The contentious debate of whether Leaders are born or made has been raging for centuries without a convincing win by either side. What is certain is that some leadership skills can be learned. It is therefore not surprising that most leaders can trace their steps back to their leadership roles from basic school through to tertiary level education.

In Ghana, a school prefect is a pupil who has been given certain responsibilities in the school, to monitor or oversee safety (discipline) protocols to be followed by students. Prefects are required to show respect towards teachers and pupils because as leaders, this is very important in their duties.  Prefects have advantages over teachers in maintaining discipline among pupils; such that learners look up to them, and as such enforcing the rules is a much easier job for prefects than teachers.

There are a number of student prefect positions in the basic and second cycle schools, however, the most recognized are the senior prefect (main) and their assistants. It is no doubt that positions for prefects in the mixed-sex schools are one to two slots maximum; and two to three slots for senior prefects in the single-sex schools.

The argument is that senior prefect positions in basic and second cycle school (mixed) students leadership should be given to competent boys and girls and not only boys. There is a stereotype of hegemonic masculinity that consciously and unconsciously influences our expectations of what leadership should be.

Female education in Ghana from 1998-2001 showed steady progress with approximately 4.0% increase, today, in some parts of the country girls dominate in their student population. It’s quite impressive how the girl-child is gradually responding to this change most advocates like (Camfed;send your girl child to school campaign, FAWE Ghana Chapter, Canada Feed the Children 1999, GCEP 1997, Action Aid Ghana, Catholic Relief Services;ESP 1997 and many others) who seek progress in girl child education yearned for. Those great times paved ways for over millions of girls to access education and raised the bar with a significant increase of 0.44% since 2008. From 2009-2012 and date it shall marvel you how greatly girls attendants are gradually turning despite our hollows. According to Ministry of Education, “EMIS”, 2016/2017; enrollment rate in Primary, Junior High and Senior High schools are as follows,

NER (Net Enrollment Rate) for boys in Primary schools is 92.1% and 92.4%for girls whereas NAR (Net Admission Rate) for boys in primary schools is 84.8% and 85.3% for girls. In Junior High schools, NER for boys is 47.4% and 46.0% for girls whereas NAR in Junior High schools for boys is 49.1% and 49.3% for girls. In Senior High schools, NER for boys is 26.1% and 27.0% for girls whereas NAR for boys is 14.9% and 16.0% for girls.

This analysis shows clearly the improvement of Girl Child enrollment in schools in Ghana in the year 2016/2017. Despite the progress made in girls’ education, there are still some challenges in regards to girls’ education and Student Leadership.

Year-in-year-out, a number of studies have been sponsored by a variety of institutions, there is a need to stimulate and sustain research interest in girls’ education. Two key surveys by Sutherland-Addy et al 1995 (Statistical and Policy) and Boakye 1997 (summary of research) provide a comprehensive view on trends. Others evaluate initiatives such as the STME, scholarship schemes for girls and gender sensitivity of educational materials.  But we are yet to see research on student leadership. Whether or not the girl child is given equal opportunity to lead as a senior prefect, the way it’s given to boys in the mixed sex schools.

Girls’ education is supposed to have an impact on their leadership interest, yet they seem to be shut out even in the center of equality.  There has been little or no impact on girls’ leadership in basic and second cycle schools. After many years of campaign and advocacy on sending the girl child to school, Ghana has not been aroused again on the potencies of this change and advocacy. Girl child education in Ghana is over time gaining roots in the soils of our education history.

Today in our education, it almost seems sending girls to school is not just enough. Girls strive, yearn and prepare to become leaders, which they are not given the space to. Even in the twenty-first century, the Ghanaian girl child still suffers discrimination on the face of student leadership.

In a recent survey, which was conducted by the Substantial Ladies in Governance this year, to investigate the reality of both male and female students standing an equal chance of becoming senior prefect? The survey evidently showed a greater percentage of 93 for boys already occupying senior prefect positions with a marginalized percentage of 7 for girls. One must understand that the human rights of girls across all social, economic and political life are deeply intertwined and divisible and are greatly shaped through education. Many people attest to the facts that men are good leaders but women make better leaders anytime this argument comes up, with men attesting to the same facts.

This means Ghana stands a better chance to produce many great female leaders, right from the basic and second cycle schools, if we start to introduce young girls to leadership opportunities-in basic and second cycle schools as we do to boys. In the sense that, there is always a girls and boys prefects positions and there is another senior prefect who is always a boy. There is always a girl’s and boy’s prefects; but the senior prefect position is consciously or unconsciously referred to the boys. This creates an impression of limitation to leadership for girls even at the ultimate positions.

Over the time, the face of our local student leadership in basic and second cycle schools in Ghana has always been the boy child, giving very little or no representation for girls. This is making gender-equality in many sectors unfavorable and also this clearly contributes to the very low representation of females in our economic, political and governance sectors as a country.

However, we still believe this can be changed. It’s never too late rethinking these as Ghanaians. We can start with creating space for girls to lead in our various schools. We can gradually draw the equality line for competent students from both sexes to lead and not to tag the senior prefect positions in the basic and second cycle schools as though it is a male.

The Education Minister; Dr. Mathew OpokuPrempeh, Director of Ghana Education Service; Mr. Opoku Amankwa, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Hon. Cynthia Mamle Morrison, please relook into this and help induce a policy which can equally favor the girl child in her quest for leadership, even from basic school.

Akoswa Fremah Linda
(Substantial Ladies in Governance)