Well, it turns out that you have plenty of opportunities to do so:
But, are you absolutely sure that it’s what you want to do? What are your motivations? What impact do you hope to have? If it were me, the driving force behind taking part in such an activity would be to provide education to those who don’t currently have access. I would hope to change the lives of those people by giving them an opportunity at a better future.
It’s amazing how easy it is to link the physical structure which houses the process of education with good education and, by extension, a chance at a better future. I think that sometimes the process which goes into producing such a structure in Canada is taken for granted. It’s not as simple as erecting a building with classrooms, then filling the place with students and watching their bright minds blossom. Will there be resources for those students? Will there be staff? Who will manage the school? What funding sources will it draw from? Will there be access to running water and electricity? These are just some questions that must be addressed before choosing a place for a school.
Generally, the information to answer such questions is readily available in Canada and it’s probably safe to assume that, barring any politicization, the school will be built in an area where students will be able to access it. Keep in mind that “access” is a complex thing; it doesn’t just mean physical access to a building. In fact, I like to think of access as a lack of barriers. When it’s thought of in this way, access becomes an idea that encompasses staffing, resources, facilities, location, transportation, management, and community sensitization.
Aside from all of the questions that I’ve been throwing out, there’s one big one that must be answered: is the school needed?
As leading as it may be, this question is one with a complex answer. When is a school needed? When there are students to learn in it? When a community requests it? When there is money to build one? Integrating all of these factors (and plenty more) into one decision is a tough task faced by District and Regional offices in Ghana. It’s one that involves a certain level of risk, as well: place a school in a low-access area and children in the area won’t be able to get the education that ought to be provided at the school; place it in a high access area and it is likely to be faced with overstaffing or crowding issues that will require management in the future.
There’s something else to consider: Africa is diverse. There are 54 countries on this continent and not all are in need. Truthfully, I can only speak for the Northern Region (NR) of Ghana when I say that I don’t think building a school is the best option in which to invest your money if improving education access is what you’re looking to do. Okay, I’ve got to give something to back that statement, so here it is:
Please note that this data is only for Junior High Schools (JHSs) in the Northern Region of Ghana for the last four years. It comes from a mix of EMIS data (I talked of the collection method previously) and data collected directly from districts by the REO. I’ve done my best to verify that the two sources are within 5-10% of each other.
You can see that enrolment is increasing in the NR. In fact, on average, it increased by 8000 students/year (R = 0.97) over the 2007-2010 period. However, the pace at which new schools is built has been more than adequate to meet this increase in enrolment. Over the same period, the ratio of students per classroom dropped by 1.3 students/year (R = 0.82). It looks to me like the NR has enough JHSs and is managing to keep up with the demand of enrolment in constructing new ones.
What’s more alarming in my opinion are the BECE results for the same time period:
The Basic Education Certificate Exam (BECE) is a standardized test for all of West Africa that tests JHS students’ basic ability in Maths, English, and Integrated Science. If a student doesn’t pass the BECE, s/he will not go to Senior High School (SHS) and will not be eligible for university.
For the last four years, there has been little change in the BECE pass rate in the NR. The boys sit at an average of 47% passing and the girls sit at about 33% passing. That averages out to a pass rate of about 40% over the last four years and translates to about 51 000 students (29 000 boys, 22 000 girls) who have not had the opportunity to go to SHS. For those 51 000 students, JHS3 is the exit point from education for the rest of their lives. To me, this leaky pipeline is a more serious issue than the need for new schools right now in the NR.
But, you know what? It’s not really my place to identify the education issues that the NR is facing right now. It’s not my job. I’m here to help my office to create a process to do that themselves. As it turns out, Alhassan was the one who wanted to investigate this trend; the above analysis is all his own. He also wants to ensure that it continues to be observed in the coming years so that the planning office here can understand what’s going on in the NR in order to make effective plans.
So, you want to build a school in Africa? Well, alright. But, please stop and ask for the data and make sure that it will indeed be a place to sustainably house the complex process of education first. You wouldn’t build one without ensuring this in Canada, so why wouldn’t you do the same in an African country?
This is the original article that I had written. A smart person told me that blogs are a good space for controversy, though, so I decided to push out of my comfort zone yesterday. Isn’t it interesting that a blatantly controversial post gets me 100 views and 4 comments in 2 hours, but one that comes from my heart and headspace gets 12 views and 1 comment in an entire day? Why is it that controversy is required to get a discussion flowing? If you have a minute to let me know, or if you just have something to say about this article, drop me a comment. Much love.