Findings from an upcoming report from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) reveal that 7.9 million persons aged six years and older in Ghana are illiterate.
This means that they cannot read and write with understanding.
“The report also finds that between the 2010 and 2021 Population and Housing Censuses (PHC), 1.2 million more illiterate adults (15 years and older) were added to the population – from 4.3 million in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2021,” the Ghana Statistical Service said last Thursday on the occasion of World Literacy Day.
Of the number, 4.6 million illiterate are females while 3.3 million are males, indicating a female disadvantage that had been persistent over time.
This is also a confirmation that Ghana has lower levels of adult literacy compared to its counterparts (lower-middle-income and sub-Saharan African countries), after three years of the provisions on illiteracy captured in the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2018-2030.
In February this year, a report of the 2021 PHC, conducted by the GSS, indicated that the literacy rate in the country was 69.8 per cent.
The data was an improvement on the statistics of the 2010 census, when the rate was 67.1 per cent.
The 2021 data also covered persons from age six and above who could read and write in any language.
Males made up 74.1 per cent, with females constituting 65.4 per cent.
Drivers of illiteracy
The GSS statement said the report provided direction for stakeholders to target hot spots and drivers of illiteracy in the country as it focused on three broad areas: trends, patterns and correlates of illiteracy.
An Assistant Chief Statistician at the GSS, Godwin Odei Gyebi, in an interview with the Daily Graphic explained further: “The statement is to emphasise the theme to mark the World Literacy Day. After the Census from which about 13 reports were produced, there were specific data on literacy and education. For the purposes of the World Literacy Day, we decided to choose the illiterate population to highlight the situation,” he explained.
Regional breakdown of literacy
In the 2021 PHC report, the Greater Accra Region had the highest figure of 87.9 per cent, while the Savannah Region recorded the lowest of 32.8 per cent.
It was titled: “Ghana 2021 Population and Housing Census General Report Volume 3D, Literacy and Education”.
It presented the educational profile of the population — three years, and older and literacy of persons six years and older.
The data on literacy, school attendance and educational attainment are disaggregated by sex, age, type of locality and region of residence.
The highlights on literacy pertained to three age brackets: six years and older, 11 years and older and 15 years and older, while education was three years and older, 15 years and older and 18 years and older.
The regional breakdown were as follows: Ashanti, 78 per cent; Eastern, 75.7 per cent; Central, 75.2 per cent; Western, 72.6 per cent, and Bono, 71.5 per cent.
Others are Volta, 70.9 per cent; Ahafo, 68.6 per cent; Western North, 62.8 per cent; Bono East, 56.3 per cent, and Oti, 50.6 per cent.
The rest are Upper East, 48.1 per cent; Upper West, 46.0 per cent; Northern, 41.3 per cent; North East, 35.9 per cent, and Savannah, 32.8 per cent.
Also, the detail reveals that four in five (80.6 per cent) of the urban population six years and older are literate in at least one language, compared to half, 55.2 per cent of the rural population of the same age, with the rural-urban differential being similar for males and females.
It further states that four out of the 16 regions have more than three-quarters, 75 per cent, of their population six years and older being literate, with Greater Accra recording the highest, 87.9 per cent, while Savannah has the lowest of 32.8 per cent.
Intervention to improve literacy
To help address this worrying trend, despite the free education at the basic and senior high school level, the government is rolling out some interventions.
Two of such interventions are the conduct of the National Standardised Test (NST) and the Transition to English (T2E) programme.
Last year, the Ministry of Education introduced the National Standardised Test as part of its quest to build a robust education system.
The Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, explained that the objective of the Standardised Testing in basic schools is to “know how well the students are doing.”
He said the performance of the students in the test would enable the Education Ministry “to prescribe the appropriate intervention the year after the exam is administered.”
Initially for only Basic four students in Ghana, the NST is to be extended to cover Primary Two and Six pupils in basic schools from 2022.
“This academic year, we are going to assess Primary Two pupils, we will assess Primary Four students and Primary 6 students.
“Giant stride has been made, but it is not good enough. We can’t compete with the rest of the world when the first time we get to know of students’ achievement is 11 years after they’ve left us and that has been the norm with this country for a long time.
“We have two years of KG, six years of Primary, three years of JHS. You add it up and that’s 11 years and if at the end of the 11 years that we do our first national exam and whether they do well or not it’s too late for that particular student and other nations around the world are able to assess their students along the line before they hit the 11 or 14 years,” he said.
T2E Plus, a phonics-based approach to language learning, will sustain the gains yielded by the ongoing Early Grade Reading Programme, T2E and National Reading Radio Programme.
Under the T2E Plus programme, 5,425 schools will be put on the programme to improve learners’ reading performance among pupils from Kindergarten Two to Primary Three.
It is being implemented in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development.
World Literacy Day
Since 1967, International Literacy Day celebrations have taken place annually around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.
In spite of progress made, literacy challenges persist with 771 million illiterate people around the world, most of them women, who still lack basic reading and writing skills and are faced with increased vulnerability.