Ghana, a West African nation and former British Colony, is the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from European colonial rule. Ghana gained independence in 1957 through the effort of Kwame Nkrumah, and this spurred other neighboring African countries also to fight for their independence. Ghana is rich in culture, natural resources and so forth. The region was formally known as Gold Coast because trade in the region was formally centered on Gold. Ghana is notable not only for Gold mining but also for the production of cocoa, tourism and so forth (“Ghana”, 2009: Maier, 2014).
Ghana as a West African and a developing country faces a number of social problems such as poverty, poor education and social security and so forth. Ghana, just like Haiti faces a similar problem of poor educational facilities, however, recent efforts by Ghanaian government goes a long way to speeding up development in Ghana. Unemployment is a major problem in Ghana that has played its role to increase poverty in different parts of Ghana, especially the Northern Ghana. Majority of people in the Northern part of Ghana live in abject poverty, a situation very similar to some part of Haiti and in many developing countries of the world. (“Ghana”, 2009: Maier, 2014).
The comparison of Ghana and Haiti will help to observe and evaluate the factors that make these developing countries unique and also to see what makes them stay below the watermark in terms of development. The purpose of this study is to examine the factors that characterize global social problems such as poverty, poor education in developing nations of the world such as Ghana. In addition, ensure the right steps that could be taken to alleviate these social problems. These could also be applicable to other developing nations of the world. These studies are important because it can help countries struggling below the poverty level to make profound development.
Social Problems in Ghana
The social problems in Ghana began since its independence. Jeffrey (2006) outlined that Ghana became an "economic miracle" in Africa through the Structural Adjustment Program and help of IMF/World Bank. The Ghanaian government has to resort to the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) because the country's economy was on the brink of destruction in the 1980s. No option was left for the country other than to adopt the program in its entirety. The 1980s economic crisis not only affected Ghana but also numerous other countries of the world. Ghana was the single one third world country that lost 99% of its skill nationals. This explains why the 1980s was referred to as the "Lost decade for Africa".
Ghana as a developing country suffers a number of health problems. These include communicable diseases, inadequate sanitations and poor nutrition ( Annim, Mariwahc and Sebu, 2012). This is made worse by poverty and poor education in the West African country. Of course, the government of Ghana has made efforts towards improving public health, nutrition, maternal and child care in Ghana. However, the increasing population more than counterbalances the efforts made by the government such that it is hardly felt. Education is another aspect that worth considering. Even though Ghana has one of the best educational systems in West Africa, it still lags behind in education when compared to developed countries of the world. (Maier, 2014). Literacy level is high in Ghana that is 75% of the populace with female literacy in Ghana is around 58%. This means that 58% of females in Ghana having the age over 15 can read and write. Although the figure is low but in comparison with other African countries like Burkina Faso, it is high.
The Ghana Living Standards Survey revealed that more than 31 percent of the Ghanaian's per capita expenditure levels were below the upper poverty line in 1992 and also up to 15 percent below a lower poverty line. In Ghana, poverty is found to be mainly in the Rural Forest and Rural Savannah areas. These regions account for about 60 percent of the total poverty in the country. The depth and incidence of poverty is found to be greatest in the Savannah region. Accra, the capital of Ghana, has the lowest incidence of poverty, which is at 23 percent of its population (Coleman, 2012: 2462; The World Bank Group, 2011). According to UNICEF (2009), that 28.5% of the Ghanaian population lives below the national poverty line, and also 18% of the citizens can be categorized as extremely poor.
Poverty is well marked by gender in the Northern region of Ghana and to a small extent in other regions. This is because of the traditional roles played by women in the rural economic activities. Women are responsible for 40 percent of all household agricultural activities and agricultural processing activities in the Rural Coastal and Rural Forest. More so, women are given the responsibility of taking care of children and also catering for other household necessities such as cooking, fetching water and so forth. Studies went further to show that women in rural household spend up to 37 minutes per day in fetching water. In Rural Savannah this household duty takes between 48 and 70 minutes per day (World Bank Group, 2011).
UNICEF (2009) argues that the education is another significant risk that children are facing in Ghana. It went further to say that this may even translate into disadvantage in the course of the person's life and also through his or her generations. Studies show that the only three-quarter of Ghanaian primary age children attends school at the right age. The capital of Ghana has the highest primary school attendance rate of 86.6% while the Northern region has primary school attendance of 54.6%. The Upper West was reported as 60.4% but on average the primary school net attendance ratio was observed 75.3% in 2006 according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.
Haitian versus Ghanaian Social Problem
Ghana and Haiti share similar features in terms of global social problems, but a thorough look into these problems will reveal that Ghana is quite better than Haiti in terms of education, poverty and so forth. Both countries are developing which suffer immensely due to poverty and corruption, but many other factors aggravate Haiti's poverty and social problems as shortly examined in this study.
A good example of this is their educational system. Haiti’s educational system is very much underdeveloped when compared to Ghana, even though Ghana also has an underdeveloped educational system. In fact, Anderson (2007) pointed out that one of the factors contributing towards widespread poverty in Haiti is the underdeveloped educational system. The lack in proper equipment makes it difficult for the system to provide standard and quality education to the children. Haiti has a very low recurrent education budget. As per Bates and Ciment (2012), the Haitian government spends an insignificant part of its GDP on its educational system. The scenario is quite different in Ghana where the government spends heavily on the educational sector. According to Coutsoukis ( 2004), 20.1 percent of the total central Ghanaian government expenditure was spent on education in 1972 and about 25.7 percent was spent on education in 1989. In fact, Ghana has one of the highest expenditures in education among other sub-Saharan countries. However, the Ghanaian government has successfully shifted the educational cost onto students particularly at the university level in the recent years.
However, Haiti and Ghana share great similarity when it comes to poverty. UNICEF (2009) pointed out that poverty and food insecurity rates are much higher in the three northern regions of Ghana than other parts of Ghana. More so, the northern region also suffers greatly in the context of child and maternal mortality rates. Access to standard health facility is significantly lower in the three northern regions of Ghana compared to other parts of the country. Studies show that 64% of the Ghanaian population is poor (UNICEF, 2009). This is very close to Haiti poverty data which has 75% of its population living under abject poverty.
Ghana is quite better in poverty and literacy when compared to Haiti. Both countries have different factors causing social problems and poverty. For instance, Haiti's social problem is largely caused by political instability. The government of Haiti is unstable, and this largely causes poverty and social problems. As a result, the country is devoid or order. Even though education is free by law in Haiti for children having age between age 6-11 (Encarta, 2009). The most Haitian children pursue primary education through non-state institutions. Ghanaian social problems, although caused by corruption in the country, have other factors triggering it. Jeffry (2006) highlighted three factors that exacerbated the Ghana's problems. It includes the events that took place in the 1980s referred as the "Lost decade for Africa" and caused the bankruptcy in the country. The structural adjustment program went a long way to helping Ghana address these problems but at the same time the country ran into a lot of debts.
However, the Government of Ghana (GoG) has made an effort to address much of its social problems and, as a result, Ghana is considered as a success story in Africa. Even though poverty and other social problems remain to a reasonable extent in Ghana but the efforts made by the government has addressed these issues effectively and hence made the country better than Haiti. Jeffrey (2006) also outlined that during the period of 2000 to 2005, Ghana has been able to reduce inflation from over 40% to about 15%. This has reduced poverty greatly in this sub-Saharan country.
Analysis of Comparative Social Problems
The social problem in Haiti has some similarity as well as some difference with Ghana. Firstly, this is reflected in the education of these two countries. Ghana has a more developed educational system than Haiti. Of course, primary school education in Haiti is compulsory according to the law (Encarta, 2009) but most Haitians hardly go to public schools because of the educational system in the country. In the case of Ghana, the Government of Ghana sponsors the primary education to a reasonable extent, unlike Haiti. In fact, Ghana is one of the sub-Saharan countries where the government spends a good portion of the budget on education. This makes education in Ghana better off than that of Haiti even though the two countries have underdeveloped educational system when compared to the educational systems of developed countries of the world. According to Anderson (2007), underdeveloped educational system is one of the prime factors that contributing to the widespread poverty in Haiti. The educational system in Haiti lacks requisite equipment and also the government spends very little portion of its GDP on education but the government of Ghana spent up to 25.7% of its expenditure on education in 1989.
Illiteracy is more in Haiti than in Ghana. There are limited educational opportunity in Haiti, and only 55% of the adult population is literate. On the other hand, Ghana has a better record (Encarta, 2009). The adult literacy rate was recorded as 76.9 percent with male and female literacy of 84 and 69.8 percent respectively in 2005. This is because that Ghana’s educational system is open to all and also poverty in Ghana is less than in Haiti. In addition, as at 1996, the Government of Ghana (GoG) spent 20 percent of the national budget on education making it easily accessible by the masses.
Another parameter to consider is poverty and food insecurity. Both countries (Haiti and Ghana) suffer from food insecurity but as per statistical records it is obvious that Haiti suffers more from scarcity and insecurity of food than Ghana. Nyantakyl-Frimpong (2013) outlined that food insecurity is more prevalent in the northern savannah region of Ghana as compared to the southern regions. In the case of Haiti, poverty and food insecurity abound. Haiti has been repeatedly affected by political crisis and a series of natural disasters in the last twenty years (World Food Programme, 2014). This greatly causes food insecurity in the country. Furthermore, three-quarter of Haitians live on less than USD2 per day and a half of the population earn less than USD1 per day. Poverty and insecurity issue in Haiti seem to be a hopeless case. In addition, the majority of the children below five years in the developing countries are sternly malnourished (USLC, 2009). Haiti is the third poorest nation on the globe and the poorest western country. 75 percent of the Haiti population lives below the poverty line.
Haiti's social problem is similar to Ghana's social problem to a large extent and thus they can be addressed with a similar method. For instance, Haiti's problem can be solved with fundamental reform and also the country should embrace its macroeconomic stability. Similarly, Ghana can address its problem in the same way. However, the structural adjustment program (SAP) has gone a long way to reforming Ghana and hence the country does not need such fundamental reform as Haiti does. However, Ghana, just like Haiti, needs to boost private investment by making the economy robust. Just like Haiti, Ghana should need to focus on capitalization programs like electricity, telecommunications, ports, water sector, especially in rural parts of Ghana such as the Northern region of Ghana.
Ghana's social problem is very similar to Haiti social problem, but there are differences. Most scholars blame the impact of the structural policies for Ghana's economic woes while others credited the policy for opening up the economy. In order to address social problem in Ghana, it is important to strengthen the social welfare service for children and promote synergies with other dimensions of social protection. UNICEF (2009) emphasized to address the wide range of socio-cultural, economic, and gendered issues to which children are vulnerable. The social welfare programs which provide responsive and preventative child protection services should be continued.
World Bank Group (2004) also pointed out that the government social expenditures are not well targeted to the poor. The report went further to outline that the bottom quintile of the populace gained only 16 percent of public education spending as well as 12 percent of government expenditures on health in 1992. That contrasts with the top quintile's share of education spending that account for 21 percent of the total subsidy and of health that is 33 percent. In order to address this social problem, it is important to balance the government expenditure on spending and health between the rich in the upper quintile and the poor in the lower quintile. Some programs initiated by the Government of Ghana are targeted at benefiting the poor in the lower quintile. These programs include National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS); National Health Insurance Scheme abbreviated as NHIS, the School Feeding Program and so forth (UNICEF, 2009)
Child labor is a major issue in Ghana, spurred by poverty in the country. UNICEF (2009) also pointed out that the extent to which children suffer exploitation, abuse or violence is another key aspect of children vulnerability in Ghana. Poverty spurs child protection problems such as child labor, trafficking and sexual exploitation. One solution to this problem is to address the issue of poverty. This is mostly prevalent in the Northern part of Ghana. The source of data on this social problem should also be made available in order to make it easy to address these social problems.
In addition, programs like NHIS should be straightened. NHIS provides a large part of the population with affordable access to health services and also facilitated against catastrophic health costs in a relatively short period. It is also important to adopt the NSPS formally as it will provide a coherent to the overall framework for the country’s expanding portfolio of social protection programs.
Jeffrey (2006) argued that no major infrastructure development has been taken since Dr Nkrumah left the political scene. Thus, the social problem in Ghana can also be addressed by ensuring massive investment in the country. As a matter of fact, Ghana’s railroad, motorways, hospitals, schools and rural electrification need massive investments. The government can raise revenue through national investment schemes. He further added that Ghana can reduce its poverty to the level observed in Asian NICs (Newly Industrialized Countries) and achieved middle-income status by 2014 lies with the political elite. In other words, the political elite have roles to play in order to mitigate the situation in Ghana. To achieve the desired success, the political elite should have the necessary leadership skills to take hard and painful decisions in order to alleviate poverty. However, Ghana is inroad into alleviating poverty and also improving standard of living in every aspect.
The paper reviewed social problems, taking Ghana as a case study. It uses logic of comparison explain why a study of the social problem in Ghana is an interesting one. There are numerous things to learn from the social problem in global social scenario. One of which is learning how to take the economy a notch higher. Ghana's social problems are mostly associated with poor educational system, poverty, food insecurity and even unemployment. Studies show that these social problems are mostly prevalent in the Northern part of Ghana and rural areas. In addition, the paper compared the social problem in Ghana with that of Haiti and came to the conclusion that the problems in these two underdeveloped have similarities even though they are unique. For instance, both Ghana and Haiti has underdeveloped educational system. The similarity implies that they can be addressed with the same parameters to a reasonable extent, but the uniqueness implies that the government in both countries has to do more in order to solve the social problem.
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