, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 351–365 | Cite as

Whose voices are being heard? Mechanisms for community participation in education in northern Ghana

  • Obed Mfum-MensahEmail author
  • Sophia Friedson-Ridenour
Open file


This article reports on a study of community participation in School for Life, a complementary education programme operating in northern Ghana. The researchers investigated three components of community participation: the nature of the mechanisms used to engage community members as participants in the education process; the actors who engage as participants in education; and the factors that enhance or inhibit an individual’s involvement. They found that this programme uses five approaches that work together to make it a viable mechanism to engage communities, and that community members are engaged at various levels, depending on each person’s previous exposure to education. Moreover, regardless of the level at which members participate, doing so empowers the individual and the community.


Universal basic education Community involvement Ghana Curriculum Education for All (EFA) 


  1. ADEA [Association for the Development of Education in Africa] (2001). Accelerated literacy for out-of-school youth in Francophone West Africa. Tunis: ADEA.
  2. Akukwe, G. N., & Chapman, D. W. (2006). Sustaining community participation: What remains after the money ends? International Review of Education, 52(6), 509–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akyeampong, K. (2004). Aid for self-help effort? A sustainable alternative route to basic education in northern Ghana. Journal of International Cooperation in Education, 7(1), 41–52.Google Scholar
  4. Apple, M. (2008). Can schooling contribute to a more just society? Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 3(3), 239–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arkorful, K. K. D. (2013). Complementary education programme and the opportunity to learn in the Northern Region of Ghana. Unpublished doctor of philosophy thesis, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom.Google Scholar
  6. Atakpa, S. K. (1996). Factors affecting female participation in education in relation to the northern scholarship scheme. Accra: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
  7. Binda, K. P. (1999). Administering schools in a culturally diverse environment: New developments in administering First Nations schools in Canada. Paper presented at the Symposium of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management, Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada, April 19–23, 1999.Google Scholar
  8. Blakemore, K. P. (1975). Resistance to formal education in Ghana: Its implications for the status of school leavers. Comparative Education Review, 5(3), 237–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bopp, M. (1994). The illusive essential: Evaluating participation in non-formal education and community development processes. Convergence, 27(1), 23–45.Google Scholar
  10. Bryson, J. M., Quick, K. S., Slotterback, C. S., & Crosby, B. C. (2012). Designing public participation process. Public Administration Review, 73(1), 23–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell, L. M., & Vainio-Mattila, L. M. (2003). Participatory development and community-based conservation: Opportunities missed for lessons learned? Human Ecology, 31(3), 417–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Casely-Hayford, L., & Ghartey, A. B. (2007). The leap to literacy and life change in northern Ghana: An impact assessment of School for Life.
  13. Chapman, D., Barcikowski, E., Sowah, M., & Gyamera, E. (2002). Do communities know best? Testing a premise of educational decentralization: Community members’ perception of their local schools in Ghana. International Journal of Educational Development, 22(2), 181–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crowther, J. (2000). Participation in adult and community education: A discourse of diminishing returns. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 19(6), 479–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. DeStefano, J. (2006). Meeting EFA: Zambia community schools. EQUIP2 case study. Washington, DC: Educational Quality Improvement Program 2 (EQUIP2), Academy for Educational Development (AED).Google Scholar
  16. Deyhle, D. (1986). Success and failure: A micro-ethnographic comparison of Navajo and Anglo students’ perception of testing. Curriculum Inquiry, 16(4), 365–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evans, D. R. (1983). Participation in non-formal education at the local level: Ghana and Indonesia. In J. C. Bock & G. J. Papagiannis (Eds.), Nonformal education and national development (pp. 271–294). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  18. Farrell, J. P. (1998). Improving learning: Perspectives for primary education in rural Africa. Paper prepared for a World Bank- and UNESCO-sponsored regional workshop with the support of the Norwegian Trust, Lusaka, Zambia, December 6–11.Google Scholar
  19. Farrell, J. P., & Mfum-Mensah, O. (2002). A preliminary analytical framework for comparative analysis of alternative primary education programs in developing nations. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 470437.Google Scholar
  20. Folson, R. B. (1995). The contribution of formal education to economic development and economic underdevelopment: Ghana as a paradigm. Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  21. GoG [Government of Ghana] (2003). Ghana poverty reduction strategy 2003–2005: An agenda for growth and prosperity. Analysis and policy statement. Accra: GoG.Google Scholar
  22. Hall, E. T. (1985). Unstated features of the cultural context of learning. In A. Thomas & E. T. Plowman (Eds.), Learning and development in a global perspective (pp. 157–176). Toronto: OISE Press.Google Scholar
  23. Harris, A. M. (1998). School–community relationship: A Namibian case study. Master’s thesis, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.Google Scholar
  24. Hartwell, A. S. (2006). Meeting EFA: Ghana School for Life. EQUIP2 case study. Washington, DC: Educational Quality Improvement Program 2 (EQUIP2), Academy for Educational Development (AED).
  25. Hoppers, W. (2005). Community schools as an educational alternative in Africa: A critique. International Review of Education, 51(2–3), 115–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kaplan, M. H., & Tune, R. D. (1978). Citizens in public education: Five levels of participation. Community Education Journal, 6(3), 14–16.Google Scholar
  27. Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. In L. E. Beyer & M. W. Apple (Eds.), The curriculum: Problems, politics and possibilities (2d ed., pp. 201–229). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  28. Mfum-Mensah, O. (2003). Fostering educational participation in pastoral communities through non-formal education: The Ghanaian perspective. International Journal of Educational Development, 23(6), 661–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mfum-Mensah, O. (2004). Empowerment or impairment? Involving traditional communities in school management. International Review of Education, 50(2), 141–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mfum-Mensah, O. (2005). The impact of colonial and postcolonial Ghanaian language policies on vernacular use in schools in two northern Ghanaian communities. Comparative Education, 41(1), 71–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mfum-Mensah, O. (2009). An exploratory study of the curriculum development process of a complementary education program for marginalized communities in northern Ghana. Curriculum Inquiry, 39(2), 343–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mfum-Mensah, O. (2011). Education collaboration to promote school participation in northern Ghana: A case study of a complementary education program. International Journal of Educational Development, 31(5), 459–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mfum-Mensah, O., & Friedson-Ridenour, S. (2010). Community participation in complementary education programs: A case study of northern Ghana. Paper presented at 54th annual CIES conference, Chicago, March 1–5.Google Scholar
  34. Michener, V. J. (1998). The participatory approach: Contradiction and cooption in Burkina Faso. World Development, 26(12), 2105–2118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Muthuri, J. N., Chapple, W., & Moon, J. (2009). An integrated approach to implementing community participation in corporate community involvement: Lessons from Magadi Soda Company in Kenya. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(2), 431–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nettles, S. M. (1991). Community involvement and disadvantaged students: A review. Review of Educational Research, 61(3), 379–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rury, J. L. (2013). Education and social change (4th ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  38. Shaeffer, S. (1994). Participation for educational change: A synthesis of experience. Paris: UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP).Google Scholar
  39. Stephens, D. (2000). Girls and basic education in Ghana: A cultural enquiry. International Journal of Educational Development, 20(1), 29–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sultana, F. (2009). Community and participation in water resources management: Gendering and naturing development debates from Bangladesh. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 34(3), 346–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tshireletso, L. (1997). “They are the government’s children”: School and community relations in a remote area dweller (Basarwa) settlement in Kweneng District, Botswana. International Journal of Educational Development, 17(2), 173–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. UNICEF (1993). Reaching the unreached: Nonformal approaches and universal primary education. Dossier prepared for UNICEF by Rosa Maria Torres. New York: UNICEF.Google Scholar

Copyright information


Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Messiah CollegeMechanicsburgUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations