Girls were basically regarded as homemakers and people perceived the kitchen as the most suitable place for the girl but some parents over exaggerate this situation. In view of this, parents who are not academically and financially endowed prefer to sponsor their sons in neglect of their daughters. They are of the pessimistic view that girls could easily get pregnant along the line and drop out of school, hence, denying their girls from schooling. – Benedicta Ahomah Bioh, UEW Home Economics Department
In spite of the efforts individuals are making and the good progress the Government of Ghana is making towards increasing access to education and narrowing gender gaps in the country, girl child education in the Simpa fisher folk community continue not to yield any meaningful results. As a Home Economics student, my preliminary investigation revealed that there were genuine obstacles young female students face while enrolled in junior high school, especially at a slum like the Simpa community where I had my School Internship Programme (SIP) at the AME Zion JHS D from September to December 2015. Most parents keep their girls in the house and either trade with them at the Y1pemso fishing market near the beach or do not encourage them to go to school at all. Some irresponsible men have sometimes also taken advantage of these girls which continue to result in pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancy, now a social canker in the Simpa community. Although three main obstacles emerged, viz., poverty, harassment, and a cultural mindset (Lambert, Perrino & Barreras 2012), the motivation for this study was ignited by parental support for the girl child towards education.
Simpa people’s main occupation is fishing which is the only livelihood for many of the indigenous inhabitants. The Simpa fishing community contributes to food security, employment and creates revenue for the Effutu Municipal Assembly and the government at large. Simpa, located at the southernmost part of the main developing Winneba township, lacks services such as shelter, water, sanitation and health when compared to its modern counterpart. These have made children especially “girls” growing up in such places, in common with other rural areas of developing communities, often educationally disadvantaged. Low education of girls in the community is likely to result in the decline of development of the people in that community. Education, which produces human capital for a nation, is a crucial step in overcoming poverty and raising the standard of living. It is believed that when girls are properly educated they will make immerse contributions in terms of health, social and economic developments of their communities.
The purpose of the study was, therefore, to investigate parental support towards girl child education in the Simpa fishing community and examine if parental support affects educational achievement. Specifically it sought to find out the type of parental support that exists towards girl child education at AME Zion D JHS, identify additional factors other than parental support for the girl child, verify how the girl child is performing academically alongside their male counterparts and establish a correlation between parental support and educational achievement.
The population of the study includes all female pupils in junior high school in the Simpa Community that extends from east to west, covering the suburbs of Sankor, Y1pemso, Kwandrum, Sakagyano, Nkwantanan, Alatakokodo, Penkye, Adensi, Ponkoekyir, Mary Street, Lancaster and Domeabra. The northern boundary also extends from Winneba Main Cemetery Road through Don Bosco, Flamingo Road, down to Copa Junction to Sir Charles Avenue. Four schools including UNIPRA South Campus, Methodist A, A.M.E. Zion ‘D’ and Don Bosco junior high formed the population but only A.M.E Zion ‘D’ was purposively considered for the study because it was my SIP school. Out of thirty-one girls of the form 3 class, ten (10) were selected for the study. The selection was based on the top three, bottom three and the four (4) central tendency group (mean, median and mode). A total of thirty (30) became the informants for the study. It was made up of the ten (10) selected female pupils to be precise, mothers of the ten selected females, the head teacher, eight (8) teachers and the Municipal Girl Child Coordinator.
The instruments used for the collection of data were interview, questionnaire and observation. Data was analysed using simple descriptive percentages. The first section of the results which comprised the demography of the respondents—discussed relationship, sex, age, education, occupation, marital and socio-economic status. The second section presented the data collected on the six types of parental involvement with schools—(i) parenting, (ii) communicating, (iii) volunteering, (iv) learning at home, (v) decision-making and (vi) collaborating with the community. Lastly, the third section presented the relationship between the two variables—parental support and academic achievements.
Since it was expected that real parents would exhibit a very high level of attention towards the girl-child, the study first looked at the relationship between the girls in question and their parents. The study revealed that parents were all matured, above 90% were above 40years. The perception that education adds to the value of parenting was refuted by the study since only one parent had attained tertiary education. Simply put, the perception that occupation adds to the value of parenting was also not clearly matched.
The study came out clearly that the most common parental support type provided by parents is parenting where the child’s needs, health, food, religious and cultural issues are freely discussed at home not excluding paying of fees, pocket money and school accoutrements. To support this, Mrs. Catherine Nutsuga Mikado, the Head of the National Girl Child Education Directorate of the Ghana Education Service (GES) stated that because of the high level of parental irresponsibility in the country towards girl child education, this has contributed to the higher dropout rate of girls (Modern Ghana, GNA, 2015). She also drew attention to the fact that if there is high level of child labour and neglect of kids to fend for themselves, this will definitely affect the retention of girls in particular in schools and advised teachers to restrain from refusing rural postings, saying, ‘rural kids are also Ghanaian children.’
In an interview with the Municipal Girl Child Coordinator (MGCC) at Winneba, Mrs. Faustina Akosua Agyeiwaa Kwofie, she made it clear that the Municipality gives supports like scholarships to needy girls, provides them with uniforms, stationery like calculators, textbooks, mathematical sets, note books, exercise books and pens. They also provide food ration to the girls. The MGCC revealed that some of the girls lacked sanitary accoutrements like pads and soap which the Municipal Assembly does not provide for them. She confirmed that, with her own personal intervention, she provides money for all these unlike Senior High Schools where government provides the girls with these accoutrements.
Apart from the first-two types of parental support (Epstein 2002) mentioned above, all the additional ones are very rare or non-existent. These categories included volunteering, learning at home, decision-making and collaborating with the community.
On academic achievement it was realized that the females did very well by occupying the first, second and third positions in class but averagely the boys did better than the girls. This confirms the National Education Assessment (2014) finding that learning outcomes for males and females in both P3 and P6 were similar but a small difference was observed.
An interesting finding was that parental support correlates positively with academic subject disciplines. The study observed positive correlation between Home Economics and parental support. Likewise, there was positive correlation between English and Mathematics academic disciplines and parental support.
What was clear was that, a child that had good parental support definitely achieved higher academic results (Epstein 2002, Abrafi 2012 & Hatter 2015). However, the study could not tell whether parents’ relationship, age, occupation and socio-economic status contributed to this positive correlation.
From the study, it can be boldly said that there is positive correlation between academic performance and parental support because if parents provide proper parenting like good conditions to support learning, communicate well with girls, volunteer at school and other places, help girls to learn at home, make good decisions through good governance and advocacy through school councils and committees as well as collaborating with the community, this could cause a rise in academic performance of the girl child. Nevertheless, if the girl lacks any of these or others this may cause a big decline in academic performance of the girl child.
In light of this, the following recommendations were made:
- Teachers should sensitize parents on the benefits of the girl-child education by educating them on parental involvement in the girls’ education.
- MGCC should also educate parents through women fellowship meetings, radio stations and through their big festival ‘Aboakyer’ to create awareness.
- MGCC should also try to make a case and convince Government to provide sanitary accoutrements to the JHS girls since they are all Ghanaian children and are also equally matured as some of the SHS girls where the Government provides for.
- Head teachers should also try to develop things like school policy flyers, memos, term schedules, newsletters, etc., for their schools.
- Teachers should pay regular visits to parents whose girl-child are badly disadvantaged.
- The study was carried out in the Simpa Community in Winneba. It is prudent to suggest that follow-up research is conducted with varied approaches in different communities in the country at large in future to enhance these findings.