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Teachers Forum
February, 2003

Girl-Child Education in Ghana, Part 1
An interview with
Alhassan A. Abdullai

Conducted by
by Richard Laryea, M.A.
Mr. Alhassan A. Abdullai - Headteacher

Go to Home or Part 2 of this series of Interviews.

Related Links on UNICEF

Accelerating Progress in Girls' Education

Barriers to Girls' Education: Strategies & Interventions

Improving the Participation of Girls in Schooling

The Barriers to Education from a Gender Perspective

Girls' Education in Ghana

Ghana's pregnant street girls find refuge

5 key Dimensions of Quality Education

The Girl Child from Voices of Youth
Question: What is the enrolment of girls in this school?

Answer: Out of 200 pupils in the Primary School, there are 65 girls and in the Junior Secondary School, there are 23 girls out of a total of 94 students. However, in Primary 1, enrolment is still going on.

Q: Why is enrolment still in progress in P1?

A: You see, October is the period for harvesting groundnuts and parents take their children to the farm to help them. The younger girls are chosen to stay at home to baby-sit.

Q: Is enrolment likely to be boys or girls?

A: Interestingly in previous years, enrolment in P1 has been biased towards girls but due to some problems at home, girls are withdrawn and boys continue. Last year for instance, the girls were more in the lower primary but getting to the latter part of the year, their numbers fell and the boys dominated.

girls working, not attending school

Q: In your opinion, why this pattern?

A: In the household, girls are earmarked for most of the chores. While the mother is working on the farm, the girls queue at the borehole for water, gather firewood or look after the children.

Q: Having observed this trend, what have you done as headteacher to encourage parents to bring their girls to school?

A: It is a long story. In November 1995, when I became headteacher, there were only 10 girls out of a total of 54 children. I took up an enrolment drive to sensitise parents, whom I could only meet at night when they had returned from their farms, on the need to send their children to school – especially the girls. This yielded some results. In 1996, this school was chosen by the Ghana Education Service and the Centre for Development of People for a pilot programme as it came to their attention that teachers were not willing to stay and pupils were not enrolling.

Q: What were some of their interventions?

A: They provided recreational inputs for the younger children, a polytank to store water, farming implements and accommodation for teachers. It was after this that I took up the initiative of staying permanently in the community. Other teachers also did the same when Catholic Relief Services came in 1998, they emphasised the need for girls to attend school and this message was backed by a daily meal. And this has increased girl – child enrolment and stabilized the retention rate.

proud beneficiaries of UNICEF bicycles

Q: Have donors concentrated directly on girls?

A: Yes. Recently, UNICEF donated 5 bicycles that we allocated to JSS 2 girls who had to commute about 3 kilometers. In 2001, CAMFED gave girls in primaries 4-6, a pair of sandals each and 2 school uniforms. The package came along with 10 dual desks. This year the same donors gave some more logistics: a mathematical set, 2 pens and pencils, 3 exercise books and 12 notebooks each.

Q: What impact have all of these had on girls?

A: Girls have been encouraged to come to school regularly. Since these interventions, girls from Primary 4 to Junior Secondary School have not dropped out.

Q: But what are you doing about the girl drop out rates in Primaries 1-3?

A: Anytime we have Parent Teacher or School Management Committee meetings, I repeat the importance of sending girls to school. When there’s a public function in the community, I take advantage to speak on girl-child education. I have asked my teachers to be gender sensitive in order not to isolate the girls. I have also advocated for girls to be the centre of attention in the school. Even this morning, I told the girls to rise to the level of role models for others to emulate; because since the school was established in 1976, no girl has held an eminent position in the district so I threw the challenge out to them.

sucessful participant

Q: Would this inspire them?

A: Yes, and from my own observation, I notice that girls do relatively better in exams. If they are given parental support, they’d excel; as for that, I’m convinced. I recall a quiz organized by UNICEF in June or July this year where a JSS 2 girl, Warahana, together with two boys on her team, distinguished herself and came second. She attracted the District Chief Executive’s attention and she was motivated with a sum of 40,000 cedis ($5)

Q: What would you consider to be the major problem of the girl-child?

A: Many come to school without their basic school needs which are pens, pencils and exercise books. What happens is that after harvest, they sell their share of the produce in order to buy stationery – and sometimes, uniforms. Again, they’re habitual latecomers and sometimes, miss lessons as a result of fetching water.

Q: Have you had any incidents of rape or molestation?

A: No, not in this school. However, there was a P6 pupil, Azara, who got pregnant in 2001 by on older boy in the community. Because of her case, I always take advantage to advise the girls at assembly not to associate with boys in a negative way. In fact, we have 4 mature girls in the school and I always advise them to focus on their studies and forget about boys who are only there to destroy their future. This week I taught a poem about Time which was to help them see the urgency of punctuality but it also had a strong moral element which I used to emphasise the point I have always made.

Thank you Mr. Abdullai and all the best in your endeavour with the girl child and the rest of your school.

Go to Home or Part 2 of this series of Interviews.

Previous Related Interviews

"Expanding Educational Opportunities for Girls in Zimbabwe"

"Supporting Girl Students in East Timor"

"Early Marriage and Girls' Education in Ethiopia"

"Helping Pregnant Girls Re-Enter Education in Zambia"

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Last revised February 1, 2003
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