After days of anticipation, the 2021 Population and Housing Census (PHC) took off yesterday with many people enthused about being counted as enumerators begun door-to-door collection of census data from households within the territorial borders of Ghana.
Last week, the build-up to the exercise started as the officials went round listing structures and prompting people about the census, thus yesterday, many people expectantly looked forward to it.
Although the exercise began at midnight last Sunday, officially observed as Census Night, which served as the reference point on which all persons found within the territorial borders of Ghana that night were deemed to have been enumerated, it was not until in the morning of yesterday that the house-to-house exercise started.
Yesterday, field officers commenced administering questionnaires in households nationwide, and they are expected to bring the exercise to an end on Sunday, July 11, 2021.
Among the first people to be enumerated by officials of the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) were the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; the Vice- President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia; the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban S. K. Bagbin, as well as former Presidents John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama and their households.
While President Akufo-Addo was attended to by the Government Statistician, Prof. Samuel Kobina Annim, senior officials of the GSS enumerated the other distinguished statesmen, after which they all made brief statements appealing to members of the public to cooperate with census officials to ensure the success of the exercise.
From the Presidential Villa at the Jubilee House, Donald Ato Dapatem reports that President Akufo-Addo encouraged all people in Ghana to avail themselves for the exercise, stressing that it was extremely important that everybody in Ghana as of the night of June 27 June, 2021, no matter his or her ethnic origin, religious persuasion and political affiliation, got counted, so that the country would have accurate statistics for effective national planning and development.
President Akufo-Addo, who was in the company of the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, described the process as “a painless one” and urged everyone to participate in it to make sure that Ghana had all the information that the census was meant to provide.
“We should count the number of people who were present on Thursday, so that it provides those of us who have the responsibility of taking decisions on behalf of our fellow citizens the wherewithal, the data that enable us to plan effectively for the development of the country,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo assured all those providing information that under the Statistical Service Act, the officials were obliged, under strict dictate, to treat all information under stringent confidentiality and said he had no doubt about the integrity and credibility of those who were conducting the census.
The Government Statistician commenced with some background information as a means to apprise the President on the essence of the census and get his consent before he got into data collection.
Taking the President through the 45-minute process, Prof. Annim explained that the census offered the service an opportunity to update records on five fronts of socio-demographic characteristics — economic activity, housing, sanitation and some selected areas such as persons with difficulty in performing activities.
Prof Annim added that the exercise was a non-discriminatory but all-inclusive activity, and that once the data were collected, the service would undertake analysis, based on nationality and other social demographic characteristics.
Reacting to queries from the President about the concerns expressed by some ethnic groups, Prof. Annim explained the GSS had received petitions from at least four ethnic groups.
He said the service had resolved all those concerns and also intensified public education for the people to understand how the questioning was done.
“We are not going to identify individuals in the data collection, and this is in reference to the Statistical Service Act 1003 that was passed in 2019, specifically Clause 50, which talks about strict confidentiality.
“So the information that you're going to provide will not be used for any targeting of persons or targeting of specific groups of people,” he assured.
“The counting is conditioned on only persons who spend the night, and that is a criterion; but in addition to that we have 127 questions. And one of the questions is the ethnic group to which the respondent belongs,” he said.
Prof. Annim said the questionnaire gazette did not review the sub-ethnic groups because the analysis was always done at the major ethnic group level and the GSS had stated it clearly that it was not going to put out the percentages for the sub-ethnic groups because that had not been the practice of the GSS.
He said the service believed that the process of reporting should engender unification, not desegregation, and added that the GSS had stepped up publicity, education and advocacy interventions to ensure that the public was well-informed about that.
He said for the first time there was a census website which contained all materials and that was where people were getting information to further interrogate the processes.
He urged the public to make use of the website, where there were PowerPoint slides, training manuals and field operations manuals to further educate the public on the processes.
Don’t ask for payment
From the residence of Dr Bawumia, Chris Nunoo reports that the Vice-President called on Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians alike to provide credible and quality data for enumerators.
He emphasised that the information being gathered was to help in national planning and development and advised people who refused to provide information to cooperate.
He also urged people who were demanding payment from enumerators before cooperating to refrain from that attitude.
The Chief Census Methodologist, Mr Owusu Kagya, took former President Mahama and his household through the exercise at his residence.
Speaking to the media after successfully completing the process, the former president explained that the data generated from the census would serve as vital statistics to guide national development.
“It is necessary to know how many people live in your country accurately, so you can make better provisions in terms of social amenities, how the economy is managed and how development is spread, so that everybody gets a fair share of the national cake,” he stated.
Mr Mahama further noted that the census data would help the government consider the creation of new districts and restructure the local government system and encouraged all not only to cooperate but also provide accurate information.
“When the census officers get to your house, welcome them and answer the very simple questions and let’s have a perfect count,” he urged the citizenry.
In Accra, the Daily Graphic went round with some of the officials to observe how they were carrying out their duty.
Emelia Ennin Abbey reports that some of the communities visited included Osu, Adabraka, Ridge and Kanda, all in the Korley-Klottey municipality, as well as Nima.
In all the areas visited, it was observed that all structures, namely, buildings, metal containers, kiosks and other makeshift structures, had been listed and assigned special serial numbers, clearly written in chalk.
The field officers were seen busily marking the structures which were yet to be listed and assigned their serial numbers.
The field officers were in blue reflective jackets, with name tags for easy identification.
They will move from house to house to collect data for the exercise.
The Daily Graphic observed that at the office of the Korley Klottey Census Office about 12:30 pm, a number of the enumerators were sitting in groups chatting or fidgeting with their phones.
The District Census officer of the Korley Klottey Municipal Assembly, Mr Fredrick Amartey Laryea, explained that the field officers were waiting for the reprogramming of their tablets to make the collection of data from their enumeration areas easy, as the tablets were programmed for the collection of data during the census night from those in transit and outdoor sleepers.
To help achieve that, he said, forms had been distributed to hotels for the collection of data from those in short-stay institutions.
He admitted that publicity about the exercise in his jurisdiction had not been "on spot, but we have made a lot of effort to get the information out to people. We know people are aware, but they claim they are not aware".
Mr Laryea indicated that out of the 160 enumerators trained for the exercise in the area, 125 were currently at post, while some of them had backed out.
"This has affected the number of buffer and principal enumerators in some areas. We have, therefore, requested for other enumerators to beef up our numbers," he said.
Field officers deployed
A member of the census management team, Dr Pearl Kyei, told the Daily Graphic that 67,419 field officers were deployed on Census night to start the enumeration phase of the exercise.
She said even though the GSS selected 70,000 field officers after training, some were not deployed but rather made to serve as standby in the event of attrition or need for additional enumerators.
She explained that during the three-week exercise, enumerators would visit households and institutions to collect information on people who were at such places on Census night.
"In cases where enumerators do not meet the residents when they visit, they will leave call-back cards for all the absent residents to schedule interviews at their convenience," she said.
When contacted, some residents said they were aware of the exercise, while others said they did not know anything about it.
Some residents of Osu, for instance, who spoke to the Daily Graphic said they were aware of the exercise and were anxiously waiting for the census officers to visit their households.
"I know we will be counted soon, but l do not know the exact day and time. Some people came around last week and wrote some numbers on my house, but that is not a big deal to me," Madam Ayisha Alhassan, a trader at Kanda, said.