2011 was marked by the Arab Spring, a period of protests and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the world. The Arab Spring gained a lot of media presence and attention. Little known about has been the African Awakening, a movement marked by marginalized populations throughout the continent protesting for equity. From Zimbabwe to Sudan and recently Burkina Faso, African countries, often living through the legacy of colonialism and lackluster leadership since independence is rising against the status quo. Yet, there is a price to pay for such an awakening.
A good example is what has been taking place in Ghana. With rising inflation at 25%, according to the Ghana National Bank, the impacts of the unstable economic situation is felt across all sectors and overall development. This has been especially true for education. From October 20 to November 10, 2014, three teacher unions, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) have been on strike. A result of cancellation of teachers’ pension plan, this strike has been negatively impacting students in government schools.
Ashanti region students of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG, were asked to document and discuss the effects of the strike of them and their education.
Here is what they had to say:
“We are wasting much time and we cant get the time back. It (the strike) can even let us fail the exams that are awaiting us in November/December”
Martha Frimpong of Esreso D/A 2
“ The truth is that the students will go around without learning… students will not get understanding of topics to be taught and teachers will rush getting nearer to exam times and students will not get the understanding of topics and their results will be poor.”
“Foremost, the strike action has brought academic activities in government schools to a standstill. This has really affected the students in final year. The students are in panic for fear of failing their examination. Furthermore, it has also led to delinquency. Children are found to be loitering about in the streets during school hours.
“The students will not be able to go to school and for that matter put pressure on their parents. However, the positive aspect of this strike is that it will help the teachers get what they’re asking from the government. The government and teachers will go to the negotiation table and solve their differences.”
These insights from students are indicative of some of the hardships youth in Ghana and elsewhere on the continent face. I am especially impressed by Zakia’s input. While she acknowledges the difficulties posed by the strike on students, families, and society as a whole, she has the understanding of governance and civic participation and acknowledges the positive aspect of a trying situation. Reform for the education system and the country as a whole will stem from adequately prepared students who are civic minded and forward thinking regarding their futures and the future of the country, the continent, and the globe. The African Awakening is something long awaited for. We have endured colonialism, independence, revolutions and periods of political unrest, some stability and now another wave of public dissent. History ebbs and flows and I’m hopeful the recent wave of protests on the continent is indicative that the youth population who will usher in a new phase of leadership will be progressive and keep the well being of all in mind.
Elizabeth Patterson is the founder and executive director of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG. She writes from Ghana on issues related to education, girls education, inclusive education, and youth development.
More on GEIG- http://www.girlsedgh.org
Twitter- @anyarkop/ @GirlsEdGH