In Ghana, secondary school attendance rates are low, especially among boys, at just 40%. As a result, only 72% of the population over the age of 15 can read and write.
Today is International Literacy Day. Literacy is a human right. It forms the basis of lifelong learning, and plays a crucial role in creating sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies.
Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all. It is also crucial for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.
In countries like Ghana, where education is not valued and an emphasis is put on earning a living – especially for teenage boys – it is hard to encourage children and young people to attend school.
Ebenezer lives in Nkrakese, in the Ashanti region of Ghana. The area is rich in cocoa farms and many of the population are employed by this industry. At the age of 15, Ebenezer decided to drop out of school, believing it to be a waste of time, to join his family and friends earning a living working on a cocoa farm.
Right To Play began working in Ghana in 2001, to provide vaccinations against deadly, but preventable, diseases. Having witnessed the issue of children and young people not attending school, we expanded our work to provide a quality education.
In order to achieve this, we partnered with the International Cocoa Initiative to reach children and young people who were engaged in cocoa farming. Our programmes provide fun learning experiences, focusing on educating cocoa-growing communities in child protection, child rights and responsibilities.
Ebenezer began attending our sessions, and after four months decided to re-enrol in school. "I was encouraged to go back," he says. "I realised if I wanted to make something of my future, I should be in school."
Many young people are still foregoing their education to work on farms in order to help their families survive. But the pattern is changing. "Through training, I learned how to communicate better with my friends," says Ebenezer. "I am encouraging my friends who are not in school to come back, and many of them are starting to return."
By educating the current generation of teenagers, we are creating lasting change. By seeing the importance of an education, literacy and other skills associated with it, these young people will go on to influence future generations to gain a proper education.