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Infrastructure in GhanaTechnological advancement, especially regarding mobile phone development and access, has revolutionized the way Ghanaian people are learning, both in and out of African school systems. As mobile phone access becomes more readily available throughout Ghana, app developers are revolutionizing distance education and mobile e-learning programs. According to a report published by the GSM Association, the countries of Sub-Saharan Arica experienced a 58 percent increase in the number of mobile health services available to the public that make access to health information and training programs far more accessible

With e-learning programs on the rise, Ghanaian adults now have access to college-level courses, skill development training sessions, and even medical school examination prep courses. Increased dissemination of m-learning – mobile phone learning – programs and software may serve to promote literacy and education in areas of Africa where academic infrastructure is lacking. Additionally, African colleges can utilize these learning programs to augment pre-existing programs so as to better prepare Ghanaian college graduates for employment or further education.

Stakeholders and app developers have made great strides in establishing a public health approach that utilizes online education to counter the public’s access to certain aspects of healthcare.

One particular e-learning platform, skoool HE, seeks to promote greater access to midwifery education in an effort to reduce the maternal mortality ratio, which lies at approximately 350 deaths per 100,000 women. The application, funded and developed by Ghana’s Ministry of Health, delivers an interactive learning platform wherein students are taught emergency preparedness and neonatal delivery procedures on a case-by-case basis. As a large proportion of practicing midwives approach the mandatory retiring age of 60, the Ghanaian government is utilizing educational technology to establish a new workforce to fill the impending gap.

Stakeholders involved in the sustainability of skoool HE are facilitating the development of additional learning modules and are coordinating with local communities that use the technology in an effort to augment the educational infrastructure in Ghana.

Another application supplementing healthcare education in Africa, MedAfrica, essentially mirrors the fundamental components of Web MD. This application is available to the general public free of cost and provides information regarding diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment options for multiple diseases and infections.

As Ghanaian e-learning programs continue to increase public access to college courses, healthcare information, and skill development training to adults and children, scientists are now interested in improving educational infrastructure in Ghana that promote faculty curriculum training and development.

Matthew Boyer

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to GhanaThe need for proper nutrition and health professionals has driven the success of humanitarian aid to Ghana. Within ten years, Ghana witnessed a decrease in their poverty rate from 52 percent to 28 percent in 2016.

Nutrition

As of 2016, 1.2 million Ghanaians still experienced food insecurity and chronic undernutrition. Furthermore, there is a high prevalence of stunting, recording 37 percent of children in the Northern Province alone. There are also many reported cases of wasting, particularly in the Upper West area of Ghana.

To combat these issues, Ghana joined the national Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in 2011 to improve nutrition among its population. With USAID’s support and donations, Ghanaians focused on improving the country’s nutritional funding and the way in which rations are measured and prioritized.

Furthermore, USAID’s Feed the Future targets the northern, impoverished regions of the country. It hopes to make the food value chains affordable, strengthen vulnerable communities and improve the nutritional state of women and children.

In 2014, USAID applied three Feed the Future chain projects to lead the success of humanitarian aid to Ghana:

  1. The Systems for Health project reduces the levels of stunting, wasting and anemia in women and children in five of Ghana’s more vulnerable sectors.
  2. The Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project targets poverty and malnutrition in vulnerable households.
  3. The Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project is concerned with alleviating stunting and anemia in children under five.

Data between 2008 and 2011 indicates progress among all Ghanaian children under the age of five. The total prevalence of stunting decreased from 28 percent to 23 percent, while wasting dropped a total of 3 percent. The occurrence of anemia among children dropped more significantly from 78 percent to 57 percent. With USAID’s new programs, these numbers are predicted to decline even more drastically.

Health Professionals

UNICEF fights to break the Ghanaian norm for mothers to give birth at home, without a health professional. According to a study done in 2012, only 57 percent of births were attended by a midwife or health clinic professional.

A Ghanaian birth attendant named Kasua Musah works alongside UNICEF and the Ghana Health Service to break tradition and advocate for in-clinic deliveries.

Together, they utilize the community radio, along with street theatre and home visits to promote safe birth. The combination of these methods reached out to around 360 communities, including four of the more destitute regions.

As a result, they altered tradition within the Central Region and increased the number of patients in the maternity ward sector of the region’s largest hospital. Even further, the radio empowered those who had negative experiences with the clinic staff, enforcing improvement and new training methods.

Further training was provided for midwives, ensuring the betterment of at-home births. Overall, Ghana improved the patient-to-nurse relationship.

Lowering the child and female mortality rates through improved birthing processes, but also through augmenting nutritional programs, is what propelled the success of humanitarian aid to Ghana.

– Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Free EducationPresident of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has shown full support for the Government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) program, which launched on September 12, 2017. The initial implementation of this policy was held at West Africa Senior High School (WASS) to officially integrate free senior high school education.

The Ghanaian government’s decision to implement this program was based on the desire to educate at a faster rate to encourage national development and progress.

“By free SHS, we mean that in addition to tuition, which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library fees, no science center fees, no computer laboratory fees, no examination fees, no utility fees. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals and day students will get a meal at school for free,” said President Akufo-Addo.

The program covers topics including agricultural, vocational and technical studies at the high school level, which will prepare students to be successful members of the community.

With free education opportunities, more children throughout Ghana will be able to attend school, especially girls who struggle with increasing teen pregnancy and teen marriage rates.

Students interested in the free SHS program need to apply, and the most eligible candidates are granted access. Girls, for aforementioned reasons, are prioritized in the decision process in an attempt to increase the number of educated Ghanaian females.

All applicants are fairly reviewed for the free education program, and so far over 420,000 young Ghanaians have applied. Out of these, 267,327 applicants have been accepted and placed in schools. When students are denied initial acceptance into the free SHS program at the school of their choice, they are placed on a waiting list and provided a selection of schools with vacancies.

The free education program has been fully supported by the Ghanaian government, and the opening ceremony at WASS was attended by the President, Vice President of the Republic, Minister for Education, Minister of State for Education and several officials from the Ministry of Education.

The work done by the Ghanaian government to provide free SHS opportunities will open the door for several young students who would otherwise remain uneducated with slim to no future career prospects.

“The coming into effect of the free SHS policy is vital for the transformation of the Ghanaian economy,” President Akufo-Addo said.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Prison Music ProgramIn celebration of his 40 years in the music business, gospel singer Yaw Sarpong has brought the Prison Project to life. The Prison Project’s main purpose is to teach Ghanaian prisoners how to express themselves through gospel music.

The Prison Project is a collaboration between the Yaw Foundation and Ghana Prisons Service, which intends to build music centers throughout Ghana’s prison system, beginning with Ankaful Maximum Security Prison. According to Joy Online, the Yaw Foundation is dedicated to transforming the lives of the prisoners with music. The Ghana Prisons Service wants to use this program to certify prisoners in music and other skills.

Ghana’s prison music program not will not only focus on music education; the Prison Project’s project and fundraising coordinator Esther Tettekuor Quayson states that the program will focus on other outreach programs as well. She also discusses how an education in music can lead to a desire for education in other areas – which is clearly a benefit to both prisoners and society as a whole.

Beyond education, the creators of Ghana’s prison music program hope to instill in Ghanaian prisoners leadership qualities. Quayson discusses in Ghana Web how she envisions prisoners becoming new leaders within the country.

What about the personal benefits of Ghana’s prison music program to the prisoners? According to Quayson, music gives them the opportunity to express the issues that they are dealing with. It also builds up their confidence and drive to succeed in their lives after they leave prison. Thus, the program is designed to assist with the prisoners’ ability to successfully re-enter society. Quayson states in Ghana Web that “There is therefore the need to provide solutions and programmes that will help society understand the plights of our prisoners and ex-convicts and take up their roles in shaping their lives to fit into society.”

Ghana’s prison music program is already off to a strong start. The Prison Project currently has an advisory board and a passionate group of young people willing to work with the program. Yaw Sarpong’s church is also planning a soccer game and a concert in support of the project. The Prison Project illustrates a commitment to rehabilitating prisoners in ways that will benefit the prisoners themselves and their society.

Cortney Rowe

Education System in GhanaThe education system in Ghana is well known for maintaining the ignorant practice of marginalizing children, especially disabled children, from getting an education. Children who are girls, disabled, of an ethnic minority, and/or of the lower class are consistently neglected by the education system. Approximately 100,000 Ghanaian kids aged six to 14 have a disability. More than 30 percent, or 16,000, of those 100,000 kids are not getting an education.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Education, and the Ghana Education Service have created a 45-page document called the Inclusive Education Policy. Launched to combat special education discrimination, its mission statement is straightforward, saying: “inclusive schools must recognize and respond to the diverse needs of their students, accommodating both different styles, rates of learning and ensuring quality education to all through appropriate curricula, organizational arrangements, teaching strategies, resource use and in partnerships with their communities.”

Among other documents, the Inclusive Education Policy is anchored in the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Disability Act and the Education Act and will be reviewed every five years. The Inclusive Education Policy calls on parents, teachers, community leaders, government officials and the wider Ghanaian society to reevaluate deep-rooted, misguided ideas. It aims to change systems, create mechanisms, equip schools and perpetuate the beliefs that all children can learn, have a right to learn and learn differently. The education system in Ghana is working to ensure that children with and without disabilities have an encouraging physical, social, emotional and psychological environment to learn in. Despite the Inclusive Education Policy, kids with disabilities are still at risk of stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination in their local communities.

Under the Ghana Education Service, the Special Education Division started implementing Inclusive Education Policy fundamentals in the Greater Central Accra and Eastern Regions. In 2011, the policy covered 529 schools in 34 Ghanaian districts. In the summer of the following year, UNICEF implemented the policy in 14 more schools. In early 2017, UNICEF and the United States Agency for International Development provided 21 kindergartens across 11 districts with child-sized wheelchairs, crutches, complete spectacles, hearing aids, Snellen charts, tossing rings, tennis balls, basic screening materials, drums and assistive devices for assessment centers and schools.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr

Children With Disabilities in GhanaAround the world, children with disabilities are faced with many challenges that can hinder their success and well-being. In Ghana, children with mild to moderate disabilities are often denied access to education simply because of basic impairments. This creates a sense of isolation and lack of motivation among these children, and diminishes their quality of life. Fortunately, in recent years several programs led by a variety of humanitarian organizations (such as UNICEF) have begun improving education access for children with disabilities in Ghana.

With one in three children who are not in school being withheld simply because of a disability, this problem is affecting Ghana’s children significantly. Children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy are often hidden in their communities, unable to or not allowed to go to school. Parents of children with these mild to moderate disabilities often recognize their child’s intelligence, but lack local schools with the support required to care for their needs.

This is changing, however, with the help of initiatives from UNICEF and the Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CLED).

UNICEF, in partnership with USAID, has led this mission by creating and supporting inclusive schools where children with disabilities are welcomed and can get assistance. The goal of creating inclusive schools was pursued by a community outreach program where parents were encouraged to hear about how all children, regardless of ability, were entitled to an education.

From UNICEF’s initiative, more than 450 teachers have been trained in inclusive education, and children with mild to moderate disabilities have access to over 83 basic schools that provide an inclusive learning environment.

CLED has also improved education access for children with disabilities in Ghana. CLED is a non-profit organization that helps communities by equipping teachers and parents with the tools needed to best support children with disabilities, as well as by providing specialized tutoring for children with disabilities. CLED has also acted as an advocate for this issue in Ghana by leading monthly radio talk shows on inclusive education. So far, CLED has donated 2850 school supplies, provides tutoring programs in 30 schools, and has trained 2292 teachers.

While many children with disabilities still lack access to proper education, the solution to this problem will require better understanding and support from communities. However, through these initiatives led by UNICEF and CLED, more and more disabled children are able to learn and express themselves in inclusive schools.

Kelly Hayes

Ending Human Trafficking in Ghana
2017 marks the 15th anniversary of World Day Against Child Labor as a call to end forced child labor across the globe. Human trafficking is a $35 billion industry. An estimated 27 million men, women and children are trafficking victims at any given time. According to the United Nations’ Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, children made up 28 percent of these victims in 2014.

Millions of activists around the world are trying to bring to light the abhorrence of human trafficking. Ghanaian activist James Kofi Annan is one of them, though his proximity to the cause is more intimate than most. Upon being sold as a fishing slave at the age six for seven years, he escaped the clutches of slavery at the age of 13 and dedicated himself to schooling.

Upon graduating from college, Annan took a very lucrative job as a manager at Barclays Bank of Ghana. However, his calling was not banking. In 2007, Annan resigned from his banking career and created the organization Challenging Heights, dedicating himself to ending human trafficking in Ghana.

Challenging Heights is a nonprofit grassroots organization located in Ghana that rescues, rehabilitates, educates and provides a haven for children who have been forced into labor and who are vulnerable to trafficking. The organization also supports community child protection groups and empowers women by educating them, teaching them job skills and connecting them about micro-credit.

Annan, a staunch supporter of education, believes that the roots of slavery lie in poverty and that education combats poverty. Keeping with this belief, Challenging Heights also runs a school for over 700 pupils of different age groups.

Through 21 Child Rights Clubs, the organization teaches more than 630 vulnerable children about their rights and campaigns against slavery by advocacy and building capacity of the local community to be able to stand up against and resist child slavery and human trafficking in Ghana.

In 2003, Challenging Heights started with just five children, and within its first year, the number of children increased to 100. Liberated slave children are the first to receive a safe home. There are currently enough homes for 65 children.

Since its inception, Challenging Heights has rescued 1,600 child victims of trafficking. The organization supports a five-year plan to save over 1,200 more children and continue their advocacy to ensure children’s rights are protected. Annan won the World Children’s Prize in 2013 for his contributions.

Child slavery is not uncommon in Ghana, with children making up a staggering 64 percent of those trafficked from Sub-Saharan Africa. However, through the tireless advocacy and work of people like Annan and organizations like Challenging Heights, human trafficking in Ghana is probably facing its toughest challenge yet.

Jagriti Misra
Photo: Flickr

Ghana Poverty RateThe Ghana poverty rate had a slightly contradictory story since 2005. While economic growth steadily increases about 7 percent each year, inequality has increased. Poverty remains a consistent problem in specific areas.

As a result of the discovery of offshore oil reserves in 2007, the economy saw a significant boost in 2010. This boost lifted Ghana into middle-income status. According to UNICEF, the Ghana poverty rate fell from 56.5 percent to 24.2 percent between 1992 and 2013. The new millennium took a toll, however, going from a 1.8 percent decrease in poverty per year in the 1990s to 1.1 percent since 2006.

Ghana has a huge gap between rural and urban households, which almost doubled since the 1990s. The poverty rate in urban areas at 10.6 percent is nothing compared to 37.9 percent in rural areas. Almost four million children continue to live below the poverty line, and poverty reduction is not keeping pace with population growth. A Ghanaian child is about 40 percent more likely to be impoverished than a Ghanaian adult, a staggering 15 percent rise from the 1990s.

The World Bank lists Ghana’s significant economic barriers as high youth unemployment, ongoing delays in the resolution of debt incurred by energy state-owned enterprises, the high cost of electricity and need to better match its capacity and the demand for supply. It predicts the country’s prospects as “good,” providing no unforeseen fiscal problems. Both oil and non-oil sectors will likely improve, allowing economic growth to rise in 2017.

The substantial inequality gap between the richest 10 percent in the country versus the poorest 10 percent continues to grow. The wealthiest make up about one-third of national consumption and the poorest consume only 1.7 percent. By 2006, the richest 20 percent of the country held more than half of the country’s income. In studies between 2013 and 2016, economic growth for the richest percentile was more than 1.4 times greater than the poorest.

The highest levels of Ghana’s inequality are found in specific regions. According to UNICEF, “national policy needs to recognize this issue and address effectively why the poorest people in these regions are not experiencing as high growth as other groups.” Clearly, something must change before the Ghana poverty rate can truly see an equal decline throughout the country.

Katherine Gallagher

Photo: Flickr


Ghana plans to end tuberculosis (TB) and other lung related diseases by 2030 through the aid of diagnostic technology GeneXpert, according to Ghanaian doctor Frank Bonsu. He spoke at a press conference before the opening of the 20th Conference of the Union Africa Region on Lung Health. The four-day long conference, held approximately every two years, brings together more than 800 international and African delegates to discuss and plan tactics for eliminating TB and other lung diseases from the African continent.

Bonsu is the chairman of the conference as well as the program manager of Ghana’s National TB Control Programme. He said that although Ghana has made strides in fighting TB, there are still many cases that go undetected. Ideally, 44,000 cases of TB should be detected each year, but currently, only 15,000 are diagnosed. Bonsu blames the country’s lack of modern diagnostic equipment, its low number of microbiologists, the population’s poor awareness and the stigma of the disease that keeps people from seeking medical aid.

A combination of Ghana using GeneXpert and a reduction of the negative stigma against TB, Bonsu believes, is needed for an effective eradication. The National TB Control Programme also changed its emphasis from treating those who seek medical attention at facilities to its current outreach strategy in risk communities. The program hopes going out and offering aid will encourage early diagnosis, increase treatment and decrease stigma.

GeneXpert is a molecular test that can detect even the smallest amount of TB bacteria. It can also test for resistance to the common TB antibiotic Rifampicin. The main difference between GeneXpert and the other methods of TB detection, such as sputum microscopy, is its reliability and speed. GeneXpert can have results in less than two hours as opposed to weeks.

GeneXpert can only be used for diagnostic purposes and cannot be used to properly monitor treatment. It also does not eliminate the need for conventional microscopy culture and drug sensitivity testing, according to the World Health Organization, as these tactics are still needed to monitor treatment progress and detect other types of drug resistance. Yet GeneXpert is a major milestone in TB diagnostic technology.

With Ghana using GeneXpert, many more cases of TB can be caught early and treated more effectively. Ghana hopes that with the introduction of this new technology by the end of this year, along with outreach programs and a decrease in negative stigma, the country will be free of TB in 2030.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Groundwater
The Water and Development Alliance (WADA), a water management program designed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Coca-Cola, provides communities in Latin America, Middle East, Asia, and Africa with safe water access and sanitation. Since its conception in 2005, WADA has implemented 35 projects. After 10 years, WADA provided 600,000 people with reformed water access and 250,000 people with improved sanitation.

Between 2005 and 2014, WADA reached Uganda, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Ghana. WADA engages with these communities with several objectives. First, they establish participatory, sustainable water and watershed resources management to benefit people and ecosystems. Second, they increase access to community water supply and sanitation services. Third, WADA fosters improved behaviors and sanitation hygiene for positive health impacts. Finally, they promote efficient and sustainable productive use for water to protect the environment and provide economic benefits to communities.

WADA’s work in Ghana is a perfect example of the program’s endeavors. Ghana’s groundwater is the primary source of water for small rural towns, and it also has exceptionally high concentrations of fluoride. Fluoride affects calcium’s strength in the human body, a reaction that children are susceptible to. The reaction threatens the development of tooth enamel, resulting in decay, discoloration and severe pitting. The high fluoride content in Ghana’s groundwater is particularly dangerous for children. According to Water.org, “seventy percent of all diseases in Ghana are caused by unsafe water and sanitation.” The program directly improved water access for 4,000 families.

WADA also reformed five schools in Ghana’s Sekondi/ Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly. Schools often lack clean water for hand washing and latrines to properly dispose of waste. The program trained more than 40 teachers on hygiene behaviors and latrine facility maintenance. Furthermore, it created school hygiene clubs, installed 40 hand washing stations and 7 latrines. The project serviced approximately 5,400 students with safe water access and sanitation. Since 2007, WADA has serviced 8,000 schoolchildren.

Through the Water and Development Alliance, USAID and Coca-Cola has successfully changed thousands of lives around the world. This organization is a perfect example of how corporations and aid organizations can work together in order to reduce global poverty. Hopefully, other alliances such as this one can continue to improve the state of the world.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr