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In recent years, education in Ghana has suffered due to untrained teachers, particularly in disadvantaged communities. In 2012 Ghana partnered with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to address the issue of equal access to education.

According to the World Bank, Ghana faces a disparity in the number of trained teachers between the disadvantaged districts of Northern Ghana and the relatively affluent southern districts. Part of Ghana’s partnership with GPE included a grant that funded the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) program. Ghana’s government selected 8,000 teachers from impoverished communities to receive training during holidays. This allowed teachers to continue working while improving their skills during the summer and holiday breaks. The course began in 2012 and lasted four years.

The goal? To improve access to equal education in Ghana by closing the economic and educational gap between advantaged and disadvantaged communities.

The World Bank has evaluated UTDBE’s successes since the program’s conclusion in 2016. It has been noted that UTDBE-trained teachers showed skills and average scores comparable to teachers who had training before entering the classroom. The course is also more cost-effective than pre-service training. Having more trained teachers means that children in disadvantaged areas now have the same educational opportunities as those in more developed areas.

Last October, the World Bank partnered with GPE to fund a two-day training course for 120 teachers in Akwatia, Ghana that focused on health in schools. Sightsavers and Partnership for Child Development implemented the program. The goal of the project is to converge all school health programs on one platform. If the project succeeds, every child will have access to health services in school no matter their economic status.

The two-day training provides teachers basic skills for early identification of students with hearing, vision or intellectual disabilities. These skills will allow teachers to offer their students early referrals, which will give them the treatment they need to succeed in school. The project also aims to deworm all students in the Denkyenbuo District in Ghana and conduct eye screenings for both teachers and students.

Rachel Cooper

Photo: Flickr

 Education in Ghana
Nana Akufo-Addo, The President of Ghana, ran as a candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the national liberal-conservative party, in the past three election cycles. He was defeated in 2008 and 2012 by candidates from the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the national social democratic party. Nevertheless, he defeated the NDC candidates in 2016 after accusations of electoral fraud.

In 2016, the NPP campaigned on a promise of free Senior High School (SHS). President Akufo-Addo has since followed through, assuring Ghanaians the government will fund the costs of public SHS education in Ghana for all those who qualify for entry in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The SHS policy assures no cost to students or families for tuition. Tuition, as well as admission fees, library services, science center fees, computer laboratory fees, examination fees, utility fees are all free. The policy also includes provisions for free textbooks, boarding and meals for full-time and daytime students.

The announcement was made in the President’s speech as a guest of honor at the 60th-anniversary celebration of Akuapeman SHS in the Eastern Region. The initiative has been authorized in hopes of improving the quality of education in Ghana.

Akufo-Addo detailed that a society that wants to develop into a modern, profitable and constructive participant in the global market requires an educated pioneering and labor pool. By that logic, he argues, the nation must enact its educational policies swiftly and effectively.

The President believes that education is the factor limiting the nation’s economic development and, for that reason, is committed to providing a free public SHS education in Ghana.

Along the same lines, the government intends to create incentives for a higher standard of teaching. President Akufo-Addo hopes this initiative will motivate hard work at both ends of the classroom.

Overall, the goal is to provide all children with equitable and accessible education in Ghana.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in GhanaMalnutrition in Ghana has cost its economy $2.6 billion annually or 6.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) due to increased health care costs, additional burdens on the educational system and lower productivity by its workforce, according to a new United Nations report.

In the Northern Region, malnutrition is much more prevalent with 20 percent of children under five being underweight. As a result, there is a high stunting rate of 32.4 percent. The region is also plagued by high rate of micronutrient deficiencies such as anemia and vitamin A deficiency.

The USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING), a collaborative project dedicated to sustainably reducing poverty and improving livelihoods and nutritional status of vulnerable populations, called for exclusive breastfeeding to combat malnutrition in Ghana.

“Mothers should stick to [exclusive] breastfeeding for the first six months after which they can introduce the sour foods to children,” nutrition officer of the USAID-RING Project, Kristen Kappos underscored.

Kappos also implored health workers, volunteers and farmers to continue raising people’s awareness on breastfeeding within their operational zones.

As far back as 1991, Ghana adopted the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to promote and support the practice of exclusive breastfeeding. However, exclusive breastfeeding rate has remained unchanged for two decades at 64.7%, far lower than the World Health Organization would prefer.

According to a recent study, knowledge gaps in key nutritional areas, especially infant and young child feeding, are the main reason leading to a low rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Ghana.

About 26% of the mothers studied were unable to define exclusive breastfeeding and 22% of them said breastmilk only was not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the child. They believed that the child may not be satisfied and could die if fed with only breastmilk for six months. Nearly 90% of the mothers did not know that breast milk could be expressed, stored safely and given to the child when the mothers were absent.

In addition, cultural factors also create challenges for mothers to breastfeed. The majority of the mothers showed a lack of confidence in expressing and storing breastmilk, a taboo in the local context.

Interventions must be designed to increase women’s confidence and dispel their misconceptions regarding breast milk, USAID-RING Project urged. Meanwhile, Hajia Ayishetu Bukari, Central Gonja district director of Ghana Health Service, also emphasized the need for employers to create and maintain conducive workplaces for exclusive breastfeeding practices.

Yvie Yao
Photo: Flickr

Ventilated Pit ToiletsThe United Nations has a list of what are called sustainable development goals. These goals are meant to give developing countries a timeline for reducing factors that keep people in poverty.

Building ventilated pit toilets help Ghana in providing the availability of clean water and sanitation facilities for all citizens, which is goal 6 on this list. In Ghana, only 15 percent of people have access to adequate sanitation facilities, which falls short of sustainable development goal 6.

A ventilated pit toilet is similar in design to standard pit toilets common in many areas of the world. It includes the addition of a ventilation pipe, which allows for the extra flow of fresh air.

This decreases unpleasant odors and deters insects as well. Additionally, flies and other bugs are attracted to the light at the top of the ventilation pipe. And the toilets can easily be equipped with a bug screen that kills them when they go toward the top of the pipe.

As with normal pit toilets, ventilated pit toilets do not require water to function. In water-scarce areas, this is a big advantage as compared to flush toilets. While the ventilation pipe requires more material and increases the cost slightly, it is still a very low-cost sanitation solution with many benefits over a standard pit toilet.

One school in Ghana’s Volta region never had a toilet in its 25 years of existence. Students with toilets in their homes must make due throughout the school day. Less fortunate students who do not have toilets at home cannot rely on utilizing their school’s sanitation methods.

In addition to inconveniencing students and making them uncomfortable, the lack of toilets regularly hinders learning. Due to the absence of designated toilets, students used outdoor areas of the school to relieve themselves.

The odors under the hot sun became so unbearable that they distract the teachers and students from focusing on academics. The nearest public restroom was a 15-minute walk from the school.

When students would ask to go use it, they would miss at least a half-hour of class time. Many other times, they would use the restroom as an excuse to leave school and then never return.

For students or teachers facing stomach problems or other sicknesses, any toilets in the surrounding neighborhood are likely to be unclean as well as inconvenient. Often times, students select to stay home missing valuable school time.

Apart from the obvious sanitary benefits of these ventilated pit toilets, the positive impact extends beyond sanitation. They provide Ghana’s younger citizens with a learning opportunity outside of the classroom.

The improved facilities allow them to learn more about hygiene and sanitation so that they can share that knowledge with their families in addition to the rest of the community. Such progress brings Ghana even closer to achieving its sustainable development goals.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Schools for Africa
Schools for Africa is a UNICEF campaign dedicated to fostering education in developing countries during post-crisis and transition periods.

Shortly following their 2004 launch, Schools for Africa was able to raise over $11 million to invest in education in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. By 2008, the campaign had been initiated in over nine countries, including the United States, and over five million children had been able to receive a better education as a result of the program’s work.

At present, Schools for Africa offers support for education in 13 countries for over 30 million children. One such child is Usher, who, due to a disability, did not learn to walk until he was five. His family believed he’d never get an education. The creation of a UNICEF-supported school, however, allowed him to go to class like all the other children in his village, where he now hopes to learn how to read, write and count.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review cites a lack of education as one of the reasons for poor life quality and expectancy in developing countries. For example, only 50 percent of children in Ghana complete grade five, with fewer than half of those being able to read at the proper level.

The lack of adequate education also leads a great number of students that drop out at an early age. In one report, the Review explains, “[i]t is not surprising that when education investments do not result in adequate learning, or even basic literacy and numeracy, parents do not keep their children in school.”

Moreover, offering support for education in developing countries does not only enable children to have access to a basic rights. According to Canadian Feed the Children, at least a 40 percent literacy rate is necessary to achieve significant economic growth. Therefore, access to education can also reduce food insecurity for poor children by as much as 25 percent.

The benefits of education are profound. With a stronger economy and greater access to food, impoverished countries become less of a security risk and they also open themselves up to trading opportunities with other states. Education in developing countries is a vital force in the quest to end poverty, and UNICEF’s Schools for Africa is at the helm in such efforts. Schools for Africa betters countless young lives as it pursues academic growth and poverty reduction.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Pixabay

Ghana

The Government of Ghana will be expanding the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, or the LEAP program, which will provide cash grants to 216 districts in demand of basic needs.

The Government of Ghana has been focusing on poverty alleviation by accomplishing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. One of these goals included introducing the National Social Protection Strategy, (NSPS).

The NSPS works to achieve government objectives by providing protections to people living in extreme poverty, susceptibility and marginalization. There are three main components to the strategy, which include: a grant scheme which provides secure incomes to vulnerable households, social protection programs and complimentary inputs for those that currently receive benefits from social protection programs.

Sprouting the NSPS, the LEAP program has flourished. Developed in 2008, the LEAP program is a cash transfer program that works to enable those disadvantaged and vulnerable populations living in extreme poverty throughout Ghana.

The Government of Ghana projects that the LEAP program will reach 216 districts by the end of the year. Currently, the program resides in 186 districts.

Mr. Eugene Nuamah, the Operations Office of the Ministry of Gender and Children, spoke in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Mr. Nuamah explained that farmers were particularly affected by a recent fire disaster. The farmers received money to replenish their destroyed crops under the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program.

The goal o the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program is to provide necessary grants, which address the needs of affected households. Mr. Nuamah also advised farmers to take fire precautions to avoid future crop destructions.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture additionally works towards ensuring that farmers receive crop seeds to replenish their harvests as soon as possible. Some of the most demanded seeds are cocoa and plantain.

Since its introduction in 2008, the LEAP program has expanded its beneficiary households from 1,654 to 250,000. By the end of the 2016, the program projects that it will reach 350,000 household enrollments throughout Ghana.

The households that will be selected to enroll as beneficiaries to the LEAP program will be determined by a nationwide monitoring exercise. This strategy has been used in the past, as research showed that local economies of LEAP communities were thriving. Children were attending school at a higher rate and more people had access to health care.

In addition, the LEAP program has been modernizing its program through the introduction of electronic payments. The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System allows beneficiaries to use online payment platforms to ensure greater control over the management of grant funds.

LEAP beneficiaries will have the chance to enroll for online payments. They will be available in all LEAP districts to replace the manual system of transferring cash grants, increasing the efficiency and security of cash transfers.

The LEAP program is administered by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and managed by the Department of Social Welfare.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Global Communities Poverty in Ghana
A non-profit organization called Global Communities works to end poverty in Ghana with a 5-point plan in conjunction with USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy.

The non-profit organization works in more than 20 countries around the world, with Ghana being a focus of the recent programs. Global Communities, created about 60 years ago, works with the private sector, governments and local communities to provide the “means and ability to live and prosper with dignity,” something it ensures under its organization’s vision.

The Maryland-based organization paired with USAID in support of the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to be implemented over the years 2014-2025. The program’s goal seeks to reduce chronic malnutrition by 20 percent over those 11 years. Global Communities has put forth these five goals in hopes of accelerating the fight against malnutrition in Ghana.

1. Provide more opportunities for economic growth through microfinance

Individuals who do not have access to the capital provided by large financial services corporations can gain access to funds through various microfunding institutions. These smaller companies allow a more intimate relationship between the lender and the borrower. Global Communities works through Boafo Microfinance Services in order to provide low-income Ghanaians with the money for new businesses, education and homes.

2. Build a more “resilient” Ghana by improving the nutrition in local diets

In order to reach this goal, Global Communities has partnered with the USAID/Ghana Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) program to “reduce poverty and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.” The introduction of the sweet potato in local Ghanaian farms was a successful implementation of the partnership. Both USAID and Global Communities hope to educate communities on the importance of good nutrition instead of just providing temporary relief.

3. Create pathways for urban youth to become financially independent

Global Communities has joined the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative For Employment in opening up the construction sector to Ghana’s youth. In five of the biggest cities in Ghana, the initiative hopes to “reach more than 23,000 youth” by teaching them the skills for employment. Because Africa’s youth makes up a majority of the population, targeting this demographic is the most effective way to reducing poverty in Ghana.

4. Improve access to clean water and sanitation

Working with both the public and private sector, Global Communities is working to enhance the current water and sanitation infrastructure. With focus on “slum communities” in three cities, the non-profit seeks to optimize every individual’s condition while constructing water and sanitation services that can be sustainable. These efforts are paired with USAID’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene for the Urban Poor (WASH-UP) and USAID’s WASH for Health (W4H). An important part of the relief is affecting a change in behavior which can help create a poverty-free society that operates without relief.

5. Upgrade local neighborhoods and reinforce political and social institutions

After the basic needs of food, water and shelter are met, a society can begin to upgrade its political, economic and social conditions. Global Communities, with the Bill & Melinda Gates SCALE-UP program, echoes this idea as it reinforces educational and financial institutions for residents in the low-income communities of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi. The expansion of government services, such as female inclusivity and public transportation, in those regions is being implemented through the Our City, Our Say project.

Global Communities is just part of a larger non-profit coalition fighting against global poverty in Ghana. The process includes numerous programs with funding from various foreign governments, each generating results through their focus on different parts of the Ghanaian society. Readers can follow the various programs and outcomes on the Global Communities website.

Jacob Hess

Sources: Global Communities 1, Global Communities 2, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Borgen Project

dumsorIf you were to ask any Ghanaian, whether local or in the diaspora, what Ghana’s biggest issue is, the response would undoubtedly be dumsor, pronounced “doom-sore.” This term refers to the continuous and unpredictable electric power outages in the country.

Though dumsor has been a problem for decades, it was not until 2012 that this issue worsened. Ghana now faces regular power outages which can last for about 12 hours per day.

The reasons for the outages are unclear. It has often been claimed that part of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) was cut by a ship’s anchor, which consequently halted the transmission of gas for electricity production. Other theories claim that the Akosombo Bui and Kpong Dam are not functioning properly because of low water causing mechanical problems with power plants. But whatever the cause, this crisis has yet to be solved.

In 2013, the World Bank Enterprise Survey on African countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, named “the ongoing rampant poor electricity supply as one of the biggest barriers to growth of the country’s economy and hindrance to many multinational investors.”

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) was reported to have lost $100,000 in profits in 24 hours due to continuous power outages at the Tema Harbour site. Other manufacturing companies such as breweries, bakeries and clothing companies, businesses such as restaurants, salons and corporate offices, as well as important locations such as hospitals, airports and schools, are also being adversely affected.

Every working person in the country needs electricity. For the few who have generators, life is a bit more bearable. But a consequence that arises from this alternative is not only the noise that is created by these generators but the cost to maintain these devices. For those who can only afford candles, the use of this alternative can lead to fires.

The Ghanaian government, as well as the Volta River Authorities (VRA), Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO), the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCO) and Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) have been looked to for answers. Although the president has made several promises, including a notable one that dumsor would be over by Christmas 2015, the problem still persists.

At this point, after several denials and broken promises by the Ghanaian government, it has been realized by most that the current energy crisis is not a result of inadequate installed capacity but rather a lack of financial resources to utilize the installed capacity. Ghana already owes billions of dollars in debt to electricity companies within and outside Ghana.

After four years, despite public marches, protests by local celebrities, the launch of a dumsor app and all of the promises by the government, no real progress has been made so far. Addressing this issue will tremendously help the country economically and contribute to its development.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: My Joy Online, Modern Ghana, AllAfrica

Sweet-Potato‘Alafie Wuljo’ – otherwise known as healthy potato – has recently become one of Ghana’s most famous crops. This sweet potato variety was introduced in a USAID project in order to counter vitamin A deficiency, a condition that weakens the immune system and can lead to blindness. The project’s main goal is to improve the livelihood and nutritional status of Ghana’s most vulnerable populations.

Sweet potatoes are primarily beneficial to children, whose vitamin A requirements can be met simply by eating the healthy potato. Notably, the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey states that “28 percent of Ghanaian children under the age 5 are stunted, 7.5 percent are wasted, and 13.9 percent are underweight.” Therefore, the emerging sweet potato is necessary to improve the health of starving and malnourished children.

The International Potato Center (CIP) plans to reach 15 million households in the next 10 years by responding to the demand for the orange-fleshed sweet potato. The CIP director states, “We can soon claim to have reached a milestone in our history by reaching one million households in Africa with sweet potato – preventing blindness and stunting in children along the way.”

The little orange potato has assisted Ghana’s vulnerable communities while also bringing camaraderie to villages. At one of the communities’ harvest celebrations, young children were taught how to cook the potatoes and now everyone wants to grow these crops.

The expansion of crops in Ghana, however, is not the only focus of USAID’s project to diminish malnutrition in Ghana. Aside from agricultural initiatives, efforts to improve the lives of villagers include areas such as clean water, sanitation and hygiene. All of these factors are interrelated and can work together to improve standards of living.

Through the use of new crops in Ghana, USAID aims to decrease chronic malnutrition, measured by stunting, by 20 percent through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative and Global Health Initiative, the Office of Food for Peace development programs, resilience efforts and other nutrition investments.

Megan Hadley

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, JSI, The World’s Healthiest Foods, My Joy Online
Photo: Google Images

Ghana Vitamin A Deficiency
As a leader in fighting extreme global poverty, government agency USAID is currently revolutionizing health and nutrition for northern Ghanaians. In order to counter the vitamin A deficiency from which many people in Ghana suffer, USAID introduced the sweet potato to the country. Since its introduction, the sweet potato has become one of the region’s most popular vegetables, USAID reports.

The implementation of the sweet potato is part of USAID’s 2014-2025 Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy. The project is aligned with the 2025 World Health Assembly Nutrition Targets and focuses on decreasing chronic malnutrition and improving other nutrition investments. According to USAID, over one-third of children under the age of five, in five northern districts, suffer from stunted growth resulting from poor nutrition, so the strategy is crucial for bettering the future generations.

USAID team members visited Ghana last year and taught 439 women in 17 districts how to grow the sweet potato. The crop instantly became admired, with villagers calling it “Alafie Wuljo,” or “healthy potato” in the Dagbani language. Ghanaians have also been taught different ways to cook the potato, such as schoolchildren enjoying sweet potato fries.

“Now everyone wants to grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes,” said the head of the project, Phillipe LeMay, in a USAID article.

The Nutrition Strategy goes beyond just the sweet potato. The project also focuses on educating farmers about other nutritious crops, linking farmers to markets, helping community members create savings and loans, promoting better hygiene and improving water and sanitation infrastructure.

USAID and the government of Ghana aim to change the lives of roughly 300,000 people with this project. Northern Ghana is an area of particular focus because it is relatively remote with a harsh climate and limited resources. This work will also be assisting with the goals of the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. Feed the Future aims to decrease child stunting by 20 percent and double incomes of vulnerable households. With USAID tactics, this is becoming a reality.

The project has received positive responses thus far. The Ghanaian government has taken the initiative to promote a solution to vitamin A deficiency and nutrition in general, according to USAID, which has beneficial long-term effects. The organized training provided by USAID has also educated many people on how to practice proper sanitation and good nutrition.

“I now understand the links between poor sanitation, diarrheal diseases and nutrition,” said West Gonja District member Ama Nuzaara, in a USAID article. “I also make sure that my children wash their hands with soap and water after they use the toilet. I do this for my family’s health and well-being.”

Kerri Whelan

Sources: USAID 1, JSI, USAID 2, Feed the Future
Photo: Feed the Future