Ghana Promotes Science Education

Students at Saint Joseph's Primary SchoolIn an effort to ensure that students receive a well-rounded education and can better compete on the world stage, the government of Ghana has begun new initiatives to promote science education in the classroom.

Among the new programs is a Mathematics, Science, and Technology Scholarship Scheme for secondary school and university students, established by the Ghanaian government. Providing incentives for students choosing to study the STEM fields is essential, and to that end the government has also slated the resources to upgrade school science centers, including tools and equipment.

At a recent speaking engagement, government minister Helen Adjoa Ntoso also announced a provision of 400,000 laptops and desktop computers to schools across the country, urging teachers to focus on software programs and technology education in the classroom.

Madam Ntoso’s remarks echoed those of Professor Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who has called for a revitalization of science education in the country.

Schools need to be equipped with computer labs, Asenso-Okyere said, so that students can conduct experiments and develop computing skills. In addition, schools should establish science clubs and science fairs, and students should be able to see science in action through fieldtrips.

According to Professor Asenso-Okyere, developing a national interest in and appreciation for science is a process that should be seen as contributing to Ghana’s overall economic and social development.

“Investing in science to improve the standard of living of people is investing in the future,” he said.

For tips on engaging students with science in your classroom, check out Open Equal Free’s series of articles on the subject.

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DFID Launches Education Program to Reach Marginalized Children in Ghana

Young children in school. GhanaThe Department for International Development (DFID) has partnered with the government of Ghana to offer a new education program to marginalized children. The Complementary Basic Education (CBE) program will target out of school children with the aim of teaching them functional literacy within nine months.

Experts estimate that around 440,000 Ghanaian children currently do not attend school. In rural and poor urban areas of the country, many children are reportedly kept out of school to help their families with manual labor, selling goods at market, and rearing cattle. The CBE program plans to reach 120,000 of these children over the next three years, with the intent of integrating them into formal school at the end of their nine-month session.

The CBE program is being called “groundbreaking” by Ghanaian media, as children will be taught reading, writing, and numeracy in their own dialects. Classes are to be held only in the afternoons, to allow for every child to be able to attend.

In Kintampo South and Pru districts the Ghanaian NGO Mission of Hope Society (MIHOSO) has already begun to implement the program. According to Thomas Benarkuu, MIHOSO’s Program Coordinator, the program has demonstrated strong retention and completion rates. Nine hundred out of school children have already been enrolled, he says, including encouraging numbers of female students.

At a festival to mark the launch of the program in the Brong-Ahafo region, Sally Taylor, Ghana’s DFID Country Director, called the program an “important step towards ensuring that every Ghanaian child gets an opportunity to go to school and become the people they have the potential to be.”

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African Youth Advise UN on Ending Violence Against Children

School children in the Central African Republic100 African youth were called to an open forum to share their own experiences and discuss strategies to end violence against children. The forum was organized by Plan International, UNICEF, and the government of Ghana. It was facilitated by Maria Santos Pais, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on ‘Violence Against Children.’

The youth delegates traveled from Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Conakry; they will serve as the new advisory committee to the UN Special Representative.

The committee will have direct communication and access to the UN Representative which will increase multi-generational collaboration between children, youth, and adults. “The proposed initiative will galvanize the efforts to push for urgent and decisive action against harmful practices and violence against children,” said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for West Africa.

The conference also aimed to strengthen the network of children, families and communities in Africa and reinforced the necessity of stronger political commitments and action to end violence against children.

Ms. Santos Pais praised the courage of the youth and said “I firmly believe in the important dialogue and strong partnerships with children and young people to end violence against children, including when it is associated with harmful practices. Children are hidden victims and best placed to expose those practices and help identify solutions for their prevention and abandonment.”

All West African countries ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet children in the region are still vulnerable to practices of violence. The dialogue exposed that millions of African children suffer from female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation, child marriage, trafficking, breast ironing, honor killings, forced labour, accusations of witchcraft, serious forms of violence against children with disabilities and albinism, and other practices.

19 year old President of the Ghana National Children and Youth Advisory Board said “governments need to be held accountable on all the promises they make on behalf of their countries. At this conference, we will find out governments efforts at eradicating these harmful traditional practices.”

The delegates urged the United Nations, international organizations, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child to ensure the participation of West and Central African governments. They also appealed to the African Center of Experts on the Rights and Welfares of the Child and African Union leaders to implement appropriate measures to combat violence against children. 

Child rights curricula in schools and teacher trainings was also recommended in the resolution. 

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Ghana Teacher Re-Training Program Considered an Investment in Quality Education

teacher teacher (3)“The fact is that teaching is not as simple as people perceive it. It is a complex activity that requires rigorous training and re-training,” noted Mr. Thomas Baafi, Deputy General Secretary of Education and Professional Development of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) at a recent in-service training workshop for selected teachers in Ghana.

This simple, yet profound statement, may not have been a new revelation for the participants at the conference. However, during the recent “capacity building workshop” for 150 teachers in Ghana, conference speakers and other participants urged the government to support the organization of more in-service training for teachers in the country. In a joint effort with the GNAT and the Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) Project Overseas, these educators have collaborated to establish an in-service teacher training program that addresses some of the obstacles to quality education in Ghana.

The teachers were guided through various innovative techniques in the teaching of basic core subjects as well as foreign languages, technology, and special mathematics instruction for female educators. Also, strengthening support systems–targeting efficient management of school administrations—for basic and secondary schools became a part of the training program.

 An added component of the recent workshop dealt with newly trained teachers. They were given special orientation to enable them to integrate smoothly into the teaching profession. The Deputy General Secretary of GNAT said the adjustment challenges and the shock of coming out of college to meet situations which were far below their expectation were “neglected” and that “the resultant effect of neglect had been the destruction of the enthusiasm they had come out of college to teach.”  Despite these problems, the opportunity for teacher growth and development of the profession could be realized with ongoing teacher re-training.

In collaboration with GNAT and the Canadian Teachers Federation, a new program was initiated to assist teachers in their professional training in remote parts of the country. Workshop leaders acknowledged the unique needs of schools and instructors in urban versus rural schools.  In addition, they addressed the challenges that normally faced teachers in deprived schools.

The President of GNAT, Mr. Samuel Doe Alobuia summarized the consensus of the conference discussions by explaining that “quality education begins with quality teachers”; and, the development of the capacity of teachers is crucial in the promotion of quality education in Ghana.

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Teacher Attrition Worsens in Ghana

A student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape CoastOfficials from the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) have announced at a recent conference that over 33,000 of the nation’s teachers have left the profession in recent years. Discouraged by low salaries, large class sizes, and poor infrastructure, rural community schools have been most affected.

GNAT’s General Secretary, Irene Duncan-Adanusa, told the assembly that teachers often deal with a lack of electricity and potable water in their schools. Additionally, delayed promotions and insufficient motivation from managers cause many educators to become disillusioned with the profession as a whole.

Other speakers at the conference addressed the problem of teacher absenteeism. In rural areas especially, Ghana’s teachers either choose or are forced to miss work due to illness, a difficult commute, a lack of supervision, or having to supplement their income with a second job, such as farming.

Benjamin Kobina Osei, a GNAT salaries official, added that often teachers become overwhelmed by large class sizes. The Ghanaian government’s attempt to reach the Millennium Development Goal of free, universal basic education has happily resulted in increased school enrollments. However, he noted, school infrastructure and supplies of teaching materials have not kept up with the increase. The high teacher attrition rate has put an even greater strain on the system.

To address the problem, many speakers called for better working conditions for teachers, more teacher training, and additional incentives for teachers posted in rural areas.

Ms. Duncan-Adanusa also stressed the need for a separation of national education policies from day-to-day politics and the whims of politicians, “so that the nation can enhance its chances of finding the most suitable solutions to its educational challenges.”

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Proposal To Establish Ten New Colleges in Ghana Shot Down

A recent proposal by the Government of Ghana to establish ten new colleges of education was shot down by the Forum for Education Reform (FFER). The Forum argued that establishing new colleges would not help to address the education issues that the country is currently facing.

University of Ghana

University of Ghana

The Forum believes that a more effective and cost-efficient method to improve the education system is to focus on improving teacher education and expanding and improving the current facilities within the 38 colleges already in existence. They also believe that it is important to update the quality of instruction, infuse technology and update teaching methods and models.

The Chair of the Forum, Sir Sam Jonah, stated that developments such as these would lead to better output from the teacher training institutions. Additionally, he believes that through expanding current facilities the colleges’ enrollment, currently around 400 students, could easily be doubled.

The Forum announced a willingness to work with the government to establish the right standards for teacher education in Ghana. They believe that “the consequence of neglect of this area will severely undermine the country’s development.” The 14 member Forum signed and released a statement in Accra expressing their position.

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Ghana’s Female Educators Encouraged To Serve As Role Models

Quality nutrition for students

During a conference titled “Education for Development- The Role of Female Teachers,” retired educator Mrs. Agnes Atagabe attributed the fall in Ghana’s standards of education to poor teaching and learning materials, weak infrastructure and the inability of administrators to effectively monitor and supervise teaching in schools.

Mrs. Atagabe believes that the only way to bring the standards of education back up is for the government, the Ghana Education Service and their stakeholders to commit to providing the necessary support. In the meantime, Mrs. Atagabe also stressed the importance of female teachers who are seen as role models by their students.

She urged female teachers to use every available methodology to ensure each student has a deep understanding of the curriculum. This also means including ICT in the classroom and seeing it as an integral part of the students’ academic growth. Additionally, she encouraged the female teachers to continue in their own studies in order to be knowledgeable in all subjects.

The conference was the second Quadrennial Regional Women’s Round Table Conference. It was organized by the Ghana National Association of Teachers Ladies Society (GNAT-LAS).

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Raising Teacher Accountability in Ghana

Winston Mills-Compton teaches a class in mathematics at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape Coast

Ghana’s Minister of Education, Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, announced earlier this month the start of a renewed effort to enforce the Ghana Education Service (GES) sanctions. GES will be expected to exact stricter sanctions on teachers who openly disregard their code of conduct in an effort to raise teacher accountability and the quality of education.

The World Bank issued a report revealing high rates of teacher absenteeism in Ghana; teachers in Ghana miss approximately 43 days in a school year which hinders the growth of the education sector. In the past, GES lacked the resources and supervision to enforce the adherence of the sanctions.

According to the GES code, teachers will be considered to have vacated their post and will be fired if they are absent for ten continuous days or more. The code also states that teachers are not allowed to leave the country without permission from the Director-General of the GES. The code requires teachers to acquire the permission of the head of the institution before leaving the school while the school day is in session; and, teachers who leave their schools for elsewhere must inform their institution’s authority of their whereabouts in case they must be recalled for an emergency. Other sanctions include “warnings, reprimands, queries, forfeiture of pay for the number of days absent, stoppage of increments, suspension with loss of pay and allowance, disciplinary transfer and termination of appointment, where necessary.”

“The country will not reap the benefits of investments made in the educational sector if efforts are not made to curb the rampant absenteeism of teachers in the various part of the country,” the Minister said. Opoku-Agyemang means business; she has made unannounced visits to schools and districts bearing the gravity of the teacher absenteeism in each of her visits. Additionally, she has been drawing public attention to this challenge by having the Director-General of the GES and her team report on all of their visits. GES will augment supervision in schools and ensure that effective measures are enacted against offenders of the code of conduct.

The ministry remains committed to supporting the GES. They hope that the GES and the code of conduct will continue to guide the teachers in a way that enhances the quality of education as well as school management.

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Ghana Introduces a New Policy to Support Teachers by Providing Allowance

Madam Angelina Bayita teachingThe Ghanaian Ministry of Education plans to grant a 20-percent allowance to teachers deployed to rural and remote areas. This new policy is expected to be implemented before the end of the year through a joint-sponsorship by Northern Empowerment Association (NEA), a NGO based in Ghana, and Canada’s the Makbraneth Foundation.

Teachers will receive an additional 20 percent of their basic monthly salaries under the pretext of “rural posting”. GH¢80,000 (USD 39,212) is estimated to cover each quarter of the year.

For decades, teachers in rural Ghana have requested financial incentive to aid their living conditions in disadvantaged and impoverished regions. Despite the government’s consent to the proposal, past attempts to implement the policy have failed due to ministry officials who disapproved the policy for not being the beneficiaries themselves.

However, this time, the Ghanaian government seems determined to reincorporate education in rural areas back into the national agenda by supporting and motivating teachers to improve the lives of students.

As part of publicizing the policy, many government officials have emphasized the importance of national cooperation on the country’s development. Paul Evans Aidoo, a Member of Parliament for Sefwi-Wiawso and Regional Minister of Brong-Ahafo located in south Ghana, said that the government cannot carry out the national development agenda without the help from NGOs, corporations, and philanthropists among other stakeholders.

Furthermore, George Adjei-Hinneh, Regional Director of Education of Brong-Ahafo, called attention to School Management Committees and Parent-Teacher Associations to better propel the basic education system.

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Ghana Seeks to Realize Teacher Qualification Goals by 2015

teacher teacher (4)The Ghana Partnership for Education Grant will be used to train at least 5,000 teachers through the Untrained Teachers Diploma-in-Basic Education (UTDIBE) qualification by 2015.   Recent efforts to improve teacher training and quality remains an unmet benchmark which the government intends to reach for at least 95% of all teachers in the nation.

Alfred Abugre Ndago, Principle of Saint John Bosco College of Education, has advocated for an increase in admission quotas to help solve the shortage of teachers in the country.  The college’s quota is at 300 applicants.  Ndago says that demand for teachers is currently at 23,000 candidates. Efforts to keep teachers motivated is also being considered to ensure the sustainability of quality instructors in schools. He believes heavy government investment in teacher education is the key to quality education and thus, national growth and development.

Additionally, Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso of the Centre for International Affairs at the University of Ghana, Legon, calls for greater resources for teachers in order to produce capable instructors.  “Teachers,” he says, “who impart the needed knowledge to future leaders of the nation, should be adequately supplied with the needed teaching and learning materials, including computers, to enhance the teaching of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in schools.”

The Ghanaian government and its donor partners will aid in the planning, monitoring, and delivering of basic education services to highly vulnerable districts in the country. It expects to provide ongoing support and aid to 57 deprived districts and schools.

Furthermore, Ndago and other education officials are encouraging graduates to maintain their commitment to teaching as they recognize the difficulty to remain in the profession.

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