African Voices: Despite NGO help, education in Ghana still needs a lot of work

This post by Abdulai Shefu was kindly provided by the Millennium Villages Project

Hello, my name is Abdulai Shefu and I am the head teacher at Duu Primary and Junior High School located in the West Mamprusi District in northern Ghana. I can say that here at school we have two major challenges: There are not enough teachers and not enough students.

Ten teachers including myself are in charge of educating 570 students from kindergarten through junior high. The staff shortage is especially acute in the lower grades: Just two teachers manage 220 kindergarteners aged 2 to 6, and a single teacher is in charge of 78 students in Class 2 (second grade). The classes are smaller in the junior high grades—just 25 in the seventh level—but that’s because so many children have left school by then.

Abdulai Shefu
Abdulai Shefu

In fact, in July a census counted 1,128 school-age children in the community. So about 558 are still left out there when they are supposed to be in school. But when I started teaching at Duu in 2004, enrollment was much higher. The difference? Back then, a donor-supported school feeding program drew many more students, but the program ended in 2007.

The twin problems—a teacher shortage coupled with a large out-of-school population—pose a frustrating challenge, but I am determined to make the school a success. The teacher shortage would be much worse, if we did not have the support from outside NGO partners.

But the lack of school meals affects learning as well as enrollment. Some students bring food from home, and some can buy food from vendors around the school, but many have nothing to eat. Because of the hunger, at times when you are teaching after, say, 12:30, they find it difficult to understand because there is nothing in their stomachs. You can even find some of them sleeping in class.

At the same time, the school is blessed with new kindergarten and junior high classrooms, and solar lights so the older students can study after dark, all a result of donor support. But the six primary school classrooms were built in 1987 and have had no maintenance at all in the 25 years since, not even fresh paint. The desks wobble and sometimes break because of the cracked and pitted cement floors. The floor is not good. A lot of children lose their toenails from the floor.

The cost of renovation would be around 500 cedis, or about $250, per classroom. So 500 Ghana cedis times these six classrooms would be 3,000 Ghana cedis, which is beyond our school’s capabilities.

Despite the challenges I am committed to education. I’m working on a university degree to improve my abilities for the future. For now, I earn no more than a regular teacher, and though I would prefer teaching in a classroom to running the school, I know that as head teacher I can affect many more children.

If I am a teacher, I would be teaching 45 pupils in a class. But if I’m supervising ten teachers, it means I’m supervising 45 times ten. That’s why I’m a head teacher.

Featuring contributions from African citizens who are living in communities affected by extreme poverty, ONE’s African Voices series will follow their progress to give a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges they face and also to track changes that occur over time. Find out more at one.org/africanvoices.