Free Senior High School, a choice in Yagaba

It is one thing to provide quality education for the young generation and another thing for them to embrace and take advantage of what they deserve.
Successive governments have introduced policies such as the Free Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE), the National School Feeding Programme, quality education and currently the free Senior High School (SHS) policy by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo.
The aim is to improve the educational system and to increase enrolment and ensure that students are retained in school from the basic to the secondary levels.
The free SHS policy, which begins from September, seeks to get more students who have passed at the basic level, the opportunity to further their education without fear of lack of finances.
Girl- Child education has been advocated since the early 2000’s and has seen a tremendous upsurge in the enrolment of girls especially at the basic level.
Statistics from the United Nation’s Girls Initiative, following the introduction of capitation grant indicates that the national primary gender parity index has improved from 0.93 to 0.95.
On the other hand, teenage pregnancy, child marriage, child labour and lack of interest in education are opposing forces to the education of the girl child.
In most of the districts in the Northern Region, it is common to see girls drop out of school because of teenage pregnancy and lack of interest in what they deserve to have – free and quality education.
Specific mention can be made of Yagaba, the district capital of the Mamprugu Moagdri, where this common feature of girls dropout is rampant.
For instance, Toyiba Alhassan is a 19-year- old girl in Yagaba who has been struck with the ‘epidemic’ of dropping out of school.
She believes that her mind is not for school so she voluntarily abandoned her first year at the Yagaba Senior High School to live with her ‘boy’ friend to start making babies.
Aisha Abukari is also a final year Junior High School (JHS) pupil and she is pregnant. She is ready to forgo her education to fend for her unborn baby.
Many girls from other deprived districts or communities have similar tales to tell about their education and child bearing.
To say the least, indications point to the fact that these girls believe in the norm of getting pregnant or married at a younger age.
As to whether it is a cultural or communal practice it is still a question to be answered.
According to Madam Bushra Adams a native of Yagaba and teacher at the Yagaba R/C Primary School, nine girls in their final year in JHS are pregnant and it is more alarming to see that parents do not chastise their wards for getting pregnant to the neglect of their education.
Madam Adams believes that the absence of role models in the community for these girls emulate is another reason that cuts short their education.
She recalls a day when a woman advised her mother to take her out of senior high school because no girl in Yagaba had made it in life and it was a waste of time.
It is obvious that the life of girls in the community is just a vicious cycle; a girl is born, reaches puberty and gets married or pregnant then she gives birth to girls who follow the same trend.
The ruling government is hoping to implement the free senior high school policy in the coming academic year, where tuition, feeding, stationery and boarding fees are free but how many girls in communities like Yagaba are interested in taking advantage of this policy?
Educational policies become useless when students and parents do not take advantage of them.
There is the need for district education and social welfare officers to inform and sensitise parents and wards on the free senior high school policy and its benefits to reduce the negative social and cultural perceptions about girl- child education.
GNA Feature

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