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'Free Education' is Still Too Expensive Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Abdul-Razak Ramadan, Jun 14, 2006
Child & Youth Rights , Education , Poverty , Global Education   Opinions


Most people in Ghana would agree that education is the key to a better life, but many children in Tamale are not going to school despite the constitutionally-guaranteed right to a free education.


Check out the bus stop in the northern metropolis of Tamale, Ghana on any regular afternoon, and it will be like most others in the country; crowded, noisy and busy with children running to the vehicles and carrying luggage for money.

But those children are supposed to be in school instead of at the bus station. Often, the children are forced to work there because their parents can not afford, or refuse, to send them to school.

“I was going, but then one day my father said I shouldn’t go again,” says one 12-year old boy. “I was still going even though he said I should stop. So, he tried using the cane to stop me. My mom, who was interested in my education, took me to her mother’s home in order to help me pursue my education. Then my mom died, leaving me alone. So, when my mom died, I went back to my father’s home. Then, my father denied me, so I moved to my brother’s place. Then, my brother too went to Kumasi to hustle in order to get some money for my education.”

Other children have similar stories.

“My mom is not doing anything, she has no money,” says another boy. “I don’t know my dad. When it comes to chop money, my mom says she has no money. She used to manage to pay my fees, but later she couldn’t do anything, so I had to drop from school and I’m now working here in the station.”

Last year, the Ghana Education Service said there would be no more school fees, so education should be affordable for these children. According to the constitution, every child in Ghana has the right to a free basic education. The capitation grant now provides 30,000 cedis per child in each school to cover school fees that parents used to pay.

But Madame Charlotte, a class two teacher and the assistant headmistress at Methodist Primary school says that many children are still not coming because the cost of uniforms, notebooks and pencils is too much.

“Because of poverty, some of them can’t get the means to them. Some of them because of school uniforms, some of them exercise books, [one time] the child said she had no school uniform so she can’t come to school again. They drop out. Some of them drop out saying they are going to learn [a trade] because they can’t afford what they need in the school here.”

The Ghana Education Service says the cost of school supplies should not prohibit children from attending school. Mr. Adam Nashiru, the assistant director of administration and finance, says if children are needy, head teachers should put those children on the needy children list. The needy children fund supplies 100 children per district with a package containing a uniform, notebooks and pencils.

But Madame Charlotte says she has referred about ten students to receive the package, and only three have received it. So, she sometimes covers the cost of the supplies herself.

“Sometimes I use my own money to buy books for them. I do it before man and God, I do it,” she says. “A child says: ‘my head is paining me,’ [and there is] no first aid in the school. I have to remove money, go to drugstore and buy medicine for the child. Sometimes I buy the textbooks myself. But it’s not easy.”

And many agree that 30,000 cedis per child is not enough to cover the costs of educating a child. The headmaster of Methodist Primary school, Mohammed Yahaya Ahmad, says he received 2.3 million cedis per term for the 211 children in his school. But after the sports and culture fees are taken out, he says there is very little left for the students and maintenance of the school.

“That means the doors and windows are left broken and parents have to cover some of the costs of readers and exams.” Ahmad says there is not enough in the capitation grant to pay for first aid kits or even a water pot.

The Ghana Education Service says while some PTA’s have authorized some additional fees to cover printing costs or exam costs, individual soliciting for funds outside of that is not allowed. GES says any requests of the sort should be reported to them for investigation.

Mr. Adam Nashiru admits there are not enough of the supply packages for all the children who need them. He says the fund needs more money in future years to support all of the children who qualify. Until then, he says, those who don’t get one should register with the metropolitan assembly or seek help from an NGO.



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Free Education For All
Eugenia Bivines | Aug 20th, 2006
Hello Very compelling story and would like for you know that I am also working on Building A Better Future for Africas Children. Great story!

Fran Marie G. Mores | Sep 30th, 2006
well, i think the problem of your people when it comes to education is also the problem in some part of the globe. here in the philippines, aside from private schools that are too expensive, most of the students are enrolled in public schools and it is for free, indeed but... aside from school-things problems, some schools are not accessible in most of remote areas wherein they can't take a ride by bus or even by carabaos... projects and assignments cost more than their family's earning in a day... they can't even afford to buy meals to recharge their energy and brain when going to school... and i think that's part of the reasons why most of this students and their families say that education in our country, even for free, is expensive and tiresome

Jennifer Ada-Oye | Sep 24th, 2006
I love the topic, that is the situation here in Nigeria too. Good work!

Suzanne Pierre | Oct 15th, 2006
Wow, Im a supporter of the campaign for global basic education, and i thought that if education became free in countries like Ghana, then easily all children would go to school. But now i see it's not that simple. I wonder what other people could do to support students in Ghana financially...

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