AGSP/Ghana At a Glance:
Scholarship packages in Ghana differ by region but are comprised of items such as textbooks, notebooks, school stationery, uniforms, shoes, bags, bicycles, and food (sacks of rice and millet usually given out during the lean season). In addition, all female beneficiaries benefited from several months supply of sanitary napkins donated to the program by Procter & Gamble. and tubes, bags of rice, text books, stationery (pens, pencils and mathematical sets), school bags, footwear, food flasks and lanterns. The presentation ceremonies were witnessed by district education authorities, politicians, traditional leaders, parents and teachers. Parents across the districts were very appreciative of the intervention and thanked the donors for the gesture. Representatives of the Ghana Education Service and the political authorities encouraged parents to live up to their responsibilities to the children. Calls were also made to the beneficiaries to take their studies seriously to justify the continuous receipt of the scholarship.
Table 1. AGSP Scholars in Year Six in Ghana
This year, no new scholars were selected so as to focus on achieving desired outcomes and responsibly completing the remaining two years of the program with only current scholars.
In previous years however, scholars have been selected through a transparent process which increases accountability and inclusiveness. The scholars are chosen by local selection committees often made up of school heads, District Education Officers and District Girl Child Officers of the Ghana Education Service, religious leaders, District Assembly members and/or other community opinion leaders. School heads and parents/guardians of girls and boys who wish to apply for the scholarships fill out application forms which are sent to the selection committees. Students and their parents/guardians are then called in for interviews after which selection is completed.
SfL distributed items to 509 girls and 184 boys this year. The items disbursed included bicycles, bicycles tires and tubes, bags of rice, text books, stationery (pens, pencils and mathematical sets), school bags, footwear, food flasks and lanterns. The presentation ceremonies were witnessed by district education authorities, politicians, traditional leaders, parents and teachers. Parents across the districts were very appreciative of the intervention and thanked the donors for the gesture. Representatives of the Ghana Education Service and the political authorities encouraged parents to live up to their responsibilities to the children. Calls were also made to the beneficiaries to take their studies seriously to justify the continuous receipt of the scholarship.
Distribution of scholarships amongst the various NGO partners for this academic year is indicated in the table below.
Table 2. AGSP Scholarship Distribution in Ghana
ISODEC manages a total of 623 girls’ scholarships and 343 boys’ this academic year. There has been recurrent conflict in the Bawku area of the Upper East region where ISODEC administers scholarships. This has had some impact on the program since schools have had to be closed down in some cases and some scholars have been transferred by their parents to schools outside the area which are not AGSP schools. In spite of these challenges, ISODEC has been able to coordinate (with the support of District Education Offices, Girl Child Officers and security personnel), the distribution of scholarship items to beneficiaries in the conflict area and other participating districts.
The Ark Foundation supported 577 girls in the 2009/ 2010 academic year. Based on their orientation as a women and girls-focused NGO, they opted out of the boys’ scholarship component. They have also distributed items to all beneficiaries in school-based events.
This year, RCER is administering scholarships for 100 boys (from last year’s program) who are now in Senior High School (SHS). Each boy receives items including books, school supplies, bags, shoes and payment of examination fees.
The AGSP/Ghana program has over 55 mentors who are teachers, health workers, clergymen, district education officers, girl-child officers, etc. The mentors monitor the scholars’ academic work and help to organize and supervise study groups for them. NGO partners have initiated creative mentoring activities in the past including learning activities with portable radios, subscriptions to newspapers, HIV/AIDS awareness and health discussions, extra tutorials during vacation periods, Inter-School debate competition and essay writing, and role model talks. The mentoring programs in Ghana have built up the scholars’ self-esteem, improved their academic performance and provided them with essential life skills.
For example, ISODEC facilitated the organization of intra and inter circuits quiz and debate competitions organized by Future Step, an association of AGSP Facilitators and some young teachers in the Bongo District who have been inspired by the AGSP mentoring program. In all, 34 schools participated, out of which 7 were AGSP beneficiary schools. Three AGSP schools, namely; Feo JHS, Goo JHS and Vea JHS got to the finals and had first, second and fifth positions respectively.
Partners also use various methods to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. ISODEC was able to successfully execute a video outreach program since video shows have proven to be an effective way of getting community members to participate in social events including education programs. Beyond creating awareness among community members including scholars about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, other STIs and teenage pregnancy as well as making an effort to reduce stigma against persons living with HIV/AIDS, the outreach program also afforded the opportunity to assess communities’ views on why girls become pregnant and drop out of school. Q&A sessions also brought to the forefront the need for a consistent continual awareness creation around the issues of the spread of HIV/AIDS and anti-stigma strategies. Suggestions made by some community members on how to prevent the spread of the disease were not only extremely radical but also hugely informed by ignorance. For instance, a participant from the Vea community wanted all those diagnosed with HIV to be banned from selling cooked food and trading in the market. An elderly man from the Gowrie community did not believe that HIV/AIDS exist and said the sick persons shown in the video films as AIDS patients were suffering from pneumonia. These indicate that awareness campaigns must be intensified and especially education on myths about HIV/AIDS needs to be continually addressed.
All partners in the AGSP/Ghana program involve the community at all stages, from the identification and selection of the most needy scholars, to the identification of items for the scholarship package, distribution of items and some mentoring activities such HIV/AIDS and sensitization programs on the importance of education.
Community participation in disbursement activities this year has been very high with many parents helping to offload and pack scholarship items at disbursement centers. In one of the disbursement centers for SfL, where scholars from two districts converged for the disbursement, the District Assembly provided lunch for the over 100 scholars and their parents. This was at Gushiegu.
Over the past few years ISODEC led AGSP activities, such as school level mentoring of girls by trained mentors, the hosting of girls’ camps, the organization of extra classes for girls, quiz and debate competitions among others have been very successful and identified as best practices., As a result of their success ISODEC was invited by VSO Ghana (an INGO) to partner it and two other CSOs to implement the Tackling Education Needs Inclusively (TENI) program in Northern Ghana, funded by Comic Relief through VSO Ghana. By the partnership arrangement, ISODEC is responsible for leading field implementation in the WMD and provides thematic leadership to other partners for the achievement of the program goals.
The Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama came to the West Mamprusi District to launch TENI. During the ceremony it was the drama displayed by AGSP scholars and their peers from Gbimsi RC JHS that stood out for discussion and commentary. The students illustrated how the non-prioritization of girls’ education has been the cause of the exodus of young girls from the district to the cities and how that has resulted in out of wedlock pregnancies, homelessness and a large number of street children in the urban centers. The drama also illustrated how support such as AGSP’s has encouraged girls to resist attempts by parents and guardians to forcefully marry them off as well as how an educated girl can be more supportive and valuable to a family than an illiterate girl who has been forced to marry at an early stage. After the moving drama display, the Vice President set aside his originally prepared speech and focused on what the scholars had illustrated, advising the chiefs and people present to prioritize education as the only way out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Ambassabors' Girls' Scholarship Program (AGSP) is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development