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2013 VOF Week 3

Ama, pronounced (Ah Mah), is 15 years old. She loves to play board games and she loves to dance. In fact, she is known in the neighborhood for having one of the best azonto(Ghanian)dance moves. Ama can be a little shy when you first meet her, yet once she gets comfortable, you can see that she is a vibrant young woman who loves to joke and laugh. Ama is deaf. She can only hear a little out of one ear. The things she can hear, have to be loud and at a very close distance. She can hear for example, the bark of a dog.

Every morning Ama, who lives with her aunt and her cousins, wakes up early to sweep and wash. She then helps her aunt to prepare the Kenkey and fish ( a popular Ghanian dish) that they will sell together for the remainder of the day. Her cousins go to school but Ama herself has never been to school. And has never been taught to use Ghanian sign language. She knows her ABC's and her numbers, but she cannot really read. Ama can only write her name, but still dreams of going to school one day.

Ama, pronounced(Ah Mah), is a 15 year old girl with so much potential waiting to be unleashed. She has a voice and a story waiting to be heard

I met her a few months ago when I went back for a visit to my home country of Ghana. Too often girls there are prevented from receiving a proper education because guardians or parents cannot afford to send them.Though Basic education is free in Ghana, guardians/parents are still required to pay the associated costs of uniforms, school books and other such items. Therefore if a girl is living in a poorer family, guardians/parents are forced to pick and choose who will get to attend to school, leaving other children like Ama selling food or other things, when they should be in school.

This is a major problem in Ghana. Most families that come from a poor background cannot afford to send their children to school. More often than not, if a family has two children( a boy and a girl) and can only afford to send one to school, preference will be given to the boy, because it is believed that he is more likely to succeed. This is the reason why illiteracy in Ghana is significantly higher in women than in men.

The importance of educating a woman needs to continue to be pushed in Ghana. Additionally, the need to help those who cannot afford to send their children to school has to be made more relevant. What government, families and society need to understand is that the consequences of f not educating a woman are severe on her children---the future of the country.

Every child has the right to education. Every child has the right to develop her voice, whether it be through speaking, writing, or signing. After all there is more than one way to tell a story...

Let our voices be heard

Let our truths be seen

Comments

Leslie Stoupas's picture

Compelling story

Thank you so much for sharing Ama's story. It helps to highlight the specific results of the problem you are identifying and helps us imagine the long-term consequences and challenges someone like Ama will have without having the opportunity to be educated. I think you are very correct in saying that when much of the population is uneducated, the whole country suffers for it. What kind of solutions do you think could be offered so that poorer families can send their children to school? I would love to hear what kinds of solutions might work!

Leslie Stoupas

addisonk5's picture

Thank you!

Hi Leslie,

Thank you so much for your comment! Your question has been something that I have been discussing a lot with my father since I came back from Ghana. The first thing to be aware of is that the majority of Ghana's poor and uneducated are situated in the rural regions. These regions either don't have schools at all or have extremely horrible facilities that are not conducive to learning. The majority of the schools that are established there lack books, desks, pens, pencils, chairs, chalk boards ---anything you can really think of that is needed for a teacher to teach and a student to learn. Also it is important to note that a good majority of the teachers who teach at the schools are inadequate and not dedicated to there job. This is because both the pay and the incentive for teaching there is low. Moreover these very same teachers tend to live in the suburbs because of the poor living conditions in the rural areas. So they have to travel a great distance to get to the schools they are teaching, meaning that some days they won't even show up. I believe the government needs to first and foremost build schools that have good facilities that are child friendly. The government needs to really invest in the infrastructure part of the school and make sure it has adequate facilities but also make sure that they can provide every child with books and uniforms since parents coming from poorer families can't afford these items and often don't send there children to school because of these associated costs. Next I think that there needs to be an effort to get great teachers in these areas. Some sort of incentive needs to be created because most people prefer the city and would rather not go to the rural region. I also think that maybe some sort of exchange program should be developed where would be teachers from those rural areas get training in how to teach etc either in the capital or abroad then return back to their communities to teach.

These are just a few of my thoughts! But to go back to Ama who is actually living in the capital city of Accra I think one of the easiest things to do, would be for the government or the ministry of education to provide students with schools and uniforms. Basic education is "free" but the government needs to ask itself why there are still so many kids on the streets selling products instead of going to school. If a parent can't afford the books that the child will need for school they will not send them.

I really hope this answered your questions. I'm still trying to think of more ways that this issue can be solved and how I can also contribute to helping that change take place.

Take care

Addison

Leslie Stoupas's picture

HI Addison, Thank you so much

HI Addison,

Thank you so much for helping to broaden my understanding of the challenges that exist in Ghana in relation to education. I can see why it starts to feel like an insurmountable problem. However, you do such a good job identifying each of the specific problems that exist--not only on the practical level, but on the cultural one as well-- that it seems like the ground for a real strategic plan. Are there organizations already working on a plan? Or do you think one needs to begin doing so? It seems like you are very solutions-minded in terms of this problem and wonder if there are efforts are already in place with which you can align yourself. It is such an important issue and needs people invested in it who can understand how change can begin to take place. For instance, I wonder if there is a way to ensure that parents don't need to pay for schoolbooks so that money does not become a reason kids can't go to school.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress as you continue to share it with the World Pulse community!

Leslie Stoupas

addisonk5's picture

Hi Leslie, Thank you for your

Hi Leslie,

Thank you for your comment! There are indeed a few organinzations that are working on this. One of the major ones in Plan International. Plan Ghana has done some really great work in the rural regions of Ghana in terms of women and girls education. I actually interned with them a few months ago it was a really great experience. :)

Lyndsay's picture

What a great article!

Dear Addison,
What a great article! I love how you use Ama's story to lead into a broader discussion of the barriers to education faced by women and girls in Ghana. Ama's story especially highlights how girls who face multiple vulnerabilities/inequities - poverty, disability AND gender, for example - are even less likely to be given the opportunity to go to school and in Ama's case, to learn special skills needed to develop and thrive. It would be interesting to know what the Ghanaian government is doing to address the needs and ensure the right to an education for children with disabilities.
Thanks for sharing this! I would encourage you to check the box to include this article as part of the "Digital Action Campaigns - Girls Transform the World."
I look forward to reading more of your writing!
Lyndsay

addisonk5's picture

Thanks Lyndsay

Hi Lyndsay,

Thank you for your comment. Meeting Ama actually led to me starting my own personal search on what is being done for young people with disabilities. My search so far led me to a few NGOs whose work towards helping children with disabilities. I have unfortunately not yet come across anything significant that the government is doing. I am continuing to search and will pass on any interesting information I come across! Thanks so much for your support!

Take Care

Addison

Frances Faulkner's picture

Great Example

Addison,

Your story of Ama makes the situation very real for the reader and highlights not only the lack of education for girls but how people with disabilities then will fall another rung down on the ladder of who "deserves" to be educated when resources are scarce. Change, as you show us, starts right at that point, with every Ama we meet. We can think about her plight, discuss it and start to take steps to make change.

Keep up your great work.

Frances

addisonk5's picture

Dear Frances, Thank you for

Dear Frances,

Thank you for you kind comment and encouragement I really appreciate it!

All the best,

Addison

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