THE notion that science and mathematics study is the preserve of boys is perhaps a tale of the past in the Agona District, as the science, technology and mathematics education (S.T.M.E.) project makes progress in the district.
The “twin” concept of girl-child education, and science, technology and mathematics education has caught on well in the district, and in some areas girls outnumber boys in the elementary schools.
According to Ms. Ernestina Nkansah, Assistant Director in charge of Girl-Child Education in the district, “but for the apathy of some parents the district would long have achieved its target of gender parity”.
At Swedru, the district capital, girls out-number boys in most of the basic schools. “Our problem is with the outlying communities”, she said.
Ms. Nkansah said that the district is fast closing the educational gap between girls and boys and was hopeful that it will reach the Millennium Development Goal target of 1.0 Gender Parity Index (GPI) soon.
She said that for instance, in 2002/03 the overall enrolment of boys as against girls, namely the Net Enrolment Ratio for the district stood at 57.4 percent and 54.7 percent for boys and girls respectively. This figure shot up to 60.1percent and 58.3 percent respectively for boys and girls in the 2004/05 academic year, registering a G.P.I. of 0.97.
Mr. Roger Mensah Arkoh, Headmaster of the Swedru Happy Home Preparatory School and Chairman of the Local Association of Private Schools, said he was happy at the turn of events because “not only has the enrolment of girls improved in the District, but their general academic performance too”.
“My girls have shown remarkable interest in science and mathematics”, said Mr. Emmanuel Aglago, Headmaster of the Catholic “A” Primary and Junior Secondary Schools, confirming the assertion by the Chairman of the local private schools.
Mr. Kafui Dzimaku, Assistant Director in charge of Science and Mathematics Education in the district lent credence to the assertion by the headmasters and said that the introduction of the science, technology and mathematics education clinics has rekindled the interest of girls in science and mathematics, and has increased their desire to pursue science-related programmes in secondary and tertiary institutions.
Mr. Dzimaku said though the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the District Education Office had just initiated a tracer study into how beneficiaries of the clinics have been faring. There are at least two beneficiaries from the district who are studying science at the University of Cape Coast.
“At least for now, I know of Abigail Amponsah and Jennifer Nyarkoh who are currently pursuing science-related programmes in the University of Cape Coast, and a few others in some tertiary institutions.” Mr. Dzimaku said.
The Assistant Director said the S.T.M.E. clinics have actually demystified the study of science and mathematics by girls in the district. His concern however was how the project could be sustained when funding was withdrawn.
“You know, this project is running on a D.F.I.D. support, and one cannot tell whether government can continue when the support is withdrawn”, he said.
The STME project, for now, appears to have greatly helped girls' education in the Agona District; but Mr. Dzimaku says the success of the initiative had not come without a cost.
“The scales are gradually turning against the boys in the study of science and mathematics, and if we are not careful, a time will come when we may have to spend time and money again on similar programmes for boys”, he said.