High failure rate in the final exams of Junior and Senior High Schools is negatively affecting girl’s education and future prospects in the Upper East region. Because of the free boarding housing systems in northern Ghana, many young people from disadvantage backgrounds are not able to access secondary education. After the final exams, the students need to leave the boarding houses and return to their villages. In most of these villages, there is no electricity and no academic support is available for the students. An effective preparation for re-sit exams on failed subjects is therefore practically impossible. Remedial classes are often offered only in the urban settings as a business at the expenses of considering other indicators like one’s ability to pay. For students from poor background and remote villages, without any accommodation in the urban centers, effective preparation to re-write failed subjects is out of reach. Therefore, not passing in only one or two subjects could mean in most cases, that the final certificate and completion of school is never achieved.
For girls in particular, not passing the final exams puts them in an extremely difficult situation. Upon return to the village, they come under extreme pressure to get married soon because of traditional values and dowry system. This pressure is often as a result of several years of committing family resources to support the girl’s education, which the whole family accepted for their daughter to attend school. When she returns home without passing the exams, marriage seems to be the only option for the family. Under such circumstances, any girl’s chances of passing the re-sit exams without any further support are very limited. In most cases, the families see her failure as an opportunity to push her into early marriage in return for dowry to fight family poverty.
The result is what was captured in the 2010 population and housing census report which stated that out of a total population of 150,449 children between the ages of 12 to 17 years, 8,146 were married and additional 246 were in a kind of informal or consensual union. Out of this number of married children, 4,571 were girls. It is impossible to address poverty, gender equality, maternal and child mortality with this kind of statistics.
Early marriage stands in direct conflict with the objectives of the Millennium DevelopmentGoals(MDGs).It threatens the achievement of the main goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primarily education, promoting gender equality and empowering women and reducing child mortality.
In response to the high demand by young girls for support to escape forced and early marriages, the YHFG initiated the girls’ summer school (GSS) project in 2013. In the GSS project, girls who have failed some subjects in their final year senior high school examinations are given the opportunity to re-write the exams and progress on their career prospects. The project has provided a local housing accommodation facility at the new youth centre at Yikene in Bolgatanga. The girls are housed in the local house during the summer school to keep them away from their families and away from all pressures to get married. At the youth centre, they have access to electricity and facilities for night studies. They also receive remedial support from volunteer teachers who prepare them both mentally and psychologically to ensure that they pass their examinations. Currently, 50 girls are participating in the 2014 GSS at the new youth centre at Yikene. These girls will write the next exams in September/October 2014. The YHFG will continue to seek for support to support more girls to participate in future Girls Summer Schools.