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Thursday, 20 August 2015

TACKLING POVERTY TO MAKE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION A REALITY



Today, in Yepala, a child will be of school going age; however they will have to battle with many things: lack of finances, child labor, adoption, baby-sitting, farming, and lack of parental support to make their primary education a reality.

Also, what about child born in Taha? The story is the same. I believe the world will be a better place for YOU and ME if we help these people – who are no less deserving of basic infrastructure, human rights, basic freedoms, security, education.

Arguably, Ghana now knows that the country’s economic growth and ability to reduce poverty can be achieved if the 3 northern regions; Upper East Region, Upper West Region and Northern Region; the largest of the 10 regions but among the poorest. This will help bridge the gap between the North and the South that Ghanaians hope for. As a southerner volunteering with the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, led by International Service in the Northern Region, was quite challenging. However, the platform has given me a better understanding of the root causes of poverty up here in the North.

The country’s wealth is not evenly distributed: in the 3 Northern Regions, most people live on less than $1.25 per day and farmers experience only one rainy season compared with two rainy seasons down in the Southern Regions. Also, its savannah land makes it difficult to cultivate some major Ghanaian cash crops. For instance, Ghana is the world's second largest producer of cocoa, yet it cannot be grown in the north. This region also lacks any of the natural resources that the rest of Ghana boasts. With insufficient money, shelter, family support and education they are vulnerable. I can now reason with individuals and charities who are of the view ‘it’s not poor people’s fault that they are poor’. The need has therefore come to help Northerners have the equal opportunities they deserve, particularly education; which provides the tools to fight poverty and prevent diseases.

Volunteering in the Northern Region

I therefore have strong sense to touch somebody’s life especially through rural education – a topic dear to my heart. Two months ago I volunteered with the ICS scheme through the agency, International Service. I worked on the ABC: Create Change project (female education, gender equality, career guidance, capacity building, rural school support & literacy clubs) through awareness raising, baseline research, action research, and sensitisation through radio and drama videos.

Whilst conducting research in the Taha rural community, I met a woman who shed tears because she could not afford to send her late sisters’ daughter to school, so this innocent girl had to drop out. She recounted that, herself and her husband are poor, they can’t afford a farm of their own and they have work on people's farm for money. Now there is no rain (which they solely rely on for farms) people don’t need their service. It is therefore hard to earn enough money to support a family of five; let alone let this orphan girl continue her primary education.

Whilst conducting further research in Yepala, a young boy told me that he dropped out of school to support the family, since his father's has been suffering from a health condition for the past year and he had to support his mother take over his father’s farm to raise food and money for the family. However, he is ready to continue his primary education when his father recovers.

Again, I had to pause my interview for a young mother of 3 from Taha, whilst she wiped away her tears, as she explained that she wasn't able to continue her primary education after her father died. Her mother did her best to support her with books and uniforms but couldn’t afford a bicycle for her to attend JHS which was situated in the next village. She therefore had to walk 3 hours every day as an alternative to the bicycle and also face the threat of attackers or kidnappers.

Finally, I also came across a boy in primary four who has to attend school bear footed because his parents can’t afford the prescribed footwear and he had previously been punished for bringing his bathroom slippers to school.
I’m an active citizen


Therefore, let’s challenge ourselves to identify our rights and responsibilities as Active Citizens. It’s more than just giving back, it’s about leaving behind a footprint that can have a HUGE impact and make a difference to future generations. I believe this will set people trapped in a ‘prison of poverty’ free – ‘poverty is not natural, it’s man-made and it can be eradicated by the actions of human beings’- Nelson Mandela.


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