Ghana: Reaching the neglected with education
Every child has a right to an education. In conjunction with International Literacy Day 2010, UNICEF highlights our work to provide quality education that is free and accessible for all children, especially the vulnerable and marginalised.
TARIKPAA, GHANA, 6 September 2010 – Elizabeth, 12, is fighting to achieve a dream that was once also her father’s – completing an education.
Here in northern Ghana, Elizabeth’s father, Peter Napari, is one of many people who was never able to go to school.
As a subsistence farmer, he toils in the field alongside his wife, the youngest of their eight children strapped to her back. The work is backbreaking but necessary to support the family.
Elizabeth is the first child to go to school across generations of Naparis. The family lives in mud huts, subsisting on mostly corn grain. As the eldest child, Elizabeth’s labour – including carrying water for the family each day – is very much needed at home. But the family is determined that Elizabeth go to school.
The northern region of Ghana has traditionally provided labour for the rest of the country. As a result, education here has frequently been neglected.
Today, however, UNICEF-supported child-friendly schools are offering families a concrete way to break the chains of hard labour. Fundamental to this change in village life are the wells that UNICEF and other aid organisations have built, dramatically easing the work required for the most essential of human needs: water.
Educating Elizabeth also involves overcoming a traditional bias against sending girls to school. In this part of Ghana, there is a strong tradition of families giving their daughters to other family members as a ‘gift of labour.’ Elizabeth's mother was deprived of an education because she was tasked with taking care of children, cooking and cleaning for her aunt.
Elizabeth's two older sisters were similarly “fostered.”
But with the arrival of a local child-friendly school, families now have the opportunity to send their daughters to a safe, nurturing place. The school is full of committed teachers and boasts two wells, separate lavatories for boys and girls and a brand new playground. With a strong staff support system and dorms built for teachers, Elizabeth's inspired teacher defies the national epidemic of high teacher absenteeism.
Education meets traditions
Fundamental to UNICEF’s child-friendly schools initiative is the integration of traditional life and education. Herds of cows, women carrying bowls of grain, and men en route to the fields pass through the school’s safe, orderly campus.
And even the village chief is supportive of the program.
“Once our heroes were our greatest warriors,” he said. “But now they are our children, our children who go to school.”
All Children, Everywhere
Strategy for basic education and gender equality, 2009. Read
Newsline: Literacy Day 2010