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BBC News - In pictures: Ghana's market girls - the Kayayo - 0 views

Teachers Without Borders

What is a girl worth? | Education | The Guardian - 0 views

  • On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12-year-old Abigail Appetey is forced to miss her classes at primary school to sell fried fish door-to-door in Apimsu, her farming village in eastern Ghana. She gets up at 5am to buy the fish three miles away.

    The little she earns won't go on the exercise books she needs; her parents will spend it on her 20-year-old brother Joseph's education. Abigail wants to be a teacher, she says, but is always tired in class.

    There are 41 million girls around the world who should be in primary school all week, but aren't, the Department for International Development says. At least 20 million of them are, like Abigail, in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • In Ghana, 91% of boys, but only 79% of girls finish primary school.
  • Here in Asesewa – one of Ghana's poorest districts – Abigail's nearest junior high school has just five girls out of 20 pupils in its most senior class. The school improvement plan is torn, written in felt tip and peeling from a wall in a corridor. It is the middle of the dry season and temperatures can reach 31C, but the school's tap is empty and the toilets don't work. The most the school seems to have is a few exercise and textbooks that look as though they date back to the 1950s.

    The average income for Asesewa's population of 90,000 is between £11 and £14 a month, according to the international charity Plan, which has a base here.

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  • Ministers in the Ghanaian government abolished fees for primary education in 2005 and boast that they spend the equivalent of £6 in state funds on each primary pupil every year. But parents must pay for exercise books, school uniforms and exams.

    It is these hidden costs – which can amount to more than £100 per child per year – that dissuade many from sending their girls to school, says Joseph Appiah, Plan's chief fieldworker in Asesewa.

    Besides, the value of an educated girl is lower than that of an educated boy. "The feeling is that girls will marry and belong to another family; boys bring back what they make to their parents," Appiah says.

    And, in these rural communities, girls are needed at home. From as young as seven they can be expected to prepare breakfast and lunch for their parents, take it to them in the fields and cook a hot dinner in the evenings. Many will also have to fetch water from several kilometres away and sell what they can to supplement their family's meagre income. That leaves little time for lessons

  • But what these under-tree schools can't match in cash and facilities, they more than make up for in initiative. Word about the girls' football club here in Asesewa has even reached the MPs in Accra, Ghana's capital. Football is a passion for Ghanaians of both sexes and the club only allows girls who are at school or on vocational courses to play. Clever girls, who have dropped out of school through lack of funds, are awarded scholarships, funded by Plan, to return to class and allowed to join one of the 25 teams.
  • The club started only three years ago, but is already thought to have boosted girls' school enrolments in some villages by 15%. It may have been just the catalyst needed to change attitudes – and to change them more quickly than the MPs expect.
  • At Akateng primary school and junior high, not far from Abigail's village, boys and girls have just put on a play they have written about the shortsightedness of parents who deprive girls of school. Among those watching it were the real leaders of these rural communities – the "kings" and "queens". These are highly respected elders who have been selected to preside over villages and keep their traditions going.

    Sitting on a raised platform, with brightly patterned yellow fabric draped over one shoulder, Kwuke Ngua, one of the kings, tells how attitudes are changing. "We used to think women were not destined for education, but now we believe it does them well," he says. "They have more skills, which they can bring to the community. All girls should go to school." One of the queens, Mannye Narteki, goes even further: "Girls can no longer fit into working society unless they are educated," she says.

  • Just one extra year of full-time primary school can boost a girl's eventual wages by 10% to 20% in sub-Saharan Africa, charities say. An extra year of secondary school can make a difference of 25%.

    Educated and empowered girls, like those on the football teams, are far more likely to get involved in community decision-making and drive progress of all kinds in their villages and beyond.

Teachers Without Borders Africa: Abolishing Fees Boosts African Schooling (Page 2 of 2) - 0 views

  • Malawi struggles to cope

    Other countries have been less successful. Malawi eliminated its school fees in 1994. But with less than half of Kenya's gross domestic product per person and fewer financial and human resources to draw on, it still faces difficult challenges in providing universal primary education.

  • As in many other African countries, notes the UN study, "the adoption of universal primary education was triggered by political demands rather than by rational planning processes." Although Malawi had lifted some fees for Standards 1 and 2 and waived primary education fees for girls prior to 1994, the decision to eliminate all fees coincided with the return of multiparty elections that year. The focus, the researchers found, was on increasing enrolment. "Very little attention was paid to quality issues."
  • One immediate response was to hire 20,000 new teachers, almost all of whom were secondary school graduates who were given only two weeks of training. Plans to provide on-the-job training failed to materialize. Instructional quality declined sharply as the pupil-teacher ratio climbed to 70 to 1.
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  • The lack of facilities meant that many classes met under trees, and books and teaching materials arrived months late, if at all. Despite increases in the education budget, spending per student, already low, declined by about 25 per cent and contributed to the decline in quality. As a result nearly 300,000 students dropped out during the first year, and high dropout rates continue to this day.
  • Overall, reports the UN study, only about 20 per cent of boys and girls successfully complete eight years of primary education in Malawi. This is largely a function of the country's deep poverty, the researchers say, and the lack of resources, such as nutrition programmes, to help poor children remain in school.
  • The abolition of school fees is a precondition for getting large numbers of poor children into school, but it must be accompanied by strong public and political support, sound planning and reform, and increased financing.
  • fter systems adjust to the surge in enrolment, they argue, resources must be directed at improving quality and meeting the needs of the very poor, those in distant rural areas and children with disabilities. The analysts say that a particular focus should be girls, who face a range of obstacles to attending and staying in school, including cultural attitudes that devalue education for women. Improved sanitation and facilities and better safety and security conditions can make it easier to keep girls in school.
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