The Upper East Region tops the national figures in open defecation, otherwise known as “free range”, with a score of about 82 per cent, a situation International Non-governmental Organizations are worried about.
In addition, data on improved sanitation coverage puts the Region close to the bottom, scoring it at 18 per cent and putting the Upper West Region at the bottom with a 17 per cent score.
The Country Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Dr Iyabo Olusanmi disclosed this on Tuesday when she paid a courtesy call on the Upper East Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Woyongo in Bolgatanga.
Dr Olusanmi therefore called on the district assemblies in the region to be proactive and to ensure that all hands were on deck to encourage the people to make sanitation their priority.
The UNICEF Country Director was in the Region as part of a working visit to the three Northern Regions to solicit commitment from Region’s authorities and draw attention to areas such as Sanitation, maternal mortality, child nutrition, poverty, and the redress of equity and disparity issues in Ghana’s march to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Dr. Olusanmi indicated that the poverty levels in the three Northern regions called for an urgent need for MMDAs, MDAs and District Assemblies to prioritize issues related to child education to achieve the objectives of the MDGs alongside other parts of the country.
She said a National Bottleneck Analysis targeted at a population of 3,910,349 of between 9-11 year olds, representing 100 per cent of primary schools showed that 89 per cent of children were enrolled and had physical access to primary schools, while 76 per cent remained in schools through grade six.
She added that close to 49 per cent of children were being taught by qualified teachers and 53 per cent by untrained teachers.
Dr Olusanmi indicated that the pupil-teacher ratio in the three northern regions were worrying and said information she had gathered indicated that girls in the three northern regions spent three years less in school than those in the southern sector.
Dr. Olusanmi further indicated that UNICEF had initiated programmes to give children, especially the girl child, quality mainstream education, and said her outfit’s focus would be in the area of under-fives mortality, community management of malnutrition and family planning issues.
She called for effective and efficient monitoring and supervision at basic schools to help stem the downward trend in education in northern Ghana, adding that 65 per cent of UNICEF’s funding was directed at supporting the three Northern Regions.
The Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Woyongo, noted that one major hindrance to quality education delivery and falling standards in education in the northern part of Ghana in recent times was the high pupil-teacher ratio, adding that the Bottleneck Analysis was evident of the fact that most of the teachers were untrained.
He however added that the various District Assemblies had sponsored some students to the universities and training colleges as an initiative so that they could come back to teach in the Region after completing their courses to help reverse the falling standards of education at the basic level.
The Minster called for pragmatic efforts in the implementation of major policies related to education in the rural communities to attract teachers to those areas.
He announced that the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom had provided $18 million for the establishment of a millennium village which would include educational and health facilities to be located at Kpasinkpe between the Northern and Upper East Regions, and said the initiative would address some of the educational challenges confronting the north.
Mr. Woyongo called for affirmative action to address the imbalances between the north and the south and said, “There should be a calculated attempt to focus most of your assistance to the impoverished parts of the three northern regions.”
He added that government was concerned about the disparities between the north and the southern parts of the country and was making efforts to bridge the gap with the implementation of SADA.