This investment has seen illiteracy rates decline over recent years, especially as more children complete nine years of school. However, according to the new global monitoring report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), even after nine years of education, over a fifth of children in Ghana were found to be illiterate in 2008. And around a quarter were only semi-literate, managing to read only parts of sentences. The problem is particularly acute among women; in 2008, over half of 15-29 year-old females could not read a sentence at all after completing six years of school.
Part of the problem has been a shortage of trained teachers, particularly for rural areas. This has meant a significant number of untrained staff serving in rural schools. To address the issue, the government has invested in special training geared to towards these teachers. Distance learning programmes were begun in 2007 and around 25,000 teachers had been trained by 2010. An evaluation of teaching standards, especially in some of the poorest areas, has revealed strong improvements in learning compared with schools where untrained staff have not been through the programme.
But even when basic literacy and numeracy skills are improved through better teaching, the country is also looking at how it can give its youngsters the transferable skills they need to move into work. Ghana has already introduced a diversified secondary curriculum, which includes vocational subjects. However, there is again the problem of delivering these courses to schools in rural areas. Not enough teachers training in technical and vocational subjects end up in rural regions, meaning students often end up with low-quality training. And it is hard for youngsters from poor areas to obtain apprenticeships, especially for girls.
While the government of Ghana tries hard to plug these gaps in its education system, some not-for-profit and private providers are stepping in to help those with a poor education. The BBC reports on one scheme in northern Ghana, which gives young women support to set up their own businesses. Run by Camfed, the scheme brings together women in twice-monthly meetings to train them on areas such as finance and business. The organisation also offers work experience and small grants to female entrepreneurs to start their own business. Since the first nine bursaries were given out, six women are already turning a profit. Such schemes give hope and opportunities to today’s young Ghanaians who have missed out on the education they needed.