An estimated one million children in Ghana are believed to be out-of-school, and the main reasons attributed to this negative phenomenon include poverty amongst families, lack of teachers and classroom infrastructure, cultural and religious beliefs that discriminate against female education and children’s disinterest in schooling due to lack of conducive environments for studies.
Despite several attempts by governments and other actors in the educational sector over the years to avert the trend, it appears the complexity surrounding the issue of school dropouts and poor educational quality would also need a rather more sophisticated approach to deal with the problem in a sustained manner.
For instance, most of school dropouts are found in rural areas of the country where the lack of social amenities to a large extent, discouraged a lot of teachers [more competent ones] to accept postings there to teach.
Besides, some tribes in the Northern part of the country believed that educating the girl child was unnecessary, because women unlike their male counterparts did not stay in the family when they grew up but got married. Thus, a greater percentage of women [over 65%] cannot read or write as against over 68% of men who can read and write, according to a Ghana Living Standards Survey report.
Against this backdrop, School for Life [SfL], Tamale based non-governmental organisation that works to strengthen civil society’s role in improving access to quality education and retention of pupils in school, had over the years proven that with sustained support from governments and other stakeholders, the number of school dropouts could drop drastically through its Complementary Basic Education [CBE] model.
By functioning as a lead organization in delivering, demonstrating and advocating for mother-tongue based CBE model of instruction in underserved areas of Ghana in particular, SfL taught school dropouts in their mother tongue as well as trained teachers and NGOs that wanted to replicate the model.
Thus, at a recent workshop organized in Tamale for actors in the educational sector, a CBE Learning and Development Centre [LDC] developed by SfL was outdoored for participants to learn about its usefulness and also access it in order to replicate it so that there could be further positive impact on the quality of education in the country and also go a long way to reduce dropout rate.
According to SfL’s Deputy Manager in charge of Operations Alhaji Abdulai Ziblim, the LDC was targeted at public and private institutions seeking to replicate or learn from the SfL methodology, citing for instance the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service, NGOs, Community Based and Civil Society Organisations in education, Development Partners, Private Schools and Individuals, Public Schools and Institutions.
He explained that since the launch of the LDC, SfL had offered technical support to CSOs to implement CBE; trained private school teachers in suitable methodologies in teaching children in lower primary; trained teachers in the preparation and use of appropriate teaching and learning materials and implemented quality education project in Saboba and Chereponi Districts.
Mr. Karimu Mohammed, a facilitator of the workshop disclosed the content of the LDC that included the teaching of pedagogical skills; development and effective use of teaching and learning materials; determining learning outcomes; replication of SfL methodology; gender; writing; and the translation and transposition of scripts from English into the various Ghanaian languages.
According to him, to ensure the effectiveness and success of the LDC, SfL had adopted Gbulahagu Primary School as a demonstration school. The main purpose was to equip the school with training, teaching and learning materials that would enable the teachers put up their best and be able to share their knowledge and experiences with teachers from other schools.
SfL started in 1995, springing from cooperation between the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) and the Ghana Friendship Groups in Denmark. It was formed as an independent NGO in practice closely linked to other GDCA development interventions.
The partners saw education as a pillar of development and at the same time realized serious challenges to educational performance in deprived parts of Ghana and the North in general. The intention was therefore to give out-of-school children beyond school starting age an opportunity to attain basic literacy and numeracy in their mother tongue.
The SfL education programme was therefore instituted and it took a period of nine months for a child to graduate after being taken through teaching of local languages, music and dance, as well as reading and writing. Children were also taught some basic skills and knowledge that would be found useful in their families and communities, thus promoting a positive perception of education in the hope that families would choose to let the children continue their education in formal schools after the nine months teaching offered by the NGO.
Community involvement, use of the mother tongue, locally adapted curriculum as well as locally recruited community teachers [facilitators], were major features of the CBE model. This made SfL to be warmly welcomed in communities previously skeptical of education.
Parents see the benefits of education and approximately 80% of SfL graduates transition into the formal school system to continue with their education, typically able to enter at primary 3 or above after the nine months tuition. SfL had helped to boost access to education since its establishment as a total of 150,000 children and still counting had benefitted from the CBE programme.
An impact assessment conducted in 2007 to collect sufficient evidence to draw reliable conclusions on the effectiveness of the CBE model showed significant impact at individual, family and community levels. The convincing results achieved by SfL paved the way for expanding the scope through cooperation with major development partners in education including UNICEF and the UK’s Department for International Development.
The NGO advocated for the government of Ghana to introduce a new policy known as the CBE Policy that was now part of the Education Strategic Plan (ESP). The policy which would be rolled out nationwide in June 2013 beginning with a pilot in four regions, would introduce teachers in public basic schools to the CBE teaching methods so that teachers could improve upon classroom instructions and also in the long term  ensure that more children are in school.
Meanwhile, many districts are clamouring for the programme but inadequate funding makes it impossible to extend to many places. Also, difficulty of some key players in education to accept the model and get it mainstreamed and the lack of political will to fund CBE activities are some of the challenges confronting SfL.