|© UNICEF Ghana/2008/Asselin|
|UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarist Bernice Akuamoah interviews Rahinatu Alhassan, (left), 15, and Sherifatu Zakaria, 16, who have both benefited from UNICEF-sponsored bicycles at their school in Tarikpaa, Ghana.|
NEW YORK, USA, 7 January 2009 – In much of the developing world, young girls are often left behind when it comes to their education. While sons are encouraged to attend school and strike out on their own, many daughters find that their education is of secondary importance to parents who are struggling to make ends meet.
Bernice Akuamoah, 22, a Voices of Youth and UNICEF Radio Digital Diarist, saw this neglect firsthand while growing up in Ghana, where many of her female classmates had to do chores before homework.
But programmes that encourage parents to school their children – and especially their daughters – now proliferate in Ghana and around the world. Bernice recently visited one such project in Northern Ghana along with the project's founder, UNICEF Ambassador Hayley Westenra.
‘Bikes for Ghana’
Ms. Westenra, 21, an internationally renowned singer from New Zealand, is one of UNICEF's youngest Goodwill Ambassadors. She first visited Ghana with UNICEF in 2005, and while there she started the ‘Bikes for Ghana’ programme, which gives bicycles to children who live so far from the nearest school that it can take them over an hour to make the journey on foot.
The programme has reached roughly 6,000 girls from deprived rural communities, helping them to attend classes regularly and return home in time to finish both their chores and their studies.
"In the northern part of Ghana, most of these girls, and even boys, are very far away from their schools, so these bicycles enable them to commute to school easily and to come back home early," Bernice said.
On time to learn
"I was coming to school late every day because of the time that it took to finish my housework and come to school," said Rahinatu, 15, one of the beneficiaries of the programme. "So the bicycle helped me to come to school early."
Rahina said that before she received her bike, she would miss school two or three times a week.
Mussa Amin, one of the teachers who works with the bicycle project, confirmed that before the bikes arrived, attendance was very poor.
"Absenteeism was so much," he said. “But after getting the bicycles, we are so impressed because they are now able to come to school punctually, and when we teach them they get the information very well."
Bernice Akuamoah, a Voices of Youth and UNICEF Radio Digital Diarist, discovers the educational benefits of a bicycle.