Change in Adult Education: the Ghanaian Perspective
written by Kate Adoo-Adeku, University of Ghana
Development in the field of Adult Education in Ghana can be
said to be pos-itive and quite encouraging. This paper provides an overview of
the growth of Adult Education in Ghana by
giving, briefly, activities of the Institute of Adult Education in the
past, and current activities including the role of some Non-governmental
organizations in Adult Education and the challenges that lie ahead of adult
educat-ors in Ghana.
The Early Beginnings of Adult Education in Ghana
The implementation of adult education programme was started by the early
missionaries that came to the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) during
the 19th century. Notable among these were the Basel missionaries who
organised courses and Sunday schools for illiterate adults in their church. The
adults both young and old were taught
how to read and write. Later, vocational training courses such as carpentry and
other artisenal works were exposed to the local people.
These adult education programmes continued until the mid 20th century
when new dimensions were introduced into the learning process as a result of
the evolution of mass education move-ment that began in the Gold Coast.
The colonial government operating in Africa began to show interest and concern about the type of education that
needed to be established in the African colonies. A report of the colonial
office "Advisory Committee" on education in the colonies titled
"Mass Education in African Society" was carried out. This report
could be said to mark the entry of the colonial government into the field of
adult education in 1943. It also linked the importance of literacy to the
political, social and economic lives of the people in the Gold Coast.
The enthusiasm of churches organizing adult literacy courses was
sustained, and it became the main avenue through which church members learnt to
read the Bible.
University-based Adult Education
The issue of promoting university-based adult education was considered
in 1945 when two commissions were established in the Gold Coast. These were the
Asquith and Elliott Commissions whose report stressed the need for a
university-based adult education. This was picked up by the Oxford University which
ex-pressed an interest to promote it in the Gold Coast.
Colonel Wigg, who was a member of the Oxford Tutorial Classes Committee,
visited the Gold Coast in 1945 to study and report on army education in the
country. On his return in 1946 his re-commendations were expressed in the
"During my tour ... last year, I
think I saw work of development which resembled adult education as we know in
this country ... The experience, I record, added to general impressions
gathered there by countless talks with Africans and Europeans convinced me that
enormous and vigorous field of work on extension courses is ready to be
developed in large centres of population in West Africa". (Col.
Wigg, 1946 in Yousif 1974)
Later a visit was arranged by the Oxford Delegacy for Extra-Mural
Studies (ODEMS) and so a Resident Tutor Mr. J.A. Maclean came into the country
and gave a 12 week series of lectures in four regional capitals. The topic was
on "Economic History and Problems". The success of these lectures
laid the foundation for a university-based adult education in the Gold Coast.
Adult Education Movement
The year 1948 marked a turning point in the history of adult education
movement in the Gold Coast. Firstly a mass education and a community
Development project were launched. Under this project officers were appointed
to carry out development programmes including literacy classes through which a
large number of adults learnt how to read and write.
In addition, in order to sustain the adult education programme that has
been set in motion the ODEMS sent David Kimble to the Gold Coast to continue
the liberal adult education programme and to develop an adult education
movement similar to the Workers Education programme (WEA) in Britain. David
Kimble at the onset organised sessional courses for 24 weeks on "Problems
of Modern Government" a topic which was appropriate, for it was during
that period that nationalist agitation for Independence was at
The same year the University College of Gold Coast was established to
provide degree courses in the humanities. In April that same year the Oxford
Delegacy for Extra-Mural Studies was absorbed into the University College. It was
made Department of Extra-Mural Studies with David Kimble as its first Director.
The People's Educational Association (PEA) was also established in 1949.
this association has similar features like the WEA. It is a national,
voluntary, non-sectarian, non-party political, mass education organization,
which embraces adults from all walks of life. This organization provided the
ordinary people in society a chance to develop their potentials through liberal
education. And as John Blyth (1983) explained at the heart of English extension work was a belief that ordinary men
and women should have the opportunity to reflect upon the great philosophical
questions related to life. The PEA thus became a strong vehicle that the
department could use to stimulate and satisfy the demands of adults for any
university-based adult education programme. Branches of this organization
throughout the country organized their own liberal education as well as action
community development programmes that helped to change the life patterns of
The Annual New Year and Easter Schools
The Department of Extra-Mural Studies organizes the first New Year
School at Komenda in the Central region in 1949, under the theme The Komenda Village Project and Adult
Education. The School has been going on continuously since that time. The
most recent one was the 46th Annual New Year School which was held again in the
Central region at the University of Cape Coast. It had as its theme The Family and Sustainable Environment;
the previous year's School had as its theme Population
and Development. Apart from these we have Easter Schools, the 1994 School
had as its theme Population and the
Family in Northern Ghana, as it is known the United Nations declared 1994
as the International Year of the Family.
It is seen clearly that both schools normally deliberate on both National and
Inter-national issues that concern the development of man and his environment.
Some Adult Education Programmes Launched in the Past
In 1951 the C.P.P. Party after winning the first general elections
launched as Accelerated Development Plan for Education. Included in this plan
was a national campaign to combat illiteracy and to support village and
community development. These programmes were carried out by the department of
Social Welfare and Community Development in the mid-1960s.
In 1952 education for Trade Unionists was organized as an experimental
course for trade union and cooperative students. In 1954 a residential course
was also held at the Awudome Residential Adult College (ARAC) in the Volta region on the themeThe Foundations of Gold Coast Development.
In December the same year an Inter-African Seminar on Adult Education in a Changing Africa was organized at the University College of the
Gold Coast at Legon. The Seminar, sponsored by UNESCO, studied the organization
and problems of Adult Education and some wider problems connected with change
in Africa, which
form the context for educational development in Africa. One hundred and ten (110)
representatives from 12 African states, five extra-Mural departments and
Voluntary Organizations in adult education attended the Seminar.
Present Adult Education Programmes
In 1962 Workers' Colleges were established initially in six regional
capitals in Ghana. These colleges were established to be the focal points of the
Institute's programmes covering General Certificate of Education at both
ordinary and Advanced levels. Informal lectures, symposia, workshops and
non-formal educational activities like income-generating as well as Community
development projects were also organized. At present all the Workers' Colleges,
which are now located in all the 10 regional capitals continue to offer various
formal, informal and non-formal adult education programmes, based on the needs
of their clientele, in effect the colleges offer utilitarian certificated
courses as well as Community Education and development programmes. These
programmes are meant to assist communities in finding solutions to their
problems. The Accra Workers' College in addition runs part-time degree courses
for working adults in the capital.
The Role of Community Newspapers
In 1976 the Institute of Adult Education launched its first Community
Newspaper called Kpodoga in the Volta
region. Now we have others the Daworo
for the Upper West Region, Kasem-Gurune
Upper East Region and Enkaakyire for
the Brong Ahafo Region. These community newspapers are meant to inform people,
provide a forum for the ex-change of views and to promote literacy and
non-formal educational programmes geared towards development. In addition these
papers are also to serve as back-ups for post-literacy materials for the
Institute's integrated rural and community development programmes.
Since 1992 the German Adult Education Association (DVV), which has been
a major funding agency of the Institute, has developed a "learning
revolving fund" which helps rural adult learning groups, particularly
women, with financial assistance. Some groups of women involved in pottery in
the Volta region had enjoyed this facility. Through the DVV the "Kpando
Type Kiln" (KTK) is now being used by many pottery communities to fire
their pottery. This new modern method helps to minimize production hazards that
go with exposure to open fires while generating higher incomes. This new
technique is being adopted in other regions in the country.
The Ghana Environmental Management Literacy Project
The Institute in collaboration with the Institute of Renewable Natural
Resources (IRNR) of the University of Science and Technology in the Ashanti
region, the Lakehead University and Con-federation College both in Canada has
established an environmental management project. It is de-signed to provide
technical support and to train adult educators and community leaders in natural
resource and environmental management and adult literacy. This programme is
operating in the Northern Sector of Ghana, where desertification has become a
Mass Media Support for Adult Population Education Project (MMSAPE)
Furthermore, the Institute of Adult Education launched a three year
project in 1993 aimed at disseminating information on family planning, AIDS and
Women-in-Development and other population issues in three regions of the
country. These are Volta, Upper East and Upper West regions as well as the
Workers' Colleges. The project is designed to integrate population,
in-formation, education and communication activities into the Institute's
non-formal education programmes. It is also meant to increase the level of
awareness among the youth on the importance of family planning. The project is
funded by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) with
technical support provided by the John Hopkins University Centre for Communication
programmes in the U.S.A.
The Role of NGOs in the Promotion of Adult Education
The important role NGOs are playing in the field of adult education
cannot be over-emphasized for, many NGOs in Ghana are involved with various
types of adult education programmes on health, population and developmental
issues. For instance FIDA (Federation of Women Lawyers) have various programmes
which include legal aid programmes for women. World Vision has a series of
community development programmes like the digging of water boreholes in areas
where the provision of water is a serious problem, and skill training in income
generating activities for women. ADRA has numerous environmental education
programmes to combat the problem of desertification and deforestation which are
common in the Northern part of the country.
The P.P.A.G. is an international organization that deals with population
and family planning programmes. A newly formed NGO known as the African
Association for Health, Environment and Development (AAHEAD) focuses its
attention on health issues like reproductive rights, family life education,
which includes planning, the utilization and management of environment, and
income-generating activities. The programmes are organised for both rural and
urban youth and adults to enable them to adjust to new social situations.
This programme, which was started by the Institute in 1970 for
organising G.C.E. Ordinary level course, has now taken a new dimension. Very
soon a national distance education at the tertiary level would take off. This
it is hoped would help widen the access of tertiary education to qualified
adults who cannot get the chance at the country's five Universities.
Teaching Adult Education as a Discipline
Now the Institute of Adult Education is teaching its own specialist
course in Adult Education at the Certificate, Diploma, Masters and M.Phil.
Future of Adult Education in Ghana
As we prepare towards the 21st century, the focus on adult education
would be based on challenges that are facing the country. Professional courses
which would enhance the competence of practitioners like agriculturalists,
accountants, teachers, and religious leaders would be encouraged and sustained.
programmes for upgrading the occupational skills of workers and small-scale
industrialists would also be carried out.
Attention would also be focused on major problem areas dealing with
health issues like maternal and child health care, family planning, teenage
pregnancy, and AIDS, in effect family health issues.
Other areas that need attention include civic awareness, illiteracy and
environmental management. At the moment the utilization and management of Ghana's
environment have serious problems such as pollution, deforestation and desertification.
These have become major national issues and therefore a big challenge to adult
The illiteracy rate in the country is still high and so the Non-formal
Education Division of the Ministry of Education (N.F.E.D.) is collaborating
with other agencies to combat the problem of adult illiteracy in the country,
these efforts would be further strengthened. The Institute of Education which
is spearheading the promotion of a University-based Adult Education is not
resting on its oars towards the implementation of its programmes for the
betterment of our society.
We are indeed hopeful
that with an efficient use of our scarce national resources we would be able to
face the challenges that lie ahead of all adult educators in Ghana.