Category Archives: Work

A Summer Well Spent

“So, do you think you’ve had positive impact here?”

That was the question posed of me by my good friend and classmate Emmanuel on my last day in Tamale immediately after I had wrapped up my work at the REO.  After four months of working to create a data system and process for data use in decision-making there, I wasn’t sure how to answer Emmanuel’s question.

“I think so,” I told him, mentally reminding myself of the successes and failures I experienced in my work. I explained more about what I did at my office, what I thought I got right, and what I thought I got wrong over the course of the summer.

“Then I think you’ve made a change,” he said after I finished. “You’ve done well,” he told me, adding so much meaning to a Ghanaian phrase I’d heard many times over the summer.

You see, I’d gotten feedback from many people on my work up until then, but nothing compared to the sense of validation I got from Emmanuel’s words and bright smile on that sunny afternoon in the empty classroom at Tamasco. In that moment, I wanted to stay in that red dust country for at least another four months. After all, while I had some small positive impact on the lives of students like Emmanuel there are still many opportunities to improve the realities of Ghanaians.

Later that day, I said goodbye to Emmanuel and all my other amazing classmates from Tamasco who were still around to study for the upcoming WASSCEs. I made sure that it wasn’t the forever kind of goodbye, though, but more of a “see you later” with a promise to return someday attached. I left Sagnarigu the following morning before the sun had risen and while the night’s rain was still falling. From Tamale, I went to Kumasi, then Elmina, then Accra, then home. Even though it’s been less than a month since I left, it feels like I was in Ghana a very long time ago (especially with the effects of reverse culture shock hitting me on a daily basis).

Now that my life has reached an approximate steady-state, I can finally take a moment to reflect on my summer experience as a whole and begin to answer the often-asked question, “How was Ghana?” and the not-as-often-asked-but-much-more-important one, “Did I have any positive impact and what was it?”

Like I said before, I’m confident that I had some positive impact on my office’s ability to deliver good education to Ghanaian students through my work this summer. What that impact was is a whole other question, though, and one that I’m slowly answering. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts in the near future.

Which brings me to my next point: it’s not over. There are still these reflections (and others) to be mulled over, analyses to be done, and important messages to be delivered. I’ll be using this space to do so in the next little while, and I hope you’ll continue to follow my journey here.

Oh, and as Emmanuel might say, “Ghana was fine. How was Canada?”


Reports, Opportunities, and a Not-So-Village Stay: An Update

I haven’t blogged for almost a week now, which is a bit of a break from the 3+ posts/week rate I’ve managed to keep in the past few weeks. This is not because there hasn’t been anything about which to blog; quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve been too busy to write! Alhassan was out of the office for a big convention in Cape Coast for two weeks and as a result work at the RESO was going very slowly. He returned on Monday and brought with him a flurry of activity.

I spent Monday catching Alhassan up on plans for the following week and a half. In the time that Alhassan had been gone, Mina and I had decided that a village stay was in order for the final weekend before debrief. This meant that Thursday would be my last day at the office and I’d be in a village outside Tamale from Thursday afternoon-Tuesday afternoon. I told Alhassan that I would come to the office on Tuesday afternoon to say my goodbyes and we discussed what reports I should submit to the RESO team and Director.

In the evening, I informed Yaku of my (maybe) finalized plans for the village stay followed by travel to Kumasi, Accra, and–finally–Canada. He looked at me over our TZ, his eyes glistening, and said “so it means you’ll be gone as of Thursday?” Cue this:

I told him that I’d be back for Tuesday night and that I’d cook a “Canadian” meal for the family then. We stayed up late chatting about families, Canada, and education.

On Tuesday, I jumped into my final report for GaRI. It turned out to be quite the challenge; how does one condense 3 months of learning, including strategy recommendations, into <10 pages? I’m not sure (which is probably why the report isn’t done yet). On the bright side, what I have written has really made me realize just how much I’ve learned this summer. The theme for this blog for next week will be Learning, so expect to hear more about it.

Wednesday came with some very exciting news. I opened my email inbox to find an invitation to a forum in Accra held by USAID on a review of EMIS they performed in May. Dan Boland had connected me with the researcher (coincidentally named Chris) from RTI who performed the review early on in my placement. Chris interviewed me to get my perspective and was surprised to hear what I had to say about access to EMIS data. He told me that I’d be kept in the loop should anything worthwhile come out of his research. When I opened up the invitation attachment, I saw that one of the major points to be discussed at the forum was data access. That was pretty exciting. This guy wasn’t even considering access issues in his review until I spoke to him about it and now it was appearing as a topic of discussion at the review forum.

I figured that the forum would be an excellent opportunity to network for EWB and push the thoughts I have about EMIS a little further by introducing the briefing paper I wrote about it to the stakeholders who’ll be present. So I sent an excited email to Mina and Dan that read “Do either of you know about this? CAN I GO??” By the end of the day, I had purchased my ticket to Accra.

Because the forum is on the 17th, I’ll have to travel south a day earlier and meet up with the other JFs in Kumasi after the event is done. Cutting one day off the few days remaining created a lot of sudden stress for me; I have so many reports to finish, a village stay to attend, packing to do, and goodbyes to say and one fewer day for it all. In the end, I decided not to do the village stay so that I can spend the weekend preparing to leave.

And now it’s Thursday. What’s on my mind for today and tomorrow? REPORTS. I’ve got a bunch of thoughts to work out and translate into coherent English before Tuesday. Wish me luck.


Day 3 – Different Perspectives

I sat down gingerly in my desk on Wednesday morning. By now, the flat and hard desk had taken its toll on my rear-end and I found just sitting quite painful. When I told my classmates why I was having difficulties, they laughed and told me, “it’s because your buttocks isn’t round-round like ours!”* This is probably true.

Still, I sat. The Master for that day was late, as usual. I’d come to the hypothesis that Masters being late for class was just a part of the culturally-driven phenomenon of Ghana Time. When he did arrive, he sat right in front of me, at a student’s desk. I thought this was curious, but what happened next was even more astounding.

“Okay, group 4,” he announced, reading from his notebook, “it seems as though it’s your turn to present.” Group presentations? Awesome! It got even better from there, though. The group who was doing the presentation had set it up as a mock episode of “Good Morning Ghana”, complete with a moderator and several panelists to discuss the topic at hand: How to Upgrade Oneself at Work. After a brief discussion, the panel opened up for “listeners to call in”–i.e. for the class to have a group discussion.

Students asked challenging questions of the group, both in attempts to catch them off-guard and with genuine interest in the subject. Afterwards, the Master told the students that they need to work together outside of class, too, in order to be successful. He also told them that next term he’d be incentavizing group presentations with prizes for the best group. Then he announced that he’d be forming a student parliament to “give the students a voice” on key issues and that he was looking for motivated students. I was honestly dying of excitement/curiousity/nerdiness. Who was this teacher? Where did his excess of awesome come from? I had to know.

I grabbed his attention after class, introduced myself, and set up a time to talk with him afterwards.

Immediately after class had finished for the day, my good friend Emmanuel found me and told me that he was going to take me on a tour of the campus. Even though I’d already had one tour, I figured another couldn’t hurt. After all, I’ve been at the U of O for three years now and I’m sure there are still parts I haven’t visited. We got on his bike–me riding and him on the back, armed with a camera–and rode around for maybe an hour and a half. Some highlights:

View of Tamakloe House. This guy (I forget his name) rode alongside us for a bit.

The Tamasco campus is beautiful.

The class farm. Each Agric class has their own farm where they learn practical skills as part of the General Agric class. I JUST missed the planting of maize 😦

The main auditorium. You'd probably never guess that this is a building in rural Ghana, right?

The Indomitable Nkrumah house. Ever Forward, Never Backward.

The dining hall, a.k.a. my worst enemy at Tamasco.

We ended at the house of the Master from the morning in time for my meeting with him. We talked for about an hour and a half about his experience with teaching, the issues he sees with education and what he thinks a solution looks like. His passion was phenomenal. He told me that he goes to every in-service training they offer, because he values dynamism in his teaching and sees the benefits it has on the students. His devotion to the students was really amazing, especially in such a demotivating environment (we talked about that, too).

Our conversation had to be cut short because it was time to dine, but he invited me back to talk with him any time. His last message to me was a piece of advice: he told me that any solution to the issue of quality in Ghanaian education must be holistic. He told me that the issue is complex, and many things have to change before teachers will be motivated and driven in their work.

I think he’s right, and I can’t wait to pick his brain for more insights.


*Sidenote: in Ghana, if you want to show that there are multiple things, you just repeat the name. Ex. “one-one” refers to multiples of an individually-packed item.

From Buzzwords to Actions

What am I doing in Ghana?

I’ve written about my work before, but so far I haven’t said anything too concrete. This is problematic because my chapter is supposed to be connected to my work, and I’m sure the rest of you would like to know what my work really looks like too. The problem is that what I’m doing is outcome-oriented, so my daily activities aren’t consistent, but rather structured around the outcomes that I’m trying to achieve. Those outcomes are essentially evidence-based decision-making and the creation of a sustainable culture of analysis at the Regional Education Office.

Um, excuse me? I know, I know, I’ve just thrown a bunch of buzzwords at you that don’t really make a lot of sense because they are somehow technical. That’s fair, so I’ll recap my activities from the summer and in doing so try to give a sense of what a workday might look like for me.

I arrive at the office at around 7:45. It seems early, but there are many reasons for my keenness. First, mornings aren’t that exciting for a guy in my compound, since we’re not allowed to take part in any of the activities that are going on (dish-washing, cooking breakfast, gathering water etc). Second, I eat my breakfast of egg and bread at the office, because my family thinks I don’t like the porridge they make. I’ve actually never tried it—there was a weird language barrier-caused miscommunication that I haven’t yet ventured to correct. Third, I only get internet at the office! I like it this way, but it means that I usually have piles of emails to get through each day. I reserve the time between my own arrival and Alhassan’s arrival for doing my daily interwebbing.

Alhassan usually arrives at about 8:30. At that point, we’ll sit down and go over our work for the day. Here’s where things get variable. At the beginning of my placement, work plans for each day consisted of me asking a tonne of questions of everyone in my office, learning about the current data management systems in place and getting feedback from Alhassan on ideas for moving forward. That turned into developing a database using Microsoft Excel, which usually involved a lot of heated (and I mean heated) back-and-forth discussions about the best ways to manage the data and the best analyses to do with it.

I should mention that my office is a great space for ideation. For some reason—I hypothesize that it has to do with the impermanence of my role—I can navigate roles freely at the REO and as a result I have a lot of flexibility in what I can reasonably put out in terms of useful ideas. So, there is a sort of background level ideation always going on between Alhassan and I, Newton and I, and/or Mr. Acheampong and I. Oh, those are other employees at the RESO by the way.

The idea to use the database template as a template for data collection came out of this ideation. We looked at what challenges might arise from that idea and developed a plan for getting feedback from end users—district EMIS officers. Then we carried it out and inputted the feedback into a database that I whipped up. That’s right, I made a database so we could manage database changes (whoa, meta). We used the database to decide which feedback to incorporate into the collection tool and made the necessary changes. Meanwhile, I was doing some entry and analysis of old data.

Then we decided to work out a process for data use at the REO, so we visited some schools to collect old data. We used our database to analyse it and come to some conclusions. We’re at the stage now where it’s time to deliver feedback to the schools in question to see what improvements they can make or learn what they’re doing right. If the process turns out to be a good one, we’ll look at adopting it at the REO as a means for using data to plan for monitoring and evaluation of schools.

Oh, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I work with some other employees who are computer-literate to offer demand-driven, needs-based computer training to every employee of the REO. We’re working towards using computers for data analysis, but some of the employees have never even sat in from of a computer before, so we’ve got to start easy.

So, as you can see, there’s not really a concrete pattern to each day at the REO. Activities might include planning with Alhassan, working on a database, visiting schools, offering training, or, if the office is empty, blogging. Overall, though, my work looks something like this:

Ideate –> Design –> Test –> Collect Feedback –> Reiterate

It’s not concrete, I know, but it’s the best way that I can describe it. So, any questions?

(Seriously, give me some questions).


Low-Tech Engineering

I’ve encountered a common sentiment about EWB among Engineering students, especially at the U of O. It goes something like this:

EWB is not involved with technical skills. Engineering is a technical profession. Therefore, as an Engineering student, I shouldn’t care about EWB. 

A range of attitudes is encompassed within this thought process, from casual apathy to directed hate (yes, actually). I’ve never understood this viewpoint for many reasons, the majority of which include the development of the non-technical skills that differentiate Engineers from technicians. I can honestly say that I’ll be able to contribute to a future engineering team in a productive way mainly because of what I’ve learned through EWB. Facilitation, mediation, management, entrepreneurship, and-most importantly-innovation are all things that I’ve picked up through EWB without even having to go on a work term.

Besides soft skills, though, I’m realizing more and more each day just how much what I’m doing in Ghana is Engineering.

After all, what is Engineering? Well, according to Professional Engineers Ontario, Engineering is concerned with three things:

  1. any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising (or the managing of any such act);
  2. that requires the application of engineering principles; and
  3. concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment

The first third of this definition just outlines the scope of acts that fall under the definition. Note that management of any of these acts is specified. Cool.

The next third is a little bit vague; what are these so-called “Engineering principles”?

Basically, they are a set of concepts which are applied to solve problems. They differ based on what discipline of Engineering you’re in, but I would argue that the core set includes innovation, design, heuristics, resource management, and user input. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it abstractly covers most of the principles I’ve encountered so far in my Chemical Engineering education and probably includes most of the principles used in other disciplines as well.

The last third of the above definition is, for me, the most interesting because it’s about people. I’ve found that it’s also the one that is most often forgotten by Engineering students. It’s so easy to lock ourselves up in the ivory towers of university and forget that we’re not just PDE-solving machines, but members of a profession geared towards helping people with technology. Engineering is a noble profession that should be people-centered, according to this definition.

Okay, so let me bring this back to my work in Ghana. So far I’ve designed a database and collection tool using guidelines and input specified by my teammates. Together, we piloted the collection tool in a focus group of end users and collected feedback from them on factors like ease of use  and design. Based on the feedback that we received, we updated the collection tool format to meet their needs while maintaining a streamlined platform for collection and storage. We plan on rolling out training on the features and use of this tool within the next month.

While we’re updating the tool and creating the training, my counterpart and I are also collecting data from the past 5 years from some local, low-performing schools so that we can see if enrolment and performance are correlated in the Northern Region. With this information, we’ll decide which analyses are most worthwhile to automate within the database we’ve built. We’ve started on the the analysis of this data now, but we’re still working on capturing all of it.

So right now, my work looks a little something like this:

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Seems a lot like work an Engineer might do, right? That’s because it is.

Of course there’s one difference between the work I’m doing here and similar work which would be done in Canada: the environment. And I’m not talking about all this red dust in my keyboard. No, I mean the sum of the available resources, skills, knowledge, and attitudes of stakeholders in my project. Ghana is (among a gazillion other things) low tech. Like a good Engineer*, I’ve got to recognize this and respond two ways: 1. I’ve got to create an equally low tech solution and 2. I must help to sustainably fill the capacity gap of my users.

The first part is easy enough, but the second half requires a lot more research, planning, and strategy. In a more high-tech environment, this is not usually so. End users of a database would likely have access to a computer (because who doesn’t in the West?) and would likely know how to use it. The Engineer who is designing the product can take these things for granted and won’t have to think twice about his/her users.

So the next time you’re sitting in class learning about cross-flow heat exchangers (or laughing at the poor sucker who is stuck in that lecture while you do something Artsy), keep in mind that you’re preparing to enter a career whose very definition is people-centric. Thus, the complete needs of your users–be they computer-addicted Canadians, or rural Ghanaian farmers–ought to be at the forefront of your work.


*-I understand that as a student of Engineering, I cannot officially use the term “Engineer” to describe myself. I’ve used it here for simplicity’s sake only.

So You Want to Build a School In Africa?

Well, it turns out that you have plenty of opportunities to do so:

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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:

Enrolment and Students Per Classroom in JHS in Northern Ghana, 2007-2010

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:

BECE Results in Northern Ghana, 2007-2010

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.

So You Want to Build A School in Africa?

It turns out that so does everyone else:

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I could come up with a comprehensive list of organizations to suit your school-building desires, but that would be an exercise in frustration and wasted internet credit. My favourite, though is this group. They built one kindergarten in the Volta Region of Ghana with carefully selected textiles and a unique, modern design that aims to “raise the bar on the designs of kindergarten facilities in Ghana…”. The whole thing only took one month to complete and even used locally-sourced management (from Accra) and materials. Success! Now, let’s start an organization and feel good about ourselves help children to have better futures in Africa.

Because, obviously African children don’t have bright futures due to the lack of physical structures required for schooling, right? I mean, what else could possibly prevent them from getting an education and being successful later in life?

In fact, for the past four years enrolment in Junior High School has increased steadily in the Northern Region (NR) in Ghana. On average, the increase has been about 8000 new students each year (R = 0.97).

Enrolment in JHS in Northern Ghana, 2007-2010

So we definitely need to build new schools. Quick, call your friends and family, rally your school, call the textiles designer! We’ve got 8000 new students to prepare for and only a short time before they’ll be starting school. Thankfully we can whip up a state-of-the art, bar-raising school in only one month. If we get 53 teams organized across the country, we can singlehandedly ensure that all those new students will have schools for the next school year. And who knows how many future-changing NGOs we can get out of the operation!

Hold up.

It also turns out that the picture is a little more complicated than that.

Students Per Classroom, Major Repairs Required in JHSs in Northern Ghana, 2007-2010

Students Per Classroom, Major Repairs Required in JHSs in Northern Ghana, 2007-2010

The increase in enrolment in Junior High School (JHS) in the area has been far outpaced by the rate at which schools have been built and as a result, the ratio of students per classroom has been decreasing by 1.3 students each year (R = 0.82) since 2007. Additionally, the percentage of schools requiring major repairs has decreased by about 4.5% each year over the last four years (R = 0.91).

Fewf. Looks like all of the do-gooding that schoolbuilders have been up to has paid off. There’s no need to worry about those 8000 new students not having classrooms, since the amazing work they’ve done is already going at the pace it needs to in order to keep up with demand. Just continue with what you’re doing now, schoolbuilders, and Northern Ghana will be fine.

Actually, it seems as though construction of most of the 132 new JHSs in the NR in the past four years was managed by district offices with the help of School Management Committees (SMCs). And Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) raised most of the money for the major repairs required by existing schools.

But surely all of the schoolbuilding my Western colleagues have been up to has had some impact on education in the NR. To be honest, though, I don’t know what that impact has been and neither does the REO here. That’s because almost none of the wonderful schoolbuilders offering their services to Ghana talk to the Ghanaian government about their activities. When they do, the details are vague, incomplete, or incorrect. As a result, coordination of external activities by district offices is very, very challenging.

No matter, though. Those courageous schoolbuilders are doing their darnedest to tackle the biggest issue facing education right now! What’s the problem with a small lack of reporting, when the work they’re doing is so paramount to giving Ghanaian children bright futures?

Well, maybe access isn’t really the biggest issue. Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) is a measure of enrolment normalized to the population. In the NR, the GER currently sits at 70%. It is up by 10% since 2007. So, access to education is increasing and families are taking advantage of that increase.

Now, keep in mind that these numbers are based on census data that is ten years old with a 2.7% yearly projected population increase.

Take a look at this, though:

BECE Results in Northern Ghana, 2007-2010

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. Do not pass BECE, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

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. Talk about a leaky pipeline.

Imagine going into an exam with 9 of your classmates. You’ve studied hard, despite setbacks, and feel as ready as your teacher could make you feel (which is likely not all that ready—more on teachers in a later post). Unfortunately, only 4 of you will even pass that exam and none of you will really do well on it. The other 6 of you will lack the skills required to do anything productive with your basic education. In fact, it’s likely that those 6 are illiterate. Now consider that not only can you not read at age 15, but also that you’ve just wasted 9 years of your life learning things that cannot be useful to you in the future, when you could have been perfecting your maize growing skills and adding to your family’s livelihood.

But, hey, at least you had a school in which to do it. And the textiles were so nice for all of those 9 years.