Very little light illuminates the abandoned railway line that cuts down the center of the squatter community of Kejetia. The large field where the rusting tracks lay unconnected and the train station simply wasn’t built sits in the centre of Kumasi’s business district.
It is very dark at night despite the constant hustle and bustle of shop owners packing up their goods and chatting with customers. The stalls serve as both businesses and homes for many of the people who live in the area are unique, each selling items ranging from belts and bags, to banku and kenkey.
Among the shops a group of young women pack up quietly on a raised wooden platform. Victoria, 23, originally from the Brong Ahafo Region, says that when she was young, a woman brought her to Kumasi under the guise of being able to care for her. Instead, Victoria was forced to sell sachets of pure water, and as a result, she did not attend school.
Now, she says she no longer sees education as an option, as she has to sell banku to support her two-year-old daughter Francisca.
“I would love it if education in Ghana is free. As a result of the kind of struggles people have to go through, there’s no money in the system, there’s poverty in the system,” she said in Twi, the main language of the Ashanti Region.
“If the politicians should go on ahead and make education free, I would be more than excited if they would only implement it and move away from the talks. I would love it,” she added.
The Ghanaian constitution states that, “all persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities […],” and as such, “basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all.”
Ghana’s Ministry of Education eliminated basic education fees in 2005, and 75 per cent of girls were attending school as of 2010, according to statistics released by UNICEF.
Yet the group of women in Kejetia say poverty has been the main obstacle that stopped them from getting an education.
Rukaya, 19, moved from her town of Bokoe in the Northern Region to Kumasi because she had heard from travellers that it was possible to make a lot of money in the city.
Rukaya has never been to school and says she feels that education is still a privilege for people who can afford to send their children to school, instead of requiring that they work instead.
Both Victoria and Rukaya say they feel it is too late for them to get an education and want to return to their hometowns when they save up enough money, which will be difficult since they work for “masters” or “mistresses” who control their wages.
The young women say they hope to be traders – Victoria says she hopes to sell cosmetics and Rukaya says she wants to learn how to become a dressmaker.
Despite their disenchantment with the educational system, Victoria says she still hopes Francisca can go to school to become a lawyer or nurse.
“If I had the means, I would allow Francisca to get the education that I couldn’t have.”