The study indicated that only 109 school days out of 197 are fully operational as teachers spent other days engaged in activities such as collecting salaries, attending funerals, and travelling long distances to their schools.
Dr Leslie Casely-Hayford, Social Development Consultant of Associates for Change, was highlighting on the World Bank (2010) Report entitled: Education in Ghana, Improving Equity, Efficiency and Accountability, released over the last few months, in Tamale.
She was speaking at the Fourth Northern Ghana Education Forum which brought together stakeholders in education in the three Northern Region dubbed: “Inclusive Education; an indispensable tool for achieving Education for All (EFA)”, organized by the Northern Network for Education Development in Tamale.
Dr Casely-Hayford also shared some findings of a recent research study conducted by Associates for Change, a research and consulting firm based in Ghana.
The study named: “Inclusive Education in Ghana; a look at policy and practice in Northern Ghana”, investigated the best practices and sought to identify the most effective programmes promoting inclusive education in Ghana.
She said one of the major challenges to inclusive education in Ghana was inefficiency in the nation’s Basic Education system based mainly on the inequitable teacher deployment across the country.
“Inclusive Education is a key strategy which seeks to attain universal access for all types of children from deprived backgrounds, excluded children and special needs children; the concept is growing in recognition internationally and is a key goal embedded in the attainment of International Millennium Development Goals of Universal Primary Education and Gender Equity.”
Dr Casely-Hayford said the study findings revealed that there was lack of funding for special needs, and girl child education in Ghana as well as limited “time on task” by teachers across primary schools particularly in rural deprived areas of the country.
The Inclusive Education Study, funded by the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) of Ghana, used both qualitative and quantitative approaches as well as interviews with stakeholders including School Management Committee and Parent Teacher Association, children as well as teachers, along with key district education officers across six districts in Ghana.
Dr Casely-Hayford said some of the challenges highlighted in the study were the high dropout rates and out of school child phenomena which persisted and was still visible in many districts and communities due to poverty, poor quality education and some negative socio cultural practices such as early marriage, fosterage and teenage pregnancy.
She also said one of the challenges facing the inclusive classroom was inadequate Teaching and Learning Materials for special learners as well as significant barriers to access to formal primary education due to ‘no schools’ within a five kilometre radius.
The study found that this was particularly evident across Ghana’s deprived northern Districts. It also found out the depth of poverty, large family size and negative socio-cultural practices continue to restrict a large portion of Ghanaian children particularly in the northern region from accessing primary education.
However, Dr Casely-Hayford said these challenges could be corrected by building a collective voice of parents through building school management committee networks to flag issues related to poor quality education, teacher absenteeism, equitable trained teacher deployment and ensuring school infrastructure is better targeted to deprived areas of the country.
Another key initiative to ensuring the effectiveness of inclusive education in the country she said, was the identification of accelerated literacy methods for improving learning outcomes particularly among lower primary school pupils as well as supporting the National Literacy Accelerated Programme through civil society and donor agency monitoring and support.
Mr Ernest Otoo, responsible for Policy Planning and Inter-sectorial Collaboration at the Ministry of Education, told the Ghana News Agency and confirmed that teacher absenteeism at the primary level was true adding, “There is no doubt about what the report had said that teachers spend lots of time outside the classroom”.
On measures to be taken by the Ministry to curb the menace, Mr Otoo said there would be a nationwide forum by stakeholders to deliberate on possible solutions.