Public Education in Ghana Failing Nation’s Children

There is concern that basic education is lacking in Ghana, and that money supposed to enable education to succeed is being mismanaged to the detriment of the poor and needy. Schuyler Durham, writing for AllAfrica, reports that the Institute for Fiscal Policy held a workshop last week to discuss these issues.

Dr Zakaria Yakubu, programmes director of Integrated Social Development Centre, in his welcoming address, pointed out that, "when money is mismanaged, it is the poor… who suffer." This statement set the tone for the workshop, which focused largely on how Ghana can best provide quality education to those in poor public school districts.

Research by the IFP shows that the disparity in quality of education received by various groups of Ghanaians is largely caused by whether or not the school they attend receives public funding. 41 of the bottom 50 schools in Ghana are public schools while only 5 public schools make the top 50 list. Public funding in Ghana has been on the decline since 2008; education expenditure as a percentage of total GDP fell from 10.1% in 2008 to 9% in 2009. Expenditure statistics indicate that financing has continued to drop, especially with regard to critical elements like teacher training and investment in human resources.

The IFP reports that properly-trained teachers have become a minority since 2008 and now make up less than half of the total teachers in public schools. Combined with lack of investment in replacing textbooks and irregular school inspections, it isn't surprising that public education in Ghana appears to be failing the children it is supposed to serve.

The IFP workshop was attended by a representative from the Ghana Education Service who said the government was actively working on problems such as budgeting, poorly-targeted spending, and inspection issues. They also promised to introduce school report cards.

Mrs Philomena Johnson, who presented IFP's research earlier in the workshop, helped calm the buzz of debate with a few summarizing words. "It is clear," she said, "there is the need for strong collaboration between agencies and Civil Societies." She continued that there "has to be mutual trust" between these two. Without this, Mrs Johnson warned, nothing is possible.

The 2010 Education Sector Strategic Plan outlined a number of goals intended to be completed by 2015. Currently none have been met; however, the GES claimed they were confident that they would meet all goals on time.

The theme of GES representatives promising future action already in the pipeline to fix the concerns raised continued throughout the workshop. Many in the room were upset that money mismanagement and insufficient funding had caused so many serious education problems, but there was hope that the GES representatives were sincere.

In the end, Prof Djangmah closed, "what you get is what you put in." Let's give the youth the attention they deserve, and allow Ghana to continue to progress.

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