Predictors of education outcomes for children in agricultural households in the cocoa growing areas of Ghana
All over the world, in countries both rich and poor, education is touted as a path to a better life – both for the individual and for the nation as a whole. Education is a process of improvement not just in subject knowledge, but in human capabilities. It is recognized as such a fundamental imperative that the right to free education is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although school enrollment rates in the developing world have shown steady improvement, there is growing concern that many children who do attend school are not acquiring the skills they need to raise their living standards. Millions of children with basic educations are still unable to read. Nationally, Ghana’s education indicators point to more successful education development than most of its West and Sub-Saharan African neighbors, but there is evidence that the quality of education provided, especially in rural areas, is quite poor. This research explores the significance of children’s work and school instructional environment as predictors of school participation and achievement of basic literacy (after controlling for relevant child, household, community, and macro factors) for children in agricultural households in the cocoa growing areas of Ghana. Children’s development issues in Ghana’s rural cocoa growing areas came under international scrutiny following reports in the early 2000s of widespread worst forms of child labor (WFCL) among children working in cocoa production, and children’s work is often believed to come at the expense of their education. The findings in this analysis suggest that the number of hours children in agricultural households in the cocoa growing areas of Ghana spend working reduces the probability of basic literacy (even after controlling for number of completed grades of schooling and other factors), although the magnitude of the effect for broader group of children was much more limited than that of the effect for the sub-group of children who had ever attended school. The findings also suggest that hours of work decrease grade attainment for the population under study. Poor teacher attendance was found to be negatively associated with achievement of basic literacy, while use of corporal punishment in the classroom and religious school attendance were positively associated with achievement of basic literacy. Religious school attendance, although reported by very few children in the sample, was also positively associated with number of grades completed. Additional research is needed to better understand the possible effects of school instructional environment on children’s school attendance and persistence.