Education has over the centuries proven to be an indispensable tool as well as a reliable medium through which countries, societies and also individuals can achieve development and ensure total liberation from the grips of poverty. The freedom fighter and first President of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba Mandela, once said that education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world. Benjamin Franklin also made a statement that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. In the same vein, our own former President, John Agyekum Kuffuor, made a profound statement that education, particularly higher education, will take our continent of Africa into the mainstream of globalization.
In view of these promising thoughts affirming the relevance of education and its tremendous impact on lives across the globe, various governments have implemented and continue to develop policies that can propel their educational sector to an appreciable height in their respective countries. Our very own country Ghana is included in this effort. Ghana has worked to make education accessible and affordable, as well as attractive, through programs such as the school feeding program, the free uniforms and textbooks and, to crown it all, the free compulsory universal basic education [FCUBE] program.
Yet, there are certain parts of the country that seem not to be encouraged and enticed enough to take advantage of these state educational initiatives, as people are not sending their wards to school – Jamestown is one such example.
Jamestown is a Ga community and its inhabitants are predominantly fishermen, fishmongers and petty traders. The community can boast of certain cardinal historical landmarks such as the Ussher forte, the famous light house tower and the James forte, which are all dotted along the coast, attesting to the fact that slave trade did occur in this country. Education seems not to have been embraced satisfactorily by the people of Jamestown because the community is plagued with numerous challenges making education the least on their list of priorities over the years. The challenges are persistent poverty, lack of mentorship, prevalence of broken marriages, irresponsible parenting, an uncontrollable desire of the students for quick money as well as the reluctance towards education on the part of illiterate parents. I will like to delve deeper into these challenges one after the other.
To commence, persistent poverty is a problem that is hindering the progress of education in this community. This is a result of lack of jobs, which has compelled people here to resort to menial jobs that do not provide them with adequate remuneration at the end of the day. Parents are often not able to support their wards in their education and therefore their wards end up dropping out of school when little contributions are demanded by school authorities to help improve the standard of delivery in the school.
In addition, there is an absence of educated persons in the community who will serve as role models to children. Education, according to the astute philosopher Aristotle, has bitter roots but sweet fruits. This tells us that it takes guidance, encouragement and perseverance for a student to be committed to his or her education. The story of students in Jamestown is rather a hopeless one, as they lack literate adult role models who would mentor them to see their education as a seed they are sowing today from which they would reap sweet fruits in the near future.
Furthermore, the adverse effect of broken marriages cannot be omitted, because it is a very common phenomenon in the Jamestown community. Parents who part ways in their marriages and end up as single parents find it quite a tedious task catering for the children single-handedly and this means that the education of these children will be abysmally affected. The children end up quitting school and this truncates their ability to acquire substantial and employable skills that can shape their future to be bright and promising.
Also, the irresponsibility on the part of most parents is another factor militating against the education of children in this community. One thing very much cardinal to a child’s educational success is a responsible parent but the story becomes none to be proud of when parents shirk their duty to provide adequate support to their wards. Bad parenting has hindered the education of children in this community for a very long time and until these parents are counseled on their duties towards their wards, the fortunes of these innocent children will be in shambles.
Moreover, children in this community have a somewhat unguarded crave for money – they are easily enticed by menial jobs that fetch them a paltry and this drives their interest far away from education. This trend is gradually making the classroom very much empty whilst the street is populated with children working instead of learning. This shows clearly that they are not abreast with the profound statement of Malcom X that education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.
To draw the curtains down, I would suggest that it is imperative to combat abject poverty first, which is obviously the most prominent of all these challenges hampering the growth of education in the Jamestown community. Poverty needs to be alleviated through social intervention programs within the shortest possible time and be uprooted for good. I will like to bring this article to a close with this statement of wisdom by Plato – “If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life”.
Grace Offei Addo
Intern at SCEF, University of Ghana