a glance: Ghana

The path to success: Bicycles help girls in rural Ghana get to school

UNICEF Image: Ghana, bicycles, girls education
© UNICEF Ghana/2007/Asselin
Some 6,000 girls in rural Ghana have received bicycles to help them traverse long distances from their villages to school.

By Junko Mitani

ACCRA, Ghana, 9 August 2007 – One after another, girls on distinctive blue bicycles arrive at Savelugu Junior Secondary School near Tamale, provincial capital of the Northern Region. Some 6,000 girls in northern Ghana have received the bicycles over the past three years. In rural areas, this simple means of transport is giving them the opportunity to get an education.

The bicycle programme was made possible with support from the New Zealand Committee for UNICEF, and recording artist and UNICEF National Ambassador Hayley Westenra.

Fajima Yakubu, 12, is just one of the girls who has benefited from the bicycle project. “My village is far away,” she says. “It takes more than two hours on foot. This bike has made it possible for me to attend school.”

Committed to education 

For every 100 boys enrolled in primary school in Ghana, only 89 girls are in school. At the secondary school level, the gap widens: For every 100 boys, only 80 girls are in school. Because of the traditional role girls play at home, many never have the chance to go to primary school.

UNICEF Image: Ghana, bicycles, girls education
© UNICEF Ghana/2007/Asselin
Fatima, 12, rides her bicycle more than an hour each way to attend school in rural Ghana.

“The long distance to school is one of the major obstacles for girls’ enrolment, especially at the secondary level,” explains UNICEF Ghana Education Officer Biikook Gideon Konlan.

“In cooperation with the local education officials and the schools, we identified girls from poor families who live far away from their schools and who are committed to continue schooling as the recipients of the bicycles,” Mr. Konlan adds.
 
Closer to their dreams

Children in rural Ghana are often seen as labourers, and parents are reluctant to lose the valuable help. The imam in Fajima's village, Adam Abdulai, also notes that many rural families cannot afford to buy a school uniform or notebooks.

“Sending a child to school creates costs for the entire family,” says UNICEF Ghana Education Chief Peter de Vries.

On her way home from school each day, Fajima sees many children working. She passes girls carrying firewood on their heads and boys farming in the fields. Fajima herself has difficult chores to do.

“I fetch water in the early morning,” she says. “Without my bicycle, I could never make it to school on time.”

Asked what she wants to become in the future, Fajima replies: “I want to become a nurse. I want to help people.”

Despite her difficult schedule, Fajima is determined to stay in school and finish her education. Meanwhile, the blue bicycles bring girls like her to school and closer to their dreams.


 

 

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