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Formal education in Ghana preceded colonization. The first schools were established by European merchants and missionaries. During the colonial period, a formal state education structure was modeled on the British system. This structure has been through a series of reforms since Ghana gained its independence in 1957. In the 1980s, further reforms have brought the structure of the education system closer to an American model. 


The first nationalist government, headed by Nkrumah, accelerated plan for education. With legislation, he made primary education free and compulsory. Before this time, most of the schools belonged to religious bodies or the communities themselves and parents paid for school. Government took over the management of schools. The 1961 Education Act made elementary schools (junior secondary or middle) free and compulsory. Students began their 6 year primary education at the age of six. They then moved on to 4 years elementary/middle school. They then moved on to a 5 years secondary education, followed by 2 years of college preparatory education. It took 17 years to complete the pre-university education, however, some were allowed to complete it earlier, if they were academically ready. At the time of independence in 1957, Ghana had only one university and a handful of secondary and primary schools. 

Ghana's educational System is highly centralized. The Ministry of Education and its agencies are responsible for the entire educational system in the country. Entrance to universities is by examination following completion of senior secondary school. A National Accreditation Board began in 1990. It is in charge of accrediting programs in all national institutions. This does not affect the university because the university has had a very long existence. It is particularly responsible for polytechnics. The programs must be the right ones and accredited...or the program can't be run. Ghana has 12,130 primary schools, 5,450 junior secondary schools, 503 senior secondary schools, 21 training colleges, 18 technical institutions, two diploma-awarding institutions and five universities. 


Public schools are often better than private because they receive funding from the state and therefore, have more equipment and supplies. Private schools depend on tuition and receive no government aid. Primary and junior secondary education is tuition-free and mandatory. However, there is no way to enforce attendance since, there are not enough teachers and facilities available to accommodate all the students. Students begin their 6-year primary education at age six. There are 12,130 primary schools in Ghana. There are 5,450 junior secondary schools in Ghana. Under educational reforms implemented in 1987, the students, after primary school, pass into a new junior secondary school system for 3 years of academic training combined with technical and vocational training. 


There are 503 senior secondary schools in Ghana. Secondary schools are 99% public but some are better than others. However, this is bias against those educated in the rural areas. Prior to the restructuring, students went for 5 yrs for all who entered and then 2 more years for the best achievers, at the end of the 5 yrs. These two years are used to prepare students for the entrance into the university. Now, since 1987, the students go for 3 years and from there they go to the university. Accra Academy is a public secondary boarding school for boys. The school motto: "To be is better than to seem to be" or be what you are. Don't pretend to be what you are not. Alumni are encouraged to give back by sponsoring something for the school after graduating from college. Therefore, with such a strong tradition and alumni, the school does better than some other public or private schools. 


Entrance to universities is by examination following completion of senior secondary school. There are five universities in Ghana. Many students who do not attend secondary school or the university attend one of the 18 major technical institutions in Ghana. 

Francine Wright, George Washington HS


Ghana is located in Western Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea to the south, Cote d' Ivorie to the east, Togo to the west and Burkina Faso to the north. Ghana encompasses 672 kilometers from its northern border to the coast. It has an area of 92,100 square miles [238,540 kilometers]. Its coastline spans 335 miles or 539 kilometers. Its longitude is 200 degrees west of Greenwich and the latitude is 800 degrees north of the Equator. Ghana's climate is tropical. The southwest region is usually hot and humid with larger amounts of yearly rainfall. The southwest coast is relatively warm and dry. In the northern regions it is hot and dry.

Ghana's landmass is made up of plains along the coast to the Kwahu Plateau, which runs across the central part of the country. The southwestern region is covered with thick forests. Northern Ghana is made up of savannas and grasslands. The Republic of Ghana is divided into ten (10) regions, each with a regional capital. Listed alphabetically they are:
Upper East
Upper West


Regional Capital City
Cape Coast
Ghana's two largest waterways are Lake Volta, which is 400 kilometers long and covers 8,480 square kilometers, and makes up over 2/3rds of the country. It is the largest man-made lake in the world. Lake Bosumtwi is a round lake, a result of a volcanic crater, and is located south of Kumasi. Other major waterways are the Volta River, Black Volta River, White Volta River, Oti, Afram, Tano, Pra, Ankobra, and the Densu Rivers. The highest mountain in the country is Mount Afadjato at 800 meters. The southwestern region of Ghana is heavily tropically forrested with Kakum National Park. 
Ghana's coastal regions are dotted with sandy beaches alternating with steep rocky bluffs and coconut trees surrounding dense tropical growth. Many rivers empty into the ocean and one can see large, brightly painted canoes in lagoons, rivers, bays and ocean. The coastline is also dotted with many ancient fortresses. Takoradi and Tema are Ghana's largest commercial and fishing ports along the 335 miles(539 kilometers) of shoreline. 

Anita Trotman, Wood Elementary School



Richard Rathbone (1994, p. 163) describes Ghana as"...always bewilderingly capable of doing unpredictable things and of doing them before anyone else."  Ghana is the first Sub-Saharan African country to attain independence: it was black Africa's first parliamentary government, as well as black Africa's first transition from military back to parliamentary government (David Austin, 1979). It
 has also set bad examples such as having one of the highest numbers of military coups on the continent. 

 Ghana recently moved from an authoritarian military rule to a democracy. The
 current political system may be described as a form of Guided Democracy because
 even though Ghana has a democratic constitution, remnants of authoritarian
 behavior still exist. The 1992 elections recorded 58% of the votes for Jerry
 Rawlings, the former authoritarian leader enabling him to become to President of
 the fourth Republic of Ghana. 

 Ghana enjoyed a competitive election in 1952, supervised by the then colonial
 power, which elected Kwame Nkrumah, the first Ghananian head of government.
 Since the overthrow of Nkrumah's government in 1966, Ghana has come under
 military control in 1966-1969, 1972-1979, and 1981-1992. In between the military
 regimes, the country experienced democratic governance from 1969-1972, and
 1979-1981. The current democratic government, voted in on the first week of
 November 1992, went to the polls again in November 1996 and will be voting again
 in December 2000, as stipulated under the Fourth Republic Constitution. 

 The current Constitution makes use of certain aspects of all four previous ones. It
 was drafted by a consultative assembly, which represented all identifiable groups in
 the Ghanaian society: groups that Hincluded the professional bodies, traditional
 leaders (Chiefs), women and minority ethnic groups. It was a conscious effort at
 increasing the social base of political participation. 

 The constitution dictates a multi-party system as the basis for political competition,
 with a directly elected president and an appointed vice president, a military-civilian
 Security Council, a non-partisan Council of State (which plays a mediation role as
 it is done by respected opinion leaders in most African traditional political
 systems), a unicameral elected legislative body, and a special committee on human
 rights and administrative justice (Arthur Banks ed., 1996). The Consultative
 Council retained the strengths of the previous constitution's aspects which have
 been criticized as too Western (Youry Petchenkin, 1993); they also went to extra
 lengths to include some indigenous democratic practices (Constitution of Ghana,

 Respect for elders in society for instance, is a strong feature of most Akan
 traditions. It is a system where much weight is given to the views of elders in a
 community because of the notion that, with age comes experience and wisdom. The
 creation of the institution of Council of State and the criteria for its membership
 (loosely based on age and accomplishment), is meant to reflect the ideals of this
 Elder Respect system. 

 The institution of Chieftaincy is one tradition that has refused to die in modern
 Ghana. There have been many attempts in Ghana's political history to strangle this
 institution. During the period of establishing colonial authority upon the
 indigenous people of Ghana, there were many battles that were fought by the
 colonial powers strip the political powers of Chiefs. There were the Chiefs who were
 brought over to recognize the colonial authority, in the process committing
 political suicide in the eyes of the people because they gave away their authority;
 and thee were those who were considered too dangerous to the colonial project,
 and therefore had to be fought and physically removed from their areas of
 authority. The Ashantis, for instance bore the brunt of the British colonial army in
 many encounters. Finally, the Asantehene Nana Prempeh (1) had to be exiled to the
 Seychelles Island in an attempt to break the spirit of the Ashantis and the political
 power of the institution of Chieftaincy (Joseph Dupuis, 1966). 

 The assault on this august institution was continued even after independence from
 colonialism. Nkrumah's government, when confronted with the power of the
 institution of Chieftaincy and the loyalty it still commanded among the people,
 tried to use both legal and extral legal means to reduce its political significance.
 New chiefs without any claim to royal lineages were created and recognized by the
 government, who aimed to dilute the influence of powerful chiefs who were not
 friendly to the government. The institution, in spite of all these efforts has
 remained strong and continues its influence in the modern political set up. It is to
 the credit therefore, of the latest constitution drafters that the role of the institution
 of Chieftaincy has been recognized and accorded a significant place in the new
 democratic system. 

 To an extent, the current document marries aspects of British, American and
 French basic laws (Western philosophy of government), with indigenous Chanaian
 social norms and rules. The Fourth Republic Constitution makes conscious efforts
 to address some of the major criticisms of the past constitutions, such as
 insensitivity to traditional authority structures, norms and institutions." 

Samuel Quainoo, East Stroudsburg University

 Additional Readings:

 Quainoo, S.E. (2000). Transitions and Consolitation of Democracy in Africa.
 Binghamton, NY:Global Publications.


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