COVID-19 widens learning gap for girls in rural Ghana – global issues

Sarah and Doris go to school by bicycle because they live several kilometers away.  Ghana's education sector was hardest hit by the pandemic and for many girls, especially in rural areas, the consequences of school closures have meant many will never return to their schooling.  credit: Jamila Aquale Ocherchiry/IPS
Sarah and Doris cycle to school as they live several kilometers apart. Ghana’s education sector was the most affected by the epidemic and for many girls, especially in rural areas, the result of school closures meant that many would never return to their schooling. Credit: Jamila Aquale Okarchiri / IPS
  • by Jamila Aquale OcherchiriAccra)
  • Inter Press Service

Ghana’s education sector was the most affected by the epidemic and for many girls, especially in rural areas, the result of school closures meant that many would never return to their schooling.

“It was difficult for me to come back to school,” she tells IPS. “When I was at home, I didn’t think I’d be able to return to school.”

Adams was like many girls here who had to take on more responsibilities at home during the lockdown.

“I had very little time to study my books because I had more household chores and I also had to help with food at my family’s farm on which we survive,” she explains. “When I get to learn, I don’t get the help I need,” she adds.

Last March, Ghana closed schools in view of the growing COVID-19 infection across the country.

According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately 9.2 million learners from kindergarten to high school and about 500,000 tertiary learners were affected by the school opening in mid-January.

However, the prolonged absence of teaching and learning activities in a structured setting disrupted the academic calendar, affecting gains in education and negatively impacting underperforming students.

For many children from vulnerable groups, including children with disabilities, prolonged school closures have prematurely ended their education.

Prior to the epidemic, UNICEF data for Ghana show that 16.9 percent of children aged 5 to 11, 50.9 percent of children aged 12 to 14, and 83.3 percent of children aged 15 to 17, or so. were not attending school, two or more years behind school, or have not achieved the correct level of schooling for their grades.

The impact of the epidemic on children’s access and quality of education was most seriously felt through the tracking closure of schools without alternative education services accessible to all children.

This exacerbated the existing inequalities in education in the short and long term and worsened the existing barriers in the form of urban / rural inequalities, the condition of children in rural areas as well as North and Upper West regions is very poor.

Adams says that initially, she was unable to continue her studies at home during school closures because she did not have the tools to make her studies easier.

“My parents didn’t have television or radio in the house so I only read my notes that I had before our school closed,” she says. “But later I found a mobile device that helped me learn through a remote learning system.”

Distance learning effect

The government of Ghana started with funding from the World Bank $15 million, One Year Distance Education System As part of the COVID-19 response to continuous learning, retrieval, and resilience to basic education.

This includes Developing accessible and inclusive learning modules through TV and radio, distribution of printed teaching and learning materials, pre-loaded content tools to vulnerable groups who do not have access to technology, in-service teacher training to ensure that Teachers can effectively deliver lessons through innovative platforms.

Despite the distance learning platforms, Adams says he and some students in his community still faced many challenges in ensuring equal access to these services, as “we do not have access to online learning tools or the Internet at home is”.

“A large number of us in my community lack technology such as TV sets, computers, smart phones, and other online devices, as well as static Internet connectivity,” says Adams.

Benjamin Kofi Gyasi, the chief director of the Ministry of Education, who is also the COVID-19 focal person for education, tells IPS that distance education strategies are aimed at ensuring continuing education for all children, “We know that the most marginalized Children of those, including those in the most rural, inaccessible and poorest communities and girls, may not be able to use these opportunities. ”

He further said that the Ministry is prioritizing the education of the most vulnerable children through the provision of learning devices / devices and connectivity, where possible, Noting that the initiative has reached more than half of the targeted learners.

Kofi Asare, executive director of African Education Watch, tells IPS that more children are left behind as a result of the epidemic. He believes the government can do more to ensure that vulnerable children, especially those in the country’s remote and poorest communities, have the necessary tools to access quality education.

“Now the children are back in classrooms, but I can say with confidence that we have lost a significant number due to prolonged school closures due to the COVID-19 epidemic,” he says.

Her statement has been confirmed by Adams, who says some of the girls in her class are yet to return to school more than five months after the schools reopened.

“I haven’t seen some of my friends since I started school in January, I don’t know if they’ll come or not,” she tells IPS. “My friend, Hasna Yakub, who came to school from another community, has not returned yet.”

This facility was made possible by a donation from the Farida Sultana Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Farida Sultana passed away in December 2020 after battling COVID-19 for two weeks.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service

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