Inequality is on the rise, thus undermining poverty reduction, holding back economic growth and threatening social stability in the country.
Education is know to be a major means through which the inequality gap can be bridged as it creates a ‘level playing ground’ for all involved persons regardless their background and in effect fights poverty and economic inequality, gender inequality and also promote social cohesion.
It is against this background that SEND GHANA, organized a National Engagement on addressing inequality through quality and equal education, in Accra at the La-Palm Royal Beach Hotel, on Thursday, 19th November, 2020.
In his opening remarks, Deputy Country Director for SEND GHANA, Dr. Emmanuel Ayifah, noted that, the programme was aimed to draw attention of regional and district level actors to the power of education towards bridging the inequality gap.
Dr. Ayifah, also underscored the need to gather information on how inequality in the sector, manifests in their respective jurisdictions and seek recommendations towards attaining quality and equitable education for all pupils and students of school going age regardless location, sex and ability.
He emphasized that, “Ghana’s economic growth in the past 20 years has been impressive and was matched by a significant reduction in poverty levels. For instance, the country has experienced steadily increasing economic growth of over 7 percent per year on average within the last decade, and experienced reduction in monetary poverty from 51.7 percent in 1992 to 24.2 percent of the population by 2013,
Yet the country has been categorized as having one of the fastest increasing inequality levels in Africa by the IMF. By implication, the notable economic gains the country has achieved over the years have not been fairly distributed across the regions.”
He was however optimistic that, equitable allocation of resources would improve quality learning outcomes for marginalized groups at district and school levels, and as well as increase understanding of the ‘Power of Education, in order to Fight Inequality at the local level.
In her presentation, Anita Asare, Field Officer at SEND GHANA, threw more light on some report findings and that of a 2018 report by OXFAM, SEND GHANA and the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), which asserts that nearly 300,000 more men, women and children could have been lifted out of poverty in Ghana between 2006 and 2013, had inequality not increased during this same period.
She said the report further established that, one of the richest men in Ghana earns more in a month than one of the poorest women could earn in 1,000 years. Adding that, “Current trends show that the wealthiest 10% of Ghanaians now account for 32% of Ghana’s total consumption, more than is consumed by the bottom 60% of the population combined. The very poorest 10% of the population consume only 2%.
Ms. Anita Asare said, “As noted by Oxfam, extreme inequality is avoidable and it is a political choice; it is the result of deliberate policy choices made by governments; and that concrete steps can be taken to reduce inequality.
For instance, based on an analysis of data from the Ghana’s 2018 Education Sector Analysis (ESA), Anlimachie and Avoada (2020) are of the view that there is a strong correlation between low educational attainment, high poverty rates and regional/rural-urban inequality (Anlimachie, 2015a; World Bank-GALOP, 2019, p. 24). It is also noteworthy that the attainment of these positives attached to the power of education to fighting inequality lies in the availability of equal, equitable and high-quality of education for all.
The 2018 ESA reveals gaps and inequalities with educational attainment in Ghana, notably: 60% of Ghanaian children aged 4-18 years do not achieve success in Pre-Tertiary Education (PTE), and thus are unable to transition successfully to the world of work and lifelong learning opportunities after Senior High School (SHS).
Two-thirds of the children who do not achieve success in PTE in Ghana come mostly from the rural communities and the deprived districts . There also exist wide variations in Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) results across regions and by gender. In particular, the three northern regions perform poorly, especially compared to Greater Accra, and these effects are exacerbated when looking at gender disparities by region, where results are skewed against girls in all four core subjects.
Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Math Assessment (EGMA) of 2015 also show that urban areas significantly outperform rural areas in both reading and mathematics. In terms of equity regarding inputs, textbook–student ratios differ significantly across regions. They are generally highest for the Central and Western regions and much lower for the three northern regions.
For instance, there were 0.75 English textbooks per student in the Western region in 2016/17, compared to just 0.23 for Upper West. There is even a much wider sense of inequality in the area of inclusive and special education. The ESA clearly acknowledges that children with disabilities are not progressing through the education system and that a large proportion are over-age.
In addition, the lack of facilities in schools disproportionately affects children with disabilities, with almost no regular basic schools having handrails, and only 8% equipped with ramps. In addition, the issue of underfunding in the sub-sector is also highlighted with reference made to the disbursement of 0.6% of total recurrent education to inclusive and special education.
A 2019 Oxfam global report on ‘the Power of Education to Fight Inequality’, shows the unparalleled power of public education to tackle growing inequality. The report corroborates some of the findings of Ghana’s 2018 ESA report, and thus, show how increasing educational equality and quality is crucial to fighting economic and gender inequality.”
Anita concluded her presentation by saying, “The report highlight that a good-quality public education is liberating for individuals, and can be an equalizer within society. To achieve this, the report indicates that education must be both of good quality and equitable; it should be free, universal, adequately funded, with well-supported teachers, and accountable public oversight.”
Mrs. Harriet Nuamah-Agyemang, Senior Programme Officer at SEND Ghana, also intimated that, the inequality in Ghana’s educational system, has paved a way for some students to be more privileged than others, where they finding themselves in well-endowed schools.
She emphasized on the importance of addressing the infrastructural needs of schools, especially those in the most deprived areas, as it is amongst the keys to bridging the gap between the rich and poor.
Mr. Moses Gemeh, Principal Programme Officer at the Ministry of Education, said the Ministry is in close collaboration with SEND GHANA, in respect to addressing inequality in the country’s educational sector, to pave way for equal and quality education for all.
Mr. Gemeh, also disclosed an ongoing training programme for teachers, which is one of the Ministry’s measures to ensure quality teaching approach.