“The UN Women’s theme for International Women’s Day, 2021 is, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Kindergarten schools in Ghana were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the 16th March 2020. We pivoted our work to ensure all kindergarten children in the 12 districts we work in and their parents/carers were supported during this difficult time. We also worked to ensure our staff could continue to work safely and were supported during a time where more pressure was put on families in both the UK and Ghana.

See what some of the fantastic women we work with have been doing to help shape a more equal future during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Josephine Frimpong, Sabre’s Organisation Development Manager, has been explaining how we create gender consciousness among our staff and the effort put in place to ensure collective gains of all genders.

As part of our agenda to strengthen gender awareness to achieve an equal future, we continue to engage gender educators/consultants who train our staff to be more gender-aware and offer support to one another in achieving a common purpose. We ensure that the opinions of both female and male employees are heard; we pride ourselves on being an employer who offers equal opportunities to all irrespective of their gender. At Sabre, we have put together a number of initiatives that show our deep commitment to gender equality; we have set up a gender and inclusion taskforce comprising of representatives from all units who meet frequently to deliberate on how to promote the gender agenda both within and outside the organisation. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sabre put in place flexible working arrangements for all employees to be able to adequately support with child care at home. Our work culture is structured to ensure that both males and females are able to work effectively whilst supporting the home front and child support. As an organisation, our vision is to help all children succeed by giving them the best possible early childhood education. To achieve an equal future for all, we at Sabre Education deliver quality teacher training using the play-based learning approach to affect the lives and aspirations of all children irrespective of their gender. While empowering teachers and pupils, the Ghanaian girl is able to access a quality education from the foundation level. It is our hope that through our transformational teacher training programme, girls will be empowered through education, widening their knowledge on their rights, and taking advantage of opportunities available to them without any restriction because of their womanhood.

During school closures in Ghana, we worked closely with 12 Ghana Education Service districts across the Central, Western and Eastern regions to deliver remote learning through the Say, Sing, Shine radio programme, delivering fun and engaging sessions for kindergarten children via radio and community public address systems in local languages. We also provided live radio sessions for parents offering advice and guidance in their new role as home educators and a toll-free helpline for additional support.

Here is what Patricia Nyampong, Early Childhood Coordinator of Akuapem North Municipal Education Directorate in the Eastern Region, had to say about how the Say, Sing, Shine radio programme is being used to create equal learning opportunities in her district.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic schools in Ghana were closed and we began radio learning, in which I continue to play some vital roles to enable us as an education directorate to reach out to learners, parents and all stakeholders of education with critical information that could be lifesaving, informing change in behaviour and providing a platform for discussion. The radio programme aimed to engage and support learners through story sharing where by all the learning areas are covered in a story and aired on radio and Community Public Address Systems. Through the radio discussion where we engage parents, much emphasis is laid on equal opportunities for boys and girls. We encourage parents to avoid limiting the interests and potential of their children. We encourage them to allow their children to engage in any activity of their choice and not to discourage girls from participating in plays such as playing football, constructing fictional buildings, among others. In that way, both girls and boys are set to develop all their abilities and provided with equal opportunities to realise their potential. The programme also aimed to reduce the use of corporal punishment in the home, with positive behaviour management. The programme has promoted learning which encourages both boys and girls to follow their interest and gives individuals equal opportunities helping parents to challenge gender stereotypes and its effects on children through parental and community involvement in children’s education.

Kindergarten schools in Ghana re-opened on the 18th January 2021, and since then we have been supporting the Ghana Education Service with a Back-to-School campaign to ensure children can return to school safely and parents feel confident to send their children back to school. Regina Tetteh, a kindergarten teacher at Dompoase Kokoado in KEEA, Central region shares her experience with classroom organisation in her school.

To have a sound and equal future through education is also to ensure that there is a balance and for equal opportunities to thrive. COVID-19 brought about the closure of schools which increased the vulnerability of children, especially the girl child. As a kindergarten teacher who aims at building a solid foundation in the lives of pupils that will make an impact and have long lasting effects for others to build on, I ensured that, through the back-to-school campaign both boys and girls have equal chance in returning to school. I believe that education for all is a fundamental human right and providing an education that helps to achieve gender equality by challenging stereotypes and creating equal opportunity for boys and girls is vital. In creating a conducive learning environment which make children of all genders feel welcome and respected, I provide equal opportunity for boys and girls at various learning centres in the classroom. I ensure boys take up roles that are traditionally for girls while girls are engaged in roles that are traditionally for boys during role play activities. I avoid assigning roles that may traditionally relate to a specific gender and in using play- based activities in learning, both boys and girls exchange in games like ‘Ampe’ and football. Learners are put into mixed gender groups and I use a dynamic seating arrangement where boys and girls are not segregated in seating. By this a boy or girl gets equal chance of sharing ideas to complete tasks assigned to help bridge the gender gap. It is my firm belief that early year’s education supports critical holistic childhood development. As a result, the measures put in place in my classroom will go a long way to challenge the status quo and break down stereotypes which in effect will create an equal future for all my learners.

The radio programme and back to school campaign has been funded with UK aid from the British people.