Author of this post:
CBS Project Manager Melanie
The vigilant reader of this blog or those who were part of Sono Foundation’s General Assembly 2016 already know our lovely student Linda. Linda recently turned 20 years old and is from the town of Chiana. She completed Junior High School in 2015 and then moved to her auntie in Kumasi. There, she was working at a food stall by the roadside, preparing Kenke and a meal of Rice, Beans and Gari or how it is called locally: YokoGari. After a while, she relocated to Chiana again. One day, during a visit at her grandmothers place in Kajilo, her father told her about CBS.
Linda decided to go back to school. So, once admission at CBS was a safe bet, she moved to her grandmother in Kajilo. The village of Kajilo is a lot closer to Navrongo than Chiana, but imagine: with the bicycle, it is one and a half hour PER way. With cycling three hours a day plus all the household chores, Linda definitively is a very strong, fit lady!!
As rain started falling in June, we were all happy – this year, the sun had been especially strong and at times we really suffered in the scorching heat. We were relieved and the farmers finally blessed. But for students like Linda who commute a long distance, the rainy season is more than a challenge. Very often it is raining during the hours of dawn. Cycling for 1.5 hours before starting school at 8.00am means that shortly after 4.00am you are up, do your household chores, maybe eat a breakfast and by 6.00am the latest you have strapped your books on the bicycle rack and off are you. Now, if it is heavily raining around 6.00am, of course you will not do that. You will be staying at home, waiting for the rain to stop. And will you come to school later? No, most often you of course will not, because by the time you get here it’s more or less closing time already, there is a chance that you might not be able to get back before a new rain sets in again and someone in the house might have already found a task for you. This results in many hours missed and is a challenge for both student and teacher.
That is why around a month ago, Linda as well as another student from a far village called Mirigu moved into a new “Student’s Room” in the house of the CBS director. Thanks to this, they will no longer miss classes due to the rain and will be able to fully concentrate on learning.
It’s Linda’s first time of staying in Navrongo, and she has already gotten used to the new environment quickly. At times, people she knows see her around and are surprised to see here in the new neighborhood. Most often, as Linda had to learn in the last past six weeks, it doesn’t take them any long until they pop the question: “Have you married from this house??”. The first time the question came, Linda was surprised. Then it came again, and she wondered why. The next person – as you can guess – again asked that same question!! Linda started to be very irritated. At some point, she came to me frustrated asking WHY. Why do people assume the only reason she would move to Navrongo is marriage, but not education or a job? Why were they implying that marrying is the only thing she is capable of instead of rather asking about education? The question was asked for example by a teacher whom she knows from Junior High School and it was asked by a family friend. This question illustrates the mindset many people here in this region have in a very good way.
The society is organized along patriarchal structures and investing in girls education is still seen as a waste of resources in many families. The obstacle to education in rural Ghana for girls is not only the lack of schools and institutions, but mainly about ingrained prejudices towards girls. Uneducated parents often don’t value education for their daughters. More over, it is still common to count one’s blessing as the number of children a man has. In our region, there are a lot of teenage pregnancies and early-age marriages. Early-age marriage has a strong relationship with girl-child education. The effects of such relationships are inimical to the girl’s ability to access school or remain in school. Education is the key to development. When girls stay in school, the cycle of poverty can be broken. At CBS, we offer an opportunity for young mothers to come back to school again after giving birth. To join the course leading to a certificate as secretary, completion of nine school years is the only requirement. With that certificate, one even qualifies for a Diploma in Business Studies – which mean it is a way to “jump” Senior High School and still get access to the Diploma-Course. That, at a far lower rate and in just two instead of three years!
The question “Have you married from this house?” and Linda’s reaction to it sparked interesting discussions – and we made it a class topic by starting to read more about girl’s education in Ghana! Because the prevailing mindset doesn’t consider the education of young women as that important, we make it a point to remind our students from time to time and make sure that they are assured they have the potential, that it’s their right to aim for more in life and that we believe in them!
About the author:
Melanie is a social anthropologist and holds a MA in Development Studies with a focus on Local Development Strategies from the distinguished Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. She is a qualified trainer of youth leaders in Africa-Europe Youth Cooperation and has led youth projects in Switzerland, Ghana and Kenya.
Melanie is a Co-Founder of CBS Business School and the Co-President of Sono