"We are deprived" – Northerners cry
Ghana's Parliamentarians, have decried the disparities in development in the three northern regions and particularly, the yawning educational gap that exists between the North and the South and called on policy-makers to help address the situation.
The north according to them has been neglected over the years, a situation they blame mainly on Ghana’s colonial masters.
The three northern regions – Upper West and East and the Northern regions occupy 41 per cent of the land area of the country with about 20 per cent of the country’s total population.
In spite of its vast agricultural and human resources, it contributes a mere 1.3 per cent of the total number of industrial establishment. More than 65 per cent of the people fall below the poverty line, indeed, they are among the last 10 per cent of the very poor.
The illiteracy rate of the regions currently is estimated to be about 70 per cent as against 30 per cent in the southern sector of the country. The area is reputed for its supply of skilled labour to the cocoa farms, mines, house servants, porters in the shopping centres of the south and other menial jobs that one can think of.
The low standard of education in the area dates from the colonial era when education was intentionally suppressed by the British colonial government, which by regulation limited the level of education to what was known as “standard 4.”
The aim of the policy was to produce very few semi-literates to man the low administrative positions. An aim they effectively achieved. At the time of Ghana’s independence, the north had produced only one University graduate. The first secondary school opened in 1951 with an initial intake of twenty boys with no girls. Besides Achimota, children from the north were denied admission into any other secondary school in the South.
Although, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah did well to boost the development of education in the north, through northern opinion leaders in the late forties and early fifties, those gains were eroded by the global economic decline of the seventies and early eighties.
The MP for Wa Central, M.A. Seidu told Parliament Tuesday “we the northerners and our friends are determined to continue to put pressure on policy makers to recognise and appreciate our peculiar circumstances. Meanwhile, we have also tasked ourselves to sensitise our colleagues to accept the inevitable that government cannot continue to give the north preferential treatment no matter the level of our disadvantages.”
He added that, “we are also determined to encourage the better endowed few among us to invest in education such as the establishment of private schools.”
Hon. Seidu, a former headmaster himself, made a passionate appeal to the Minister for Education, the Director-General and the Board members of the Education Trust Fund to look favourably to the unique plight of the northerners and make education in the north their top priority when it comes to the disbursement of available resources.
In his contribution to the statement, which was the subject of discussion for well over an hour, Interior Minister and MP for Yendi, Alhaji Malik Alhassan Yakubu told the House that government would give the statement a sympathetic hearing and attend to the problems.
The MPs called on government to take a critical look at the entire development of the northern regions to open it up to attract more professionals.