Yewande, a Nigerian native spent a few weeks in Ghana with a group of fellow student dentists. The aim of the journey was to teach, learn and explore the motherland of Ghana whilst also gaining crucial experience that can better the knowledge and expertise in the field of health and dentistry. Yewande spent most of her time in the local Effia Nkwanta hospital.
I had the opportunity to discuss with Yewande Ghana's education and health systems compared to those in Britain, as well as exploring the possible solutions that can better the current situation in both countries.
In recent years, Ghana's education system has been labelled as ‘too focused on examinations and does not do enough to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills’. This leaves many students with good grades and yet out of work. A number of organisations are striving to improve the number of qualified teachers teaching in state schools. Mr. Robbin Todd, Team Leader of Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) said an interview with modern Ghana “the government wants to raise the profile of the teaching profession, stressing that the world’s best-performing education systems are united by a common thread- the respect and standing of the teacher in society- a respect which means that young people aspire to join the teaching profession.”
The education system in Ghana follows the British model in which basic education is spread over 11 years made up of 2 years of Kindergarten, 6 years of Primary School, and 3 years of Junior High School (JHS). During the compulsory years, that are free of charge, the children are taught the basic subjects of maths, sciences, English and so on.
“Although the Senior high school is not compulsory it is still subsidised by the government, despite a large number of children wanting to attend higher education many of them are not able to afford the fees due to the fact that they have work instead. In most cases working simply because they must help provide enough food/resources for the rest of the family. “
Currently, it seems that Ghana as well as Britain has had its former students leave education without the income generating skills that they need to survive in their society. Evans cycle worker Alex.O agrees with Yewande stating that “the education system is too traditional and rigid. It doesn’t allow those who’re creative or those who learn creatively shine. We’re not taught even the basics of finance or politics. Things that we desperately need to have knowledge on in order to do better in the real adult world”
Following this point Yewande explained in our interview that she had observed that young people are continually being restricted by the education system to pursue STEM subjects.
“This system of learning leaves those students that are more creative by nature feeling inadequate, and pressured to go down the academic route. It is well known that a lot of parents would either want their children to be doctors, engineers or lawyers due to the ‘prestige’ that these titles hold in their eyes. When I was in Ghana it was very evident that the same ideology was still present till this day. During the oral health outreach in the schools I asked many students what they wanted to be when they were older and the majority said doctor or lawyer, although this is amazing however I can’t help but think the majority would just say this because of what their parents want. I believe that a child is an individual and not everyone can fit into one box, in this current generation we are living in there are so many interesting ways for one to earn a living and one should never feel restricted. I feel that more should be done to allow those that are talented in creative subjects to flourish, especially in African countries. A brilliant example of this is the 9-year old Kenyan artist Sheillah Sheldone Charles, who nurtured her talent and now her paintings are being sold worldwide.”
An important factor which many seem to ignore is the huge connection between the fee for a school and its quality. This factor was not surprising to hear. Having interviewed education organisation Enjuba Uganda they too experienced a similar issue. Many teachers and many of the resources/content that they produce is of low quality which ultimately affects the student's wider knowledge.
“Public schools are free of charge but often overcrowded. This can lead to students not being able to have enough one to one teaching and rather than genuinely understanding the information presented to them they would have to memorise it. I would say that in order for this to be changed more money should be invested into schools so that children that can only afford to attend public schools can have smaller class sizes which means more time to ask questions and genuinely learn.” said Yewande.
Now that Yewande is in her final year of university she aspires to use her experience and life lessons that she's learnt through her journey to Ghana to help those around her. Her goals are to improve the confidence of those around her and educate them on their oral health in order for them to also share what they learn to others. This will create a network and chain of knowledge being passed around.
Yewande added “Through my experience, with the children and adults of Ghana it has taught me to think outside the box and to keep on pushing even if things seem as though they are impossible”.
Video by Abbianca Makoni