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Nelson Mandela once said: “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that child from farm workers can become the president of a great nation”. This conventional wisdom is too glaring to be ignored and therefore education cannot be over-emphasised.
I believe the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals is to be applied universally and holistically, with a special imperative to leave no one behind. The achievement of SDG 4 – is also to promote, not just an inclusive but also quality and equitable education for all.
Indeed, the impact of COVID-19, following the indefinite closure of schools, has exposed the inequality, inequity and the gap in educational resources.
The spread of COVID-19 has forced almost all affected countries to resort to e-learning. This has significantly shifted our educational system, engendering remote teaching and learning on digital platforms. With such online learning platforms as zoom, Google classrooms, Sakai, Echo360, Tutor classrooms and many more; learning is still made possible amid closure of learning institutions.
Most countries, including Ghana, have provided educational resources online for their teachers, administrators and students. These online resources are also communicated on both public and private media platforms such as radio and television across the country. We commend the government for the GL-TV programme. However, most people in Ghana, especially those in the rural areas, lack access to electricity, televisions, computers, to gain access to this information uploaded on the internet and shown on TV. It is evident that such people in this bracket are missing out and would find it difficult to cope and catch up with other students who have access to these privileges when school resumes or when sitting for their final exams. Ghana has been experiencing inequity and inequality in its educational system for years even before the breakout of COVID-19. Our existing structures and unfair distribution of education resources have widened the knowledge gap between the privileged and the less privileged in the country.
Ghana is saddled with poor outcomes in our Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) due to socio-economic barriers. According to a research conducted by Anlimachie in 2019, sixty (60) percent of our population does not achieve success in basic education and two-thirds of this population comes from the rural areas. School buildings without libraries, classrooms, dining halls, laboratories, furniture, teaching and learning materials are some of the factors responsible for inequity, inequality and poor performances; thus widening knowledge gap in the country. Poor infrastructure such as bad roads, lack of electricity, and improper accommodation for teachers deter most trained teachers from going to the rural areas when posted. Notwithstanding government reforms in the educational systems over the past decades, school children are still found learning under trees and in decrepit buildings.
Equity and equality in education is not just a right, but bedrock of human, psycho-socio-political development which provides opportunities for all to acquire intellectual skills. Education is the best investment a government can make to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, the literates and illiterates; enable the daughter of a peasant become a doctor, that child from farm workers become the president of a great nation. It is the gateway to build prosperous, healthy and equitable societies. COVID-19 exposure of the ineffective use of e-learning in the country, particularly in the rural areas must be a wake-up call to the government to fix the educational disparity; implement policies that will target marginalized groups, remove socio-economic barriers to ensure sustainable and shared economic development. More money should be channeled into rural infrastructural development, especially technology. Access to computers, laptops, smart phones and internet should be adequately and equally distributed between both rural and urban centers to help students gain the technological skills to enable them to log on and use information resources available on the web. Teachers, administrators, lecturers, who have challenges using these e-learning platforms, should be given in-service training.
E-learning has become the order of the day and it has come to stay. More efforts and attention should be focused especially in the rural areas on these electronic learning resources.
Source: Benita Odoi (M.A, B.A, Legon)