On September 23, the Luminos Fund hosted its fifth annual U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) week event, “Getting Ghana Back to School.” (View the webinar recording online here or below.)
This year’s conversation centered on the education challenges posed by COVID-19 in Ghana, examining powerful new research by the Center for Global Development (CGD) and Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA), and reflecting on the way forward. Moderated by Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund, the webinar featured a diverse panel of Ghanaian luminaries, education leaders, and experts including:
- Dr. Might Kojo Abreh, Non-Resident Fellow, Center for Global Development; Senior Research Fellow and Head of Grants and Consultancy, Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA)
- Dr. Kwame Akyeampong, Professor of International Education & Development and Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Development, The Open University; Member, Luminos Fund Advisory Board
- Patrick G. Awuah Jr., Founder & President, Ashesi University
- Corina Gardner, Executive Director, IDP Foundation
- Yawa Hansen-Quao, Executive Director, Emerging Public Leaders
“It is powerful for us to look to countries and nations that have historically led in education, to guide us on leading our way back from this COVID moment.”Caitlin Baron, CEO, Luminos Fund
New CGD-IEPA Research
Ghana is a leader in education access on the continent, nevertheless, COVID-19 poses significant education challenges, particularly for Ghana’s most vulnerable children. Dr. Might Kojo Abreh shared highlights from Phase I of the new CGD-IEPA research on the effects of COVID-19 and 2020 COVID-related school closures in African contexts, and offered advice for informed COVID-19 response strategies.
Dr. Abreh identified two key findings of the household survey results in Ghana. First, dropout rates among children remained fairly consistent with pre-COVID school closures dropout rates. Second, grade repetition rates among children have doubled when compared to pre-COVID school closures. The research findings suggest that dropout and repetition rates are disproportionately higher among boys and children from the poorest households.
Dr. Abreh concluded his presentation with a few reflections: household perceptions of emergency response management and mitigation efforts are important, and informed and effective COVID-19 education response strategies must include factors such as location, wealth, and zone disparity as key considerations.
“At the heart of this equation is an issue of equity and social justice. In periods of resilience and progress making in emergencies, we must ensure full recovery in terms of participation in education,” said Dr. Might Kojo Abreh.
A Dynamic Panel Conversation
As Executive Director of Emerging Public Leaders, Yawa Hansen-Quao is uniquely placed to help shape the way forward for Ghana’s education recovery. When asked about the experience of rising bureaucrats in the Ghanaian Ministry of Education during this moment, Yawa noted that it has been an overwhelming period for Ghanaian leadership tasked with troubleshooting this crisis and adequately rising to meet the moment. Yawa noted, “I think the crisis of COVID forced us all to adopt new technologies and I was glad to see the Ministry champion new initiatives like Ghana Learning TV.”
Patrick G. Awuah Jr., Founder and President of Ashesi University, reflected on what this period has meant for Ashesi and the higher education sector in Ghana more broadly. He noted the University’s decision to shift to a completely online model during the height of COVID-related school closures. “One of the things that was really critical was we wanted to make sure no one was left behind,” said Patrick. For Ashesi, this has meant a period of exploration, innovation, and thoughtful recalibration to find learning solutions that support the needs of all students, as innovations in the education sector today must include considerations for the integration of education and technology – and the global challenge of remote learning access.
Another important component of the Ghanaian education ecosystem is the affordable non-state school sector. Yet, Corina Gardner, Executive Director of IDP Foundation, noted that, despite being among some of the first of the population to struggle with income during closures, the non-state school sector is often excluded from broader emergency funding response efforts. “As a funder watching what happened with COVID over the past 18 months, while a lot of organizations understandably diverted funds into health and into COVID emergency response, we really felt that this was the time to double-down on education,” said Corina. Corina believes that the non-state school sector has demonstrated remarkable determination, resilience, and growth.
Dr. Kwame Akyeampong, Professor of International Education and Development at The Open University, rounded out the conversation by focusing on the challenge of out-of-school children in Ghana. Dr. Akyeampong noted, “We have to look at systems, or things that we have done that can guide us forward in addressing the challenges [brought by COVID-19]”. Moving forward, he encourages the global community to think more expansively about engaging local communities as part of the solution. Additionally, he encouraged listeners to expand participatory, foundational education programs for out-of-school children to ensure “a policy of leaving no out-of-school children behind.” As Dr. Akyeampong said, “We need to believe that every child can learn, and if they are not doing so… it is because we need to do a better job at meeting their learning needs.”
“For us at Luminos, the work that we do is often described as accelerated learning,” Caitlin Baron noted. Looking toward the path ahead for education in Ghana, she added, “But I always say what’s important about it is not that it’s fast, but that it’s deep. By going deep into foundational literacy and numeracy, we set children up for a lifetime of learning.”
Further reading and resources:
Abreh, M. K., Agbevanu, W. K., Jangu Alhassan, A., Ansah, F., Bosu, R. S., Crawfurd, L., Araba Mills, C., Minardi, A. L., & Nyame, G. (2021, July 6). What happened to dropout rates after COVID-19 school closures in Ghana? (CGD-IEPA).
Abreh, M. K., Agbevanu, W. K., Jangu Alhassan, A., Ansah, F., Bosu, R. S., Crawfurd, L., Araba Mills, C., Minardi , A. L., & Nyame, G. (2021, August 11). How did students recover learning loss during COVID-19 school closures in Ghana? (CGD-IEPA).
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