Mion district is typical of many farming communities in the northern region of Ghana for having a high number of out-of-school children. Many parents see their children as an additional pair of hands, born to work the land and contribute to the family income, so preferential treatment is given to boys, while girls are considered a liability to be pushed into marriage or limited to domestic chores. For girls who suffer from a disability, they face double the discrimination.
13-year-old Fasila was born with a condition that affected her legs, making it hard for her to walk. She was not allowed to go to school and spent most of her childhood confined to her home. “All I wanted was to be able to live a normal life just like the other children in my village,” she says.
While her brothers and sisters went to school, Fasila stayed behind. “My siblings were all in school and I was always sad when I was left alone at home. I was sure that I could also go to school.”
It was not until Plan International implemented the REACH project in her community in 2018 that Fasila finally had the opportunity to start her education. The Reaching and Teaching project aims to return 90,000 out-of-school children to the classroom by enrolling them onto a complimentary basic education (CBE) programme.
When Fasila heard that the REACH project was coming to her village, she begged her parents to let her attend. “The pressure from Fasila to attend school was getting too much and we thought this afternoon class would occupy her and give her what she wanted. After all, there was no way she could make it to the formal school since she had never been to school before,’’ says Fasila’s mother Awabu.
CBE is a ground-breaking accelerated learning approach for children not in school between the ages of 8 to 14 from some of the poorest areas of the country. The programme helps excluded children learn reading, writing and mathematics over a nine-month period, getting them ready to transition to primary school.
Fasila became one of 25 children to enroll for the classes in her community, 15 whom of who were girls. Class facilitator, Ibrahim Jalil, teaches the children with great enthusiasm, supporting his students and boosting their belief in themselves and their educational abilities.
Her punctuality, high attendance rate and excellent performance made Fasila one of the best students in the class which didn’t go unnoticed by Mr Jalil. “I am glad her parents allowed her to be part of this class. She is intelligent, committed and hardworking and I know she will excel when she transitions to the formal school,” he says.
Fasila’s social life also began to improve. She made friends with her CBE class mates and her confidence started to blossom. “’When I was in the house, I was always feeling lonely and rejected but now I have made some friends and we play together. I don’t notice my disability anymore because I can do whatever they can do.’’
Gradually Fasila’s parents developed an interest in her activities at the CBE classes after Plan International field workers spent time engaging them on gender issues, safeguarding and the importance of education. They saw firsthand the improvement in their daughter’s life and heard of her good performance in class from her teacher Mr Jalil.
“We have come to understand that Fasila is an asset and we are willing to provide her with all our support. She may have a disability, but we have realised she has all it takes to fulfill her dreams’’. To show their commitment to support Fasila, they have bought a wheelchair to help her get to and from her classes.
The day Fasila graduated from the CBE class was a huge achievement for her. Having excelled in her lessons, she passed an assessment test and joined her local primary school. To support her new start, Plan International provided her with a school kit containing exercise books, pens and pencils.
Fasila has resolved to do well at school and wants to tell her story to motivate other children who are out-of-school. “With all the support I am getting from Plan International and my parents, I am determined to complete my education and become a nurse so that in future, I will be able to encourage others who might also find themselves in my situation.”