Heraclitus said, “Nature is in a state of constant flux”. The philosopher noted everything is constantly shifting, changing, and becoming something else to what it was before.
Therefore, after twenty-six years in the existence of productive life of an institution, it is prudent to espouse changes that will transform the organisation to positively impact on Ghana to engender socio-economic development. Nevertheless, change is inevitable in this instance for the Non-Formal Education Division to use the experience gathered over the years of delivering on the National Functional Literacy Programme (NFLP) to cover more out of school programmes. The Government of Ghana’s quest to ensure the nation pat herself on the back only when everyone is educated has prioritized education to ensure no one is left out.
The current Non-Formal Education Division of the Ministry of Education has been in existence since the first republic and has undergone name changes under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. The Division’s development goal is to increase the number of functionally literate adults in Ghana. The Division was established as a national response to develop and tap the human resource of the large numbers of the population who were non-literate, 5.6 million out of the population of 15 million at the time in 1987. Presently, Ghana’s population is near 30 million.
Currently, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) puts Ghana’s literacy rate at 76.6 per cent. Male and female literacy rates are 82.0 and 71.4 per cent respectively. The gender difference stands at 10.6 per cent.
Nonetheless, the Division is a highly decentralized organisation. It is present and visible in all the ten and now sixteen Regions as well as all the 254 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) of Ghana. At the Metro, Municipal and District Assemblies, the Division is organised into zones, where the Literacy Classes are held. The presence of the Division can be felt in every hamlet of Ghana.
Suffice to say that about 25.9 per cent of Ghana’s population aged 11 years and above are not literate in any Ghanaian language. Only 45.8 per cent of Ghanaians 11 years and older are literate in English and a Ghanaian language. This casts a picture of imbalance and lopsided development. These individuals are in their formative years and critical period as well hence should have been literacy in their mother-tongue. Because the penultimate of every culture is the language.
Additionally, the informal sector in Ghana is very large and only a small proportion pay tax. More than 80 per cent of the employed is working in the informal sector. A huge dividend will, therefore, accrue from the provision of complementary education for those who are out of the formal education setting to realize their responsibility to the state. Willfully ignoring these individuals and groups is to the revenue detriment of Ghana, which stands to be the eventual loser.
By all intents and purposes, it is apt for the Ministry of Education to propose changing the name from Non-Formal Education Division to Complementary Education Agency to reflect the fact that complementary forms of education are still organized by a body and are an important part of the society and development in Ghana. This rebranding is in the sound footing to congregate all out of school learning programmes under an agency with the appropriate nameplate. The branded name should wholly present the institution of what purpose it serves.
The Division has been delivering a range of programmes, relative to adult and lifelong learning over the years and is responsible for coordinating adult literacy activities in Ghana, through the implementation the National Functional Literacy Programme (NFLP). In addition to the mandate, there are various aspects of complementary education in almost every development programme in the country. For instance, programmes in agricultural extension, health and nutrition, family planning and reproductive health, civic, environmental education, gender and legal rights and other community development activities. Hence, it calls for proper structuring to present a clear pathway for the development of that vibrant sector.
Objectively the Complementary Education Agency (CEA) stands to present an organized body that will Provide Functional Basic Literacy (FBL) to target groups including non-literate, neo-literates and drop-out youth, out-of-school children and adults. Complementary education will provide pathways from primary to tertiary levels including Complementary Basic Education (CBE). The CBE will target children of school-going age (8-14) who are out of school. The Agency will also organize remedial classes and a Ghana General Education Diploma (University Matured Entrance Exam). Again, occupational skills training will be provided for different trade groups targeting adults over 24 years old. Therefore, Ghana’s complementary Education will consist of three main programmes: Functional Basic Literacy Programme, Alternative Education Pathways and Occupational Skills Development (OSD). It will confirm the age-long view that education is a right, not a privilege.
Reasons upholding the action of government
It is worth stating that, the Government of Ghana’s attempt to increase access to education in all its forms is advertised in the provision of the Free Senior High School Policy and ensuring out-of-school children get to formal education via Complementary Basic Education, which is also free. Downright, it is an indisputable fact that education raises peoples’ productivity, creativity, empowers and promotes entrepreneurship, as well as technological advances. Besides, education is seen as an instrument for social progress, economic development and environmental sustainability. Education serves as an enabler for greater participation in the labour market, improved child and family health and nutrition; reduces poverty and expands life opportunities. Presently, education has gone beyond the conventional concept of reading, writing and numeracy into a means of identification, understanding and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, info-rich and fast-changing world.
Nevertheless, the Government’s quest to provide education for all citizens is threatened by a myriad of hurdles, such as high drop-out rates. However, complementary education will provide learning opportunities to the entire population including dropouts and those who have not been to school before. Hence, prioritizing complementary education to absorb those who have fallen through the cracks is a brave and bold thing to do to eradicate illiteracy and remedy the current situation. Therefore, it has become necessary to enact legislation to establish a corporate body to ensure the provision of quality alternative education to fully develop the countries human capital.
Unfortunately, the Non-Formal Education Division is faced with funding and legal challenges. The programme undertaken by the Division is absorbing, however, it has no legislation insulating it from political manipulations. The constant political shadow cast on the organisation puts it in an ugly light, which confirms held perceptions of the Division standing for both validity and fantasy of populism. This dovetails into funding to a point one can imagine. Therefore, the response of the Government of Ghana via the Ministry of Education to rebrand the Division into Complementary Education Agency is an understanding of the deeper promptings of the enormous expression of the will of stakeholders. The lack of funding is hampering the operations of the organisation and the political canopy hanging overhead is creating severe distrust for donors. The legislation will keep the Division at arm’s length from politicians. Additionally, the lack of a regulatory and coordinating body, as well as a clearly defined governance structure, means that no standards are set for the Division’s programmes delivery. The result is fragmentation, duplication and waste of national resources.
In spite of the above head up arguments advancing the need for legislation, a glimpse around the world presents evidence so vivid that, legal backing for Complementary Education is called for in various international frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Incheon Framework on Re-thinking Education. Such legal backing would formally position Complementary Education within the country’s education system in terms of governance, management and coordination.
It is imperative to say the whole legislation will equally have a direct impact on economic growth and national development. Education is a fundamental strategy to advance employability, socio-economic and national development as well as individual change and empowerment, which calls for proper regulation. The impact of this Legislation on the socio-economic development of Ghana is reflective on the observation of the father of United States of America, Benjamin Franklin, who said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Therefore, Lifelong Learning and adult literacy are recognized as the key human capital development platform for the non-literate and vulnerable groups in urban poor and rural settlements. This needs legislation to ensure the realization of their desire.
The Agency will enhance equitable access and improve the quality of learning opportunities for learners from all age groups, especially, vulnerable groups, thereby facilitating the effective implementation of the right to ‘’Education for All”. Factually, education increases employment opportunities and contributes to poverty alleviation, hence, ensuring the operationalization of the legislation is not only bold and brave on the part of Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Education, but eminently reasonable.
Furthermore, an improved Complementary Education sector will improve life skills, social and cultural development skills and generally individual development and empowerment. Besides, education enriches peoples’ understanding of themselves and their relationship to their communities and society.
We need to put our shoulder to the wheel to propel this monumental idea to transform the Non-Formal Education Division to expand to cover loads of out-of-school programmes. As a nation let us engage ourselves not in steeped fear and separation, but in shared knowledge, recognition and contentment to realize the Complementary Education Agency (CEA).
Stakeholders should work till they stain themselves with sweat and their hands are raw to gather ideas that will help in the granting of Complementary Educational compass to the Division. It will cast a positive light on an organized thought towards the progress of education in Ghana.
Forthrightly, the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda will only be realized, when education is prioritized. Additionally, the Sustainable Development Goals uphold high the belief that quality education will lead to the outcome of the rest of the goals.
Let’s work hard to bring about this change for the good of Ghana education today for a brighter tomorrow. “Well done is better than, well said” Benjamin Frankly. Again, the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, observed that “I attribute my success to these: I never gave or took any excuse”. All stakeholders are invited to crowd in strengths for the realization of this all-important Legislation.
Columnist: Patrick Twumasi | Head, Public Relations | Non-Formal Education Division | firstname.lastname@example.org