The Republic of Ghana is in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. It is widely viewed as one of Africa’s most stable constitutional democracies. It is a former British colony and achieved independence in 1957, being the first sub-Saharan African nation to do so. 24 million people live in Ghana, with 50% under the age of 15. The literacy rate is 64%. Life expectancy averages 59.1 years. The capital is Accra, located on the southern coast with a population of almost 4 million.
Ghana’s education system is composed of several levels: Pre-School, Primary (Grades 1-6), Junior High (Grades 7-9), Senior High (Grades 10-12), and Post-Secondary Schools. There are both public and private schools in Ghana at all levels. At the primary and junior high level, the public system is mostly free of charge although parents must pay for uniforms, supplies, transportation and food. At the senior high level, public schools charge tuition and fees which vary depending on the quality of the school.
It is generally recognized that the quality of education offered by the public system, especially at the primary and junior high levels is mediocre. With an increasingly young population, the public system is in a complete state of under-capacity. Students face a shortage of infrastructure and materials. Class size often reaches 100. Additionally, most public school teachers are poorly monitored, poorly paid, and poorly resourced.
By comparison, the private school system usually offers higher standards, smaller class sizes, more resources, and teachers are held accountable for student performance. Unfortunately, the best private schools are largely inaccessible to the average population because of higher tuition fees.
To put the quality of public vs. private education especially at the primary and junior high levels in perspective, the top 10 scoring schools in any district of Ghana are usually at least 80% or more private schools, and the bottom 10 scoring schools are usually all public institutions.
Ghana is in compelling need of educated and motivated individuals. The quality of education that children receive is deeply important to their lives and the well-being of their society. It will impact their health, their motivation, the number of children they have, their salary, their resistance to harmful practices, their ability to help their neighbors, their happiness and well-being, and the direction of Ghana as a whole.
[Above largely drawn from www.greatstartghana.org]
Racial Make-up, Language and Religions
Over 98% of the population is black African with several major tribes being the Akan, the Moshi-Dagomba, the Ewe, the Ga, the Gurma, and the Yoruba. The official language is English but several African languages are spoken related to the country’s rich tribal heritage. The major religions include Christianity (63%), indigenous beliefs (21%), and Islam (16%).
The country is 92,000 square miles making it about the size of Oregon. 16% of the land is arable. Ghana is home to Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world by surface area. Ghana is a country located only a few degrees north of the Equator, therefore, giving it a warm climate. There are two main seasons in Ghana: the wet and the dry. Northern Ghana experiences its rainy season from March to November while the south, including the capital Accra, experiences the rain from April to mid-November. Southern Ghana contains evergreen and semi-deciduous forests consisting of trees such as mahogany, odum and ebony.
Ghana is well endowed with natural resources including gold, timber, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese, fish, rubber, hydropower and cocoa. 60% of Ghana’s labor force works in agriculture. The major crops are cocoa, rice, coffee, peanuts, bananas and timber. Non-agricultural industries include mining, lumbering, food processing and small commercial ship-building. Per capita GNP averages $2,400. About 28% of the population live below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. According to the World Bank, Ghana’s per capita income has barely doubled over the past 45 years.
An oil reserve reported to contain up to 3 billion barrels of light oil was discovered in 2007. There is expected to be a tremendous inflow of capital into the economy beginning in 2010 when the country starts producing oil to be sold overseas. Ghana’s major trading partners are the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, and China. Although there are significant challenges, Ghana remains one of the more economically sound countries in Africa.
Tourism is a rapidly growing sector particularly among Europeans and Americans. Ghana’s political and economic stability, low crime rate, and wide use of English make the county an attractive entry-point to West Africa. UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Cape Coast Castle, the exit point of millions of Africans sold into slavery, are major centers of tourist activity.
Association Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Ghana. On October 16, 2009, Ghana became the first African nation to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup. While men’s football is most widely followed, the nationals women’s football team is gaining exposure, participating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the CAP Women’s Championship.
Culture and Fine Arts
Ghana has a very diverse and rich history and expression in textiles, coffin designs, music (with Afro-jazz originating in Ghana), and dance much of it related to ethnic heritage.
Early European contact by the Portuguese, who came to Ghana in the 15th century, focused on the extensive availability of gold. In the mid-1500’s, the Dutch joined the Portuguese, along with the English, Danes and Swedes. British merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named the region the “Gold Coast.” After the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a protectorate.
Under colonial rule the chiefs and people often resisted the policies of the British. In 1947, the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention called for self-government within the shortest possible time. Kwame Nkrumah formed a new party, the Convention People’s Party, with the motto “self-government now.’ After imprisonment, strikes, boycotts and other forms of civil disobedience, Nkrumah negotiated with the British, and on March 6, 1957 at 12:00am, he declared Ghana “free forever.”
Kwame Nkrumah became the first President of the Ghanaian state. He was not only an African anti-colonial leader but also the first African head of state to promote Pan-Africanism, an idea he came into contact with during his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Ghana’s constitutional principles of freedom and justice, equity education for all, irrespective of ethnic background, religion or creed, borrow form Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of Pan-Africanism.
In 1966, Nkrumah’s government was overthrown by the military. A series of subsequent coups form 1966 to 1981 ended with the ascension to power of Jerry Rawlings. These changes resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981, and the banning of political parties. A new constitution restoring multi-party politics was promulgated under Jerry Rawlings in 1992, and a series of elections have been held since.
In 2009, John Atta Mills took office as president, marking the second time that power had been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another, securing Ghana’s status as a stable democracy.
In 2012, John Dramani Mahama was elected as president.