Thursday, July 3, 2014
GOVERNMENT'S IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SANITARY PADS INTERVENTION UNDER THE GHANA SECONDARY SCHOOL EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT PROJECT: A SIGN OF MISPLACED PRIORITY?
Indeed, our secondary school education system is challenged with huge infrastructural backlog, which inevitably generates adverse implications for enrollment and performance. So yes, there is ample justification for Government’s implementation of the Ghana Secondary School Education Improvement Project using the USD156 million World Bank loan facility.
That said, the ‘freebies’ component of the project, particularly the decision to provide free sanitary pads to some select Senior High School (SHS) girls is rather ill-informed. Only yesterday I had tuned-in to Citi FM’s morning show and heard Dr. Kpessa Whyte, a presidential staffer, lambasting Civil Society Organizations for proffering solutions that are replete with personal opinions and emotions rather than being guided by scientific research. So the basic question is: Was the decision to provide free sanitary pads to SHS girls informed by research? Even if that was the case, is that really a priority for government to secure a World Bank loan, not grant, to pursue cognizant of the serious challenges we are faced with at this material moment? No, it is not!
In any case, I have seen the results for the Oxford University pilot study purporting a linkage between sanitary pads intervention and girl-child education in Ghana, which, as cited by the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr. Ablakwa, on Citi FM this morning, had somewhat informed this intervention. By adopting 3 treatment scenarios (1st: 60 SHS girls who received sanitary pads and puberty education; 2nd: 25 SHS girls who benefited from only puberty education and 3rd: 35 SHS girls who served as control for the study, meaning they did not benefit from either of these interventions), the study (Montgomery et al., 2012) showed that over a period of 5 months, average school attendance for the 1st scenario had increased by 9-10% as compared to a decline of 4.4% for the 3rd scenario. Meaning that for SHS girls who had not benefited from both interventions, average school attendance dropped by 4.4% after 5 months.
Interestingly, over the same period, average school attendance for the 2nd scenario increased by approximately 12%. If this result is anything to go by, then it would mean that in terms of policy, going for the 2nd scenario, that is, intensifying puberty education only for SHS girls would yield the same or even higher school retention outcomes than the sanitary pads plus puberty education option. In reality, what this implies is that the sanitary pad provision per se makes no contribution to school attendance. Perhaps, an inclusion of a fourth scenario, comprising of SHS girls who receive only sanitary pads without puberty education could have told a better impact story than these rather crude results.
Well, ignoring the study and its methodological issues however, how sure are we that SHS girls skip school just because they lack sanitary pads? Could that not also be attributable to cramps during that ‘moment’ or any other factor? So gradually government is shirking its core responsibility to take on the role of parents/guardians. In that same ‘freebies’ component, there is some free school bags distribution or so. Taking loans to engage in such consumptive public expenditures is not the right way to go given the state of affairs. It would be prudent for government to rather focus on intensifying puberty education for these girls, which according to study cited above, generates the same results as sanitary pads with education intervention. Nonetheless, If government decides to go ahead with the implementation of the sanitary pads intervention, I hope the right procurement processes would be adopted to safeguard against corrupt practices.
But in case you did not know, the Community Development Department that is supposed to spear-head development, in other words work to improve the livelihoods of poor people so they are able to meet some of these household needs and more in the North Gonja district run on a total imprest of GHS20.00 (equivalent of US$7.00) last year, I mean 2013.