Education is a key tool that people can use to effectively fight intergenerational poverty. Education boosts workers’ resumes and skillsets, diversifies career opportunities for young people, helps women gain skills to bring in income and provides essential information to improve returns in existing economies like agriculture. In Ghana, the government has prioritized widespread education through various programs, public funding legislation and goal setting since the 1980s. However, primary, secondary and higher education can still be hard to come by in Ghana, where growing demand for education outpaces the available supply of teachers and infrastructure. Luckily, distance learning in Ghana is becoming a priority.
Primary school students can sometimes be in classrooms with 80 to 100 other students, while secondary students must alternate when they can attend school. Additionally, students who live in rural areas often lack access to educational hubs, especially since these areas typically suffer a shortage of qualified teachers. As a result, Ghana has led the way in developing extensive distance learning programs at all levels of schooling, such as university. Distance learning uses technology to enable fewer teachers to publish educational information for a much wider, and widespread, audience. Distance learning cuts down on travel time and cost, diminishes the need for large schooling infrastructure otherwise needed to accommodate every student taking a given class, provides flexibility for employed individuals seeking to improve their resumes and makes education available to a broader array of families. Here are four facts about distance learning in Ghana.
4 Facts About Distance Learning in Ghana
- Constantly improving technology paints a bright future for widespread distance learning in Ghana. As of 2015, 50% of students in Ghana had internet access, while almost every university provided 24-hour access to the web. Additionally, 70% of the population owned a mobile device by the end of the same year. However, internet access can still be spotty and unreliable. In response, in May 2020, tech companies like Facebook, China Mobile International and others launched 2Africa, a project to bring high-speed internet access to Africa via a 37,000 km submarine optical cable. The project will improve essential reliable internet access and speed to 16 African countries including Ghana by 2023. Surveyed students in Ghana expressed that they hope the project will reduce the national illiteracy rate, which currently measures at 21%.
- Distance learning in Ghana includes broadcast television, radio and internet programs. The Government of Ghana launched a program in 2002 called The President’s Special Initiative on Distance Learning (PSI-DL) which pre-recorded and broadcasted math, English and science lessons on national television for junior high and high school students. It also broadcasted additional elective programs related to specific vocational skills, like “Block Laying and Concreting,” and started training workshops in 2007. The final phase of the PSI-DL program targets teacher training to improve the skills and teaching abilities of existing in-person teachers. In higher education, many Ghana universities like the University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Cape Coast University have pioneered extensive online course offerings in sub-Saharan Africa. Most recently, the Ghana Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create a national reading program over the radio for students in response to over 25,000 primary school closures from COVID-19.
- Distance learning in Ghana’s universities is widespread. Between 2014 and 2016, distance learning enrollment increased by 39.4%. Before that, 45,000 students were enrolled in distance learning university courses in 2013 alone. By 2016, however, about half of university enrollment was through distance learning. Distance learning enrollment increases by about 8,000 students per year.
- A wide variety of distance learning programs exist for accreditation, job training, primary and secondary education and college-level education. Beyond widespread Ghana university programs for accreditation and online classes, many organizations have adopted distance learning programs to reach students at all levels. A study that broadcast satellite lessons for rural primary students from Accra, Ghana found “significant gains . . . in rural students’ numeracy and foundational literacy skills.” The Varkey Foundation, partnering with UNHCR, uses satellite lessons to teach math, English, and “gender empowerment” to Cote d’Ivoire children living in Ghana refugee camps. Online training programs like Moodle help Ghana nursing students have access to a wider variety of educational resources like training videos and online textbooks. The United Nations’ iLearn Umoja program teaches online courses and provides certification for business and systems skills training. Similarly, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council recently launched an open-enrollment accreditation program in June 2020 with 36 subjects, including business finance and project management.
Distance learning is changing the game for widespread education in Ghana and setting an example for the rest of the world. Distance learning in Ghana allows primary and secondary students in rural areas to access adequate educational material despite limited local resources, provides accreditation opportunities for working adults and equalizes individuals’ opportunities to enroll in higher education. As enrollment in distance learning programs continues to increase and technology continues to improve, it is safe to say that the best is yet to come.
– Elizabeth Broderick