VSO ICS volunteers Raluca Moraru and Gifty Arthur explain how Ghana’s inclusive education policy, launched last year, is putting the schooling of children with disabilities and vulnerable girls back on the agenda.
Education is key
Ghana is politically stable and enjoys steady economic growth. But in education, progress has been slow, leaving almost half a million children out of the classroom.
“In this area that’s struck with poverty, parents don’t see the importance of educating women, girls and children with disabilities,” says Raluca.
Now back from her placement in Talensi district, northern Ghana, she explains that securing schooling for Ghana’s most marginalised is key to lifting people out of poverty:
“If they get an education, they can help support the family and understand how to reduce teenage pregnancy and mortality rates among young mothers.”
Girls can beat the boys
With last year’s introduction of Ghana’s inclusive education policy, which promised to bring all children – regardless of their circumstances – into school, attitudes in communities like those in Talensi district are changing.
“Traditionally girls get married and boys go to school. But when they’re in school, girls can do even better than boys. So what we’re doing is encouraging them, showing them what they can do for their nation,” Ghanaian volunteer Gifty explains.
“In our country, you have to be educated. We live in a computerised world and education is necessary because when you face poverty, there are a lot of things you already lack. By going to school, our children have a better fighting chance.
“When I came here, I spoke to some of the girls and their parents about why they should go to school and why it is really important in helping them achieve what they want to do in the future. It’s been really reassuring to see my words sink in and the girls now turn up to learn. It makes me feel proud.”
'Tackling Education Needs Inclusively' is a VSO project promoting inclusivity in education. Alongside the Ghana Education Service, a host of local partners as well as professional volunteers, ICS volunteers from the UK and Ghana work to support vulnerable children to access education.
Commenting last year on the launch of the education reform, Thomas Otaah of the Special Education Division of the Ghana Education Service, said: “With the implementation of the policy, no headteacher or teacher can turn away a child from his or her school because that child has a disability.
“Every child has a right to education irrespective of individual physical emotional and intellectual difficulties or characteristics.”
By offering support through community outreach, mapping to identify vulnerable children alongside teacher training (with support of local partners and experienced professionals), volunteers like Raluca and Gifty are helping to improve education outcomes for some of Ghana’s most marginalised young people.
Not without its challenges
Talking about the experience of volunteering, Raluca explains: “The best thing, the most challenging thing, is you get dropped in a part of the world that’s completely unfamiliar to you.”
She continues, “The customs are different, the food is different, everything is different. You just have to adapt to it and in that process you learn so much about yourself and also the community you are part of.”