Monday, November 7, 2016

Will I always be able to pay my child's school fees?

I’m Sakinah, a UK volunteer at the INCOME project. This is my first experience volunteering in Africa and my first blog! When I told my family and friends that I was volunteering in Ghana for three months, some replied isn’t Ghana doing well for a developing country in Africa? On paper, Ghana’s GDP is increasing rapidly, literacy rates are high at 71.5%, enrollment in primary education is high at 100% and life expectancy is increasing, currently at 61 years. However, statistics do not show the full story. They do not show the poverty gap between the north, a poor and vulnerable region, and the south, a developing urban area. Living in the Upper East region, I have learnt a lot about the vibrant culture and the poverty and development. One continual problem that has cropped up in these six weeks of project work is education.

Education is not easily accessible; only basic primary education is funded by the government; so many parents struggle to pay the cost of their children’s secondary education. This leads to many children dropping out of school.  /For the UN’s International Day of The Girl, we interviewed two young women, who had dropped out of school. Sadly, they both lost their parents so were forced to work at a young age to support themselves. It was inspiring to hear their stories; Ayamga Regina, one of the two young women, is now starting up her own hair salon business.
Ayamga Regina

Though I could not find any statistics, there are a lot of adults in the Upper East region that are uneducated. Hence, a large population of Bolgatanga has taken up craft selling to sustain their livelihood, 22.7%. At TradeAID, we work alongside craft groups to sustain livelihoods and create effective enterprises around them. Talking to different craft groups you can see how the project’s work has helped them earn a sustainable living to provide for their family. Abanbire Asampana, a basket weaver from Nyariga, said “the thing I enjoy the most in life is being able to pay my children’s school fees”.

One of our main project activities is organising trainings for the local craft groups, this ranges from business skills to basket weaving styles. This results in the development of their skills within the community. This week, we had a Daboye dye training for the fabric weavers to learn the Kente design. We estimated 10 people and 56 attended, however even if one fabric weaver attended, they could share their knowledge with their craft group and their community and the next generation and so on. This makes our work sustainable. Conversely, the last cohort found that their business trainings had been unsuccessful because the craft workers were illiterate and did not understand basic calculations so book keeping training was problematic. This week, the training team is planning a marketing training, thinking outside the box in how to teach key business skills such as book keeping.

Recently, an apprenticeship scheme was set up to give vulnerable, young people, who cannot access further education, the opportunity to learn a craft and key business skills to set up their own business. In a meeting, the apprentices explained that they could not read the handbooks written in English. When asked if we should translate it into FraFra they said that they could not read FraFra either. The apprentices’ mentor must translate the handbook and recite it to them every time. The question that emerges here is if this is actually sustainable and if not what can we do to make this project sustainable.

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