Category: Education


M-Learning in Ghana, the perfect educational solution?

Ghana is a country that does not have a coherent policy for education infrastructure. At the same time, rising rates of mobile phone use among the population make this country ripe for an m-learning revolution. School infrastructure in Ghana can be very poor, with inadequate ventilation, security features (for example, for laboratory equipment) safety for flooring and other issues. These conditions can make it especially difficult for learners with disabilities either to make it to school in the first place or to learn in comfort once they are there. M-learning is a viable nation wide solution to these defects in Ghana’s present education infrastructure. M-Learning has the potential to reach all students in the country through the simple medium of their mobile phones. As a result, it would surmount the difficulties inherent in Ghana’s less than perfect current educational infrastructure.

The power of m-learning in Ghana: the current situation

Ghana has one of the best developed mobile phone markets in all of Africa. In fact, most Ghanaians do not only own a mobile, they also prefer to use their mobile instead of using a landline. Most Ghanaians also prefer to access the internet through their mobile phones rather than via a fixed wifi or cable internet system in the home. Though 3G coverage in Ghana is relatively new, this is also growing as well, which again suggests that the future of m-learning in Ghana will be a very positive one. MTN Ghana, Vodafone, Tigo and Airtel are the four largest mobile phone providers in Ghana, with MTN Ghana being by far the biggest provider (having cornered around 50 % of the market). With both affordable pay as you go and sim packages readily available in Ghana, m-learning has the potential to reach the whole of the country’s population. Ghana is currently classed as a middle income country, which means that its citizens are usually able to afford items such as mobile phones. In addition, app literacy in Ghana is very prevalent, with exciting new apps for both learning and leisure (like Esoko and RetailTower) being developed in the country every year.

Integrating m-learning with secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Ghana

The secondary education system in Ghana is known as Senior High School, and it can often be supplemented or even (in parts) replaced by m-learning. What is particularly pertinent to know is that ICT is actually part of the ‘integrated science’ section of the SHS curriculum, which means that new generations of Ghanaians are growing up with the skills that they need to learn via the web. Though the buzz of the classroom environment can be something that benefits learners, as mentioned above, not all schools in Ghana are totally fit for purpose and thus m-learning is a viable alternative to both the SHS curriculum and to TVET (vocational training) curricula that are offered after completion of the SHS.

When it comes to tertiary education, Ghana has 49 private universities and 6 public universities. Many of these institutions are focused around a specific subject, such as Agriculture. E-learning is already well integrated into the curricula of many of Ghana’s top universities. For example, the University of Ghana has recently created the KEWL – Knowledge Environment for Web Based Learning – initiative. Many online courses are also available as part of the rise and rise of e-learning in the country. In addition, the edtech phenomenon of MOOC has really been taking off throughout Ghana and Sub-Sahara Africa. MOOC is an initiative which offers an online course to a large number of people and it is usually free of charge. This initiative is, as may be expected, particularly useful for low income or very poor communities in Sub-Sahara Africa for whom financial factors would otherwise pose a significant barrier to their ability to access education. As a result, mobile learning projects could simply adapt and build on the existing e-learning infrastructure in Ghana’s tertiary education system.

There is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African providers guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.

Estimation of the future of the power of M-learning in Ghana

The future of the power of m-learning in Ghana looks very bright. This is due to two key factors. Firstly, the existing educational infrastructure is – particularly at the secondary level – often physically and materially inadequate for students to learn successfully. As such, there is a clear problem here that mobile learning could solve. Secondly, Ghana’s population is made up of some of Africa’s most skilled, savvy and frequent mobile phone users. The ubiquity of mobile phones means that the uptake of m-learning strategies would likely be very high. Add to this the fact that many tertiary education institutions in the country are already using e-learning platforms and other edtech to teach students remotely (for example, through online courses) and the future of m-learning across the country looks very positive indeed.

By Jens Ischebeck

Victims of Necessity: The Kayayei & The Sexual Health Minefield

There is a saying that starts off by claiming ‘necessity compels a butcher to kill a cat’. For many underprivileged girls from Ghana’s Northern region, necessity has pushed them to leave their homes to head for the bright lights of the cities – a move they have theorised would give them a better shot at life. And yet, for many that move turns out to be a case of necessity fuelling a jump from frying pan into fire. Necessity powering a jump into a situation of increased stress and pain for negligible gain, a situation of homelessness and vulnerability. In Accra, over 50,000 such stories roam the streets. These young ladies are called Kayayei.

The term ‘Kayayei’ (a conjugation of the Hausa word ‘Kaya’ which means load/burden and the Ga description of females as ‘Yei’) is a term which describes groups of young women who traditionally have migrated from a rural community to one of Ghana’s urban hotspots in search of work and better employment prospects. These women tend to be used for manual labour, as porters exploited to carry goods to and from markets and lorry parks in Ghana’s cities.

Despite their desire for better prospects, they often work in poor conditions, for minimal income. asfafaMigration from home usually means a young girl finds herself propelled into a new surrounding without her community ties, cut off from the channels of family assistance which may have otherwise helped to support her. This lack of support leads to many Kayayei sleeping on the streets, despite having largely migrated from the North in search of a better life.

It is this precarious lifestyle, this tragedy of circumstances, which leaves many of the Kayayei vulnerable to the vagaries of urban life. Without a roof over their heads, many are taken advantage of. Studies and investigations have regularly found these young ladies vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence. Some inevitably fall pregnant, while some contract STIs. The urban dream quickly descends into a metropolitan nightmare for many of the Kayayei, creating a situation which is a black mark on the fabric of a country which can pride itself on being one of West Africa’s success stories when it comes to contraception and female reproductive rights…

1268589_546764448712806_163300384_oAs pregnancy takes you out of the earning game, many resort to underground illegal abortions in an attempt to preserve their earning potential. Others take matters into their own hands, by attempting self-termination using various concoctions and items such as herbal mixtures for oral ingestion, leaf insertion into the vagina or even drinking things such as detergent or a solution of ground glass mixed with sugar. Reading that would have made you wince, thus removing any surprise you may have otherwise felt when you hear a director of a Kayayei association claimed approximately 25 Kayayei died from unsafe abortions between January and July 2016. That is 25 too many in 21st century Ghana.

Those are just the reported numbers – how many more have died anonymously and mysteriously due to unsafe abortions, or as victims of sexual assault? In a country where maternal mortality remains a monumental problem, the lack of protection of this community and the lack of education leads to risky behaviours and even riskier consequences. Many do not have the financial means, or the educational background, to appropriately deal with the card they have been dealt in this world. Dina, a 27-year-old Kayayei in Accra, told VICE’s women’s interest channel Broadly, “I have had so many abortions and I did all eight on my own. You feel severe pain when you take the medicine. One time I felt like dying, my body was so weak, I couldn’t move and I lost so much blood I thought I would die. I am too afraid to tell anyone when I’m pregnant so there was no medical attention.”

Though Kayayei life remains arduous, there are still hopeful signs for one of Ghana’s most marginal marie-stopes-international-photo-story-body-image-1477061187female communities. Marie Stopes International, a reproductive health charity, is working with the Kayayei community in Accra to provide contraception, education on sexual health, and family planning advice, as well as HIV/AIDS treatment and gender-based violence support. For Kayayei like Gifty, the support has been invaluable. “I said to myself that this will change my life and it has. I had a five-year implant fitted,” she said.“Now I can take care of my existing children.”

Another initiative Marie Stopes International has piloted involves holding weekly community-based shows which help inform the Kayayei about their rights, while offering education on contraception and the need for testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. The Ghana Police Service’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) has also begun to meet Kayayei informally via small group discussions, to encourage the reporting of violent crime in their community and educate them on their rights.

Education is power, and it is this sentiment which seems to be the most effective way of helping the Kayayei take back control of their destinies and make the most of their current situation. The outlook may be bleak – but collaborations between this forgotten community and organisations with the resources to make a difference, can help make that outlook brighter. Bringing the issues of this marginalised group to the forefront will help towards Ghana meeting the new development goals. Many find themselves in this community not by way of desire, but by way of necessity. For this group of hardworking young ladies, access to contraception and adequate support will not only save lives, but it can form some sort of foundation which can help give them a better chance at building a better future. And that’s something every single woman in Ghana deserves. This is a right which the government should recognise as a necessity.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)