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Juggling school and work: Challenges to attaining basic education in Ghana. Cynthia A. Sottie , MSW, Ph.D. Department of Social Work. Outline. Brief overview of Ghana’s Education Policies (Basic Education) Challenges of attaining Basic Education in Ghana

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juggling school and work challenges to attaining basic education in ghana

Juggling school and work: Challenges to attaining basic education in Ghana

Cynthia A. Sottie, MSW, Ph.D.

Department of Social Work

  • Brief overview of Ghana’s Education Policies (Basic Education)
  • Challenges of attaining Basic Education in Ghana
  • Juggling school and work: Voices of children
  • What is the way forward?
ghana government policies on education
Ghana Government policies on education

“Only with a population so educated can we hope to face the tremendous problems which confront any country attempting to raise the standard of life in a tropical zone” – Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

free compulsory universal basic education fcube
Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE)

We are aware that only if the vast majority of Ghanaian boys and girls receive a quality basic education will we be able to accelerate our economic growth. We are also aware that only with a strong and effective universal primary education system can this government’s equity objectives be fulfilled… (MOE, 1994, p. 7)

free compulsory universal basic education fcube1
Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE)
  • At the time, available statistics indicated that, out of Ghana’s population of 16 million, as high as 58 % and 77 % of males and females (respectively) above 9 years of age could not read and write (MOE, 1994)
  • FCUBE was launched in October 1996 to:

1. Extend universal access to quality basic education to every school-age child in Ghana by the year 2005.

free compulsory universal basic education fcube2
Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE)

2. Promote efficient teaching and learning;

3. Promote prompt and adequate supply of teaching and learning materials to schools;

4. Improve teacher morale and motivation

5. Free textbooks for Primary 1 to 6. Those in year 7 to 9 were to pay user-fees not to exceed 10 % of cost.

6. Equipment and tools were free.

free compulsory universal basic education fcube3
Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE)

7. Parents were responsible for supplying meals and transport to their wards.

8. Communities and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) could impose levies subject to approval by District Assemblies (Local Authorities) (MOE, 1996)

free compulsory universal basic education fcube4
Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE)
  • Towards the end of the ten-year period, the desired rate of progress had not been achieved
  • The rate of progress was not enough to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for education by 2015
  • Though tuition was free under the original FCUBE provisions, schools were charging levies that poor parents could not afford,
the school capitation grant scg
The School Capitation Grant (SCG)
  • The Capitation Grant was launched in 2004
  • Currently schools receive GH¢4.50 ($2) per child annually:
    • Decrease the financial burden on families
    • Compensate schools for any revenue lost due to the removal of levies
    • Support enrolment drive, provision of teaching and learning materials, school management, community and school relationship, and school facilities (GES, 2005).
the ghana school feeding program gsfp
The Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP)
  • Poverty leads to parents’ inability to provide their children with adequate nutrition and serves as a barrier to sending children to school
  • The GSFP) was launched in 2005 to:
  • Provide at least one nutritious meal a day for each child in primary school to improve the nutritional status of children;
  • Encourage enrolment, attendance and retention at the primary level of education
government policies
  • Enrolment increased: 16.6% nationwide
  • Challenges remain: Enrolment is an important step but does not necessarily ensure attendance, progression and school survival:
    • The United Nations Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report :“In many developing countries smooth progression through the primary school system is the exception rather than the rule… students are locked into cycles of repetition and dropout” (EFA, 2009, p. 67).
  • Many families remain poor
  • Many children have to support their parents to take care of their families’ needs
  • Many children have to work to take care of themselves
  • Schools continue to charge levies
  • Children are compelled to purchase textbooks
  • Children therefore have to play multiple roles of juggling school and work.
juggling school and work
Juggling school and work

People bring books around, today it is integrated science at GH¢1.80, tomorrow it is another book at GH¢1.50 and we have to buy them because teacher says he will use it in teaching.- Jackie (High Risk, Grade 6)

They say free education but we paid GH¢4.50 for a PE kit… we buy books as well…if your mother doesn’t have the money, you won’t get a copy…it surprises me when I hear free education, because everything [school authorities] bring we pay for. – Jackie (High Risk, Grade 6)

juggling school and work1
Juggling school and work

Today for instance, [teacher] said we should bring a broom…out of my pocket money of 50Gp I had to give 20Gp to him. I will also have to pay studies fee of 10Gp and because I haven’t eaten since morning I’ll have to buy food with the rest of the money... – Esther (Grade 6, High Risk)

...our teacher for instance you can’t worry him with your financial problems. Even if you don’t have money, he’ll tell you to go look for some because he’s collecting it….– Musa (Grade 6, Low Risk)

juggling school and work2
Juggling school and work
  • [Students] no longer pay fees but the money we are currently spending is way above the fees…when the school has a need the children are levied. Currently we are being levied to buy a computer, phone, put up a library for the school; each child is to pay GH¢19.20. I have two children here so that is almost GH¢40… when my children in the other schools are also asked to pay some monies that adds to it. - Ama, (Parent)
juggling school and work3
Juggling school and work
  • The children worked before and after school
  • Some sold ‘pure water’ (drinking water bagged in sachets)
  • polythene bags
  • scavenge dumping grounds in search of scrap metals to sell
  • Some washed dishes, others cart loads, ran errands for neighbours or serve as domestic help to earn income.

No school on Fridays - ManyaKrobo District Eastern Region

“About 45 per cent of the children in our district do not go to school on Fridays because it is Asesewa market day,” -MrJoseph Angmor, District Chief Executive of Upper ManyaKrobo. Spectator, May 26, 2013 http://www.spectatorgh.com/no-school-on-fridays/

juggling school and work4
Juggling school and work
  • Scrap metals, and used ‘pure water’ sachets are a source of income for children in search of work that does not need capital investment.
  • washing dishes, carting goods and running errands do not require any start-up capital hence attract children who have no capital
juggling school and work5
Juggling school and work
  • The children work to meet their basic needs and sometimes to supplement their parent(s)’s or guardian’s income.
  • Many are from broken homes or are orphaned. Some live with extended family members or non-relations who are financially incapacitated
juggling school and work6
Juggling school and work
  • When my parents separated, my mother’s business collapsed, she was sick, so she didn’t have money to pay my [school related] fees. – Beyonce (Out of School)
  • I started school when I was with my mother, my father later died and we were given out to relatives. The person I stayed with did not have a good job – Celestina(Grade 8, High Risk).
juggling school and work7
Juggling school and work

I sold firewood every day before going to school; sometimes I had to do 5 trips to get enough money for school. I was always late for school, and was always caned for being late, yet still I had to sell before school otherwise we won’t survive… I would have dropped out of school.– Nancy (Grade 8, Low Risk)

juggling school and work8
Juggling school and work

We were sacked for not having books. We didn’t have money, because my grandmother had travelled… my parents had separated, she (mother) left. We don’t live with her and no one knew where she was … I started washing dishes for someone who sold beans close by and for that I was being given 50Gp a day and I started saving. I saved for a long time and when I gathered enough, we came back to school. That whole period, we didn’t know where our mother was and as for our father, we had been to his place just once - Musa (Grade 6, Low Risk).

juggling school and work9
Juggling school and work

There were times I went to school hungry and ate only when I returned home. After a while I got the opportunity to help a woman, who sold yams, I carried her load from the market to her house at the end of each day. She gave me 20Gp each time I helped her. I used 10Gp to pay studies fees, and used the rest for food the following morning. When my mother could afford, she added some to my pocket money. I worked with the woman for about 3 years. – Fred (Grade 8, Low Risk)

juggling school and work10
Juggling school and work

I sell ripe plantain at the Kaneshie Market… when I come for the morning shift and close at 12:00, I go to sell for a while, till about 3:00 then I come home to cook...by the time I’m done with all the house work, it will be late but I still have to learn so I learn a little and I fall asleep. I wake up again between 3a.m. and 4a.m. to continue. At 5 a.m. I go and do house work then I go to school…where I come from is far and with the 50Gp (pocket money). I pay transport fare of 20Gp otherwise if I walk I’ll be late. Then when I come to school I pay studies fee of 10p leaving 20Gp. In the mornings, I don’t eat because the 50Gp is for the whole day. – Bernice (Grade 6, Low Risk)

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Juggling school and work

I can’t go to school without money, I need money to buy my school needs –Loretta (Grade 8, Low Risk).

…if I don’t have money I won’t be able to buy the things that I will need to go to school - Esther (Grade 6, High Risk)

… without money you can’t go to school even if you want to. I would have completed school by now if I had money – Joe (Grade 8, High Risk)


Questions and Comments


Education For All. (2009). Overcoming inequality: Why governance matters. GlobalMonitoringReport. France: UNESCO Publishing.

National Development Planning Commission. (2006). Implementation of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy 2003-2005. 2005 Annual Progress Report. NDPC,Governmentof Ghana: Accra

Ghana Education Service (2005) Guidelines for the distribution and utilization of Capitation Grants to basic schools. GES: Accra.

Ministry of Education Science and Sports. (2006). Preliminary Education Sector

Performance Report 2006. Accra: MOESS, Ghana

Ministry of Education. (1994). Towards learning for all: Basic Education in Ghana by the year 2000. Education Sector Paper as a Follow-up to the National Program of Action. Government of Ghana

UNICEF (2007). Achieving universal primary education in Ghana by 2015: A reality ora dream? UNICEF: Division of Policy and Planning.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP). (2006). Human development report 2006. UNDP