In 2004, the Ghanaian government introduced the National Early Childhood Care and Development Policy, legislation which recognised the crucial influence early learning has on child development (Early Childhood Care and Development Policy, 2004). Several years later, in 2007, Ghana officially expanded Free Universal and Basic Education to kindergarten age children, a significant step in ensuring the provision of accessible early education for all (Brown, 2009). These efforts were praised both nationally and internationally, with Ghana’s proactive approach to learning heralded as a standard for other nations, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, to attain. Following the introduction of this legislation, enrollment in kindergarten across Ghana increased significantly, particularly in more urban areas. In Accra, for example, studies estimate that around 80% of children are enrolled in some variety of educational institution by their third birthday (Aizenman and Warner, 2020). This proportion varies throughout the country, but on average, Ghana has the highest pre-primary enrollment rate in the region (Gratz and Putcha, 2019).
Ensuring attendance at kindergarten is an imperative initial step in supporting early learning. It is crucial too, though, that the education provided is of high quality. Worryingly, a recent study suggested that almost a third of children leaving kindergarten in Ghana are unable to read singular words in simple stories, and struggle to understand basic arithmetic (Aizenman and Warner, 2018). Early learning is critical, with the first five years of a child’s life key to physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and motor development. At this age, a child is particularly receptive, with the skills they acquire behaving as a foundation for future learning (Bakken, Brown and Downing, 2017). Research by UNICEF suggests, in fact, that children who receive quality kindergarten education are more likely to succeed in school, and consequently more likely to contribute positively to prosperous societies (UNICEF, 2017). Several years ago, Sharon Wolf, a professor in early childhood development at the University of Pennsylvania, collaborated with Innovations for Poverty Action to asses tuition at a variety of kindergartens across Ghana. During the study, it became evident that teachers focused on learning by repetition and memorization, as opposed to engaging children with open ended questions and encouraging them to use their imagination. This had a significant impact on the children’s cognitive development, inhibiting their ability to think and reason. Since Wolf’s study, kindergarten teachers across Ghana have revised their style of teaching, employing interactive activities to encourage children to use their imagination, solve problems, and become more adept at understanding language (Aizenman and Warner, 2018). This shift in the way young children are educated has, of course, been positive, but can present problems to teachers and communities.
As in numerous countries around the globe, educational resources in parts of Ghana are scarce. Many teachers display great creativity when faced with this issue, crafting posters, games and role play items from recycled objects. One of the most crucial resources used in aiding child development, however, are children’s picture books. Simple story books have immense power in education, and are proven to promote language comprehension, literacy, imagination and creativity. They have a unique ability; transporting readers to make-believe lands while equipping them with crucial skills and learning relevant to their own experiences. By reading these books alongside an educator, children are encouraged to learn facts, concepts and values, transferring knowledge gained from stories to other contexts (Strouse, Nyhout and Ganea, 2018). The World Inspiring Network recognizes the value of stories, and, in the coming months, intends to collect a number of children’s books to donate during a “book drive” in the communities of Osunu Dompe, Ahomahomasu, Besebuom and Tafi Mador. Our belief as an organisation is that all children, irrespective of background, have a fundamental right to a high-quality, accessible education. Early learning constitutes a crucial foundation for every individual and the World Inspiring Network intends to aid communities in making provisions for this. We gratefully welcome any book donations, and, if you feel that you could help in any way, please do contact us.
Hannah Jackson has recently completed an MA in Religion and Politics and is passionate in advocating for human rights around the world. She joined the team at World Inspiring Network in 2020 as Partnership and Development Officer. Hannah Jackson also works with the charity as a volunteer blog writer enjoys photography, and hopes to be a foreign correspondent in the future.