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Opinions of Monday, 10 February 2014

Columnist: Robert, Ali Tanti

Strengthening and promoting girl child education in Ghana

Females constitute more than fifty one percent of the entire Ghanaian population and therefore education should be a necessary prerequisite for them to be able to significantly contribute to the development aspirations of Ghana. It is believed that when this section of the population is properly educated they will make immerse contribution in terms of our health, social and economic development than we have today. This is how the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon puts it when he read his speech at the first ever international day for the girl child, "Investing in girls is a catalyst for changing the world...We must all do our part to let girls be girls, and not brides."

Of the 759 million adults lacking literacy skills, two-thirds are women- a share that has actually increased slightly over the last decade.
In addition, females constitute about fifty-four percent of the sixty-nine million children who do not go to primary school across the world (GNECC feature article, Daily Graphic, January 1, 2013).
According to the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition report, girls enrolment continue to decline progressively from the basic to the tertiary level of our education despite several international and local interventions such as the Education For All and the Millennium Development goals. For instance the goal three of the MDG seeks to promote gender equality and promote women empowerment. This important goal can only become a reality when women are given quality education to the highest level of the educational ladder.
Many young girls especially those in our rural communities even though have the desire to complete school become drop outs due to several circumstances and mess their lives up. In the rural areas girls are still not able to match up with their male counterpart due to heavy house chores which make their participation in class low and reflecting in their academic performance. According to a report from the myjoyonline website on 23rd April, 2013 a local NGO in Malawi which works to advance the rights, status and well-being of adolescent girls is seeking to economically empower young girls and keep them in school by making and using sanitary pads. That’s because many girls stay home rather than go to class when they have their menstrual cycles.
This means that even those issues that may be considered to be petty can prevent girls from attaining their educational goal.
There is therefore the need for us as a country to step up strategies to sustain young girls in school as their male counterpart does.
According to Mr. Ban Ki Moon “Girls face discrimination, violence and abuse every day and empowering them is a moral imperative, a matter of basic human justice and equality critical for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It also advances economic growth and helps build peaceful societies” (Jamaica Observer, October, 2012).

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
At a forum organized by GNECC in May 2011 to celebrate women’s education, all the participants including males called for the creation of a girl friendly education system and support for women literacy. To them that is the surest way of achieving the goal three of the MDG.
One of the major issues which continue to stand on the way of young girls is teenage pregnancy. There are even reports about girls who become pregnant in primary school. The failure of some schools and headmasters to grant them the right to continue their education is a major concern for all those who have girl child education at heart. If a girl gets pregnant she should be encouraged to stay in school and supported to return to school as soon as possible after delivery. Unfortunately many teenage mothers in our dear country do not return to school after delivery due to stigma. It is only few of them that actually make it back to school as mothers.
Government must strengthen its institutions such as Social Welfare to properly deal with violence and abuse against girls in school.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) should build the capacity of their staff in charge of the girl child education unit in all districts to successfully implement policies and programmes aim promoting girl child education.
The Youth Manifesto which came into existence in 2012 as a result of consultations across the country by the youth through the voices of youth project has outlined actions which must be adopted to ensure that girls and young women fully participate in the development of the Ghanaian society. It was lead by Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-GHANA) through the youth manifesto coalition.
I will at this point share five of the interventions from page 14and 15 from the Manifesto which when implemented would change the face of girl child education in Ghana.
? Ensuring that girls and young women are able to participate actively, equally, and effectively with boys and young men at all levels of social, educational, economic, political, cultural, civic life and leaderships as well as scientific endeavors.
? Taking appropriate actions to eliminate discrimination against girls and young women and to ensure their full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms through comprehensive policies, plans of action and programmes on the basis of equality.
? Paying more attention to gender mainstreaming in such key areas as education, health and employment.
? Ensuring that the educational system does not impede girls and young women including married and/or pregnant young women from attending school. There should be support for girl child education by providing them with uniforms, learning materials, among others to stay in school. Parents should be sensitized about the importance of education for girls and young women.
? Guaranteeing equal access to and completion of vocational, secondary and higher education in order to effectively address the existing imbalance between young men and women in certain professions. In particular, educational materials and practices must be gender balanced/sensitive and encourage girls and young women to undertake studies in the sciences.
Finally, the guidance and counseling unit of the Ghana Education Service must be equipped with professionals to monitor and assist school girls to properly adjust to the school environment. Copies of the Youth Manifesto can be obtained at www.voicesofyouthgh.org
ALI TANTI ROBERT
YOUTH MEDIA GROUP
YES GHANA
tantirobert@yahoo.co.uk
The writer is also the Executive Director of Youth Alliance for Development, a youth led NGO in Obuasi.