Wulugu Project village schools help meet UN Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education.
Northern Region of Ghana is very rural, with very few roads and many remote villages have no schools.
Ghana Education Service, to rectify this, does send teachers and equipment to some isolated villages but has a limited budget for buildings. The ‘Schools’ are then housed under trees, in straw verandas or in mud and thatch buildings built by the villagers with local materials. The strong winds and torrential rain of the ‘rainy season’ destroy these flimsy structures, the teachers ‘run away’ to find less challenging posts and the pupils stay away. The girls especially, if they are out of school, are found work on the family farm, caring for siblings or selling in the market and when the school reopens they do not return.
Wulugu Project, with the support and backing of the Chief’s, has built or renovated 40 remote village schools using ‘imported from Tamale’ cement, wood and galvanised roof panels and local labour. Weatherproof schools equipped with desks and some books are welcomed by enthusiastic parents and children alike with many classes of over 80 pupils. In these schools the girls stay and successfully complete the 6 year course. To encourage teachers to stay and work in the most remote villages we have built teacher quarters which provide basic safe rooms for teachers especially female teachers.
Women’s Loans; how they work.
In the villages, the women, who often have had no schooling, do most of the work on the land and at market and see that this is the role for their daughters. With small loans given to womens’ groups they gain the confidence to allow their daughters as well as their sons to stay at school. If you educate a girl you educate the family.
As their own capital is so small, they run out of funds when the price of their raw material goes up. They also need to stock pile their crops during the harvesting season and store them until the price rises.
When the loans are distributed, each women signs (or thumb prints) an agreement in their own cash book, complete with a photo. Each village group has a chairwoman to oversee the process. The women’s groups are strong and self regulate – often with harsh attitudes from those who pay towards those who default – as the group is mutually accountable for all the loans. The loans are given with a three months grace period; the women start paying in the fourth month. It normally takes ten months to repay with a small interest of 5%. Sometimes the pay-back is delayed by up to a year, depending on trading conditions, weather etc. However, in our experience, we have been impressed by the level of record keeping and group cohesion.
The new women’s loans will be for 50 women in each village of Lukula, Makarigu and Yabon. Each woman will need £100. The women deal in groundnut oil extraction, sheanut oil extraction, dawadawa making and food stuff trading.(Dawadawa is made from the fruits of a native tree. These are fermented and formed into a block, rather like a strong stock cube. Slivers are scraped into rice or stew to make it tasty.)
The loans not only enable the women to provide a sustainable income, but as the daughters are no longer needed to bolster family income, they are allowed to remain at school for more years. All of the children, including the girls, of the women involved in a previous loan scheme at Nasiriya and Sayoo are now in school regularly and have the required uniform. They are less hungry as their family now has a more reliable income.
These loans are one of the most effective long-term measures to empower women and to ensure school attendance for all. The sums loaned are small, but they provide a stimulus to the ingenuity of the women, as well as a long term solution to hunger, poverty and the lack of education that is both a consequence and a determinant of these basic problems.