After introducing homeschooling to a group of pastors and parents at a remote village in northern Ghana, I was pleased to receive this text message from one of the participants: “Brother Mike, we started homeschooling today!”
It was my third trip to the continent and my first to West Africa; I had previously visited Kenya and South Africa. My hope was to both meet church leaders and network with government officials to advocate for the idea of homeschooling. By providence, I was able to accomplish both objectives more successfully than I could have imagined.
The message’s background
I was invited to attend a pastors’ conference for a large denomination in Ghana, called the Good News Bible Church.
As HSLDA’s director of global outreach, my philosophy is that I will go anywhere to talk to anyone about homeschooling. The chance to talk with such a large group of influential religious leaders about homeschooling in Ghana, a place where homeschooling is quite new, was one I couldn’t pass up (even though it meant getting a yellow fever shot).
The Good News Bible Church has a large presence in Northern Ghana. I had met the chief of the denomination when he visited my own church in West Virginia. We talked about homeschooling, and he wanted to share the idea with his entire church leadership—nearly 200 represented churches.
During a lunch break at the pastor’s conference in Ghana, I was approached by Pastor Adam, who told me about his church and his family of 10 children. He also asked some of the normal questions about homeschooling: How does it work? What about socialization? Can parents really be their kids’ teachers?
As we talked, I could see he was envisioning the possibilities—and the advantages over his family’s current school setup.
Why, for example, should his children walk an hour each way to school, only to sit all day in a large class and get very little individual attention? Why shouldn’t he keep them home, where they can learn from him and his wife? Why not?
Imagining Pastor Adam’s six adopted and four biological children gathered around the chalkboard in their school space was heartwarming—especially when contrasted with the challenges many Africans face in getting an education.
Children in Ghana are often required to walk long distances to attend school. And it is not unusual to see a single teacher instructing a class of up to 75 students— with few resources.
In other parts of Africa, there are no schools. Parents in these areas feel like they have no way to educate children because they presume that buildings and trained teachers are required for children to learn.
Why? Because they’ve always been told that that’s the way it’s done.
In my travels to promote homeschooling, I’ve learned that Africa is a diverse continent with greatly varying levels of development and infrastructure. But even in Africa’s great cities, the public education system struggles with problems familiar to the United States’ public school system: large class sizes, rigid curriculum, pervasive bullying, and a limited ability to serve children with special needs.
Between sessions one morning, as I observed the village where the conference was taking place, I was approached by one of the pastors. As we talked, it became clear that we had a common connection: I had previously corresponded with this pastor’s son, who had graduated from law school in Ghana! It also turned out that this pastor had been to Virginia at the invitation of HSLDA’s founder, Michael Farris. Wow!
As we talked, I mentioned my hope of meeting with officials at the government education ministry. He pulled out his cell phone and said, “wait a minute, let me call my son—he knows someone at the Ghanaian education department.”
Minutes later, he told me that his son’s friend worked closely with one of the vice-ministers and would meet with me. Although this friend’s wife had just given birth earlier in the day, this man took the time to meet me and discuss my mission. As a brand-new father, he immediately saw the advantages that homeschooling could offer and promised to try to arrange an official meeting at the Ghanaian ministry.
After making the necessary changes to my travel arrangements with the help of leaders at the Good News Bible Church, I was able to make my way to Accra. The next day, when I met with senior staff at the Ghanaian Ministry of Education in Accra, the senior secretary I met with was able to visualize some immediate benefits of homeschooling for children with special education needs.
“We only have a few schools that can provide the services for these children— especially for those who are not able to be included in the normal classes at regular schools,” an official said.
Considering homeschooling: A major solution
I am encouraged by what I’ve seen as a common thread among African parents—a desire to see their children receive an education that can help propel them and their communities into greater prosperity.
Why should children go without an education, just because a country lacks the resources to build a school and pay a teacher? Should parents just accept that their children will never receive quality instruction because the overburdened school staff can’t maintain discipline?
My message to families in Ghana is that there is a better way. Homeschooling is working in the US and all around the globe. It can work in western Africa, too.
Hope and community
For most of the pastors, civic leaders, and government officials I met in Ghana, homeschooling is a new idea. They wanted to know how it could succeed in a country that faces profound challenges: certain areas face low literacy rates, many Ghanaian mothers must work long hours to provide basic necessities, and some of these mothers walk several miles a day just to fetch water for their homes.
They were intrigued to hear about the wide range of homeschool successes I have witnessed. I assured them that parents who love their children and who want to see them educated will find a way. And communities can come together to help with encouragement, resources, books, materials, and training.
Even parents with modest incomes and education can homeschool effectively. This is because the two most important resources for teaching children are things that parents can provide, and in much greater quantities than any school can: time and attention.
A fresh start in Accra
While in Accra, I spoke at a small church—one of the associate pastors at the church told me that he had homeschooled his daughter for a year, but had stopped.
“There are many problems in schools here in Accra, including widespread sexual abuse—mostly between students,” he said. “I have seen this happen to my daughter. I couldn’t believe it!”
He had seen the power of homeschooling to help his daughter thrive in a safe learning environment, but he felt that the community’s lack of support was a high hurdle to overcome. He asked many questions about homeschooling and how it was working in the US and abroad.
By the end of my week in Ghana, the associate pastor told me his perspective had changed. “I am ready to [homeschool] again!” he said. “And I am going to start a support group for others who are interested, too.”
What about the law?
For homeschooling to thrive in Ghana, however, families will need freedom. That’s what I told Ghanaian officials during my speech in Accra.
My message to the government was simple: There are few homeschoolers here now, but there are going to be many. You can support them by not opposing them. In Ghana, the constitution requires a child be educated, but it doesn’t say it has to be in a traditional school.
I explained how the right of parents to homeschool is deeply embedded in the international human rights framework. Ghana should therefore empower parents who have the vision to homeschool, offer resource support—either from the government, private charities, or both—and bring access to educational opportunities for many children who would otherwise not have them.
Not everyone will choose to homeschool. But those who wish to must be permitted to make that choice.
The work we do at HSLDA is all about empowering parents with the freedom to homeschool. In some places, we defend that freedom from those who would impose unnecessary and burdensome regulations. Sometimes we go to court for individual families.
For me, going to a new place where homeschooling just hasn’t been considered is one of the most exciting things I get to do as an HSLDA attorney.
Your partnering with us as an HSLDA member or donor equips us to introduce other nations to the amazing educational option of homeschooling, to help them understand the vital importance of homeschool freedom, and to help establish positive relationships between homeschoolers and governments.
Erratum: “Ghana dad: ‘My Friend, we started homeschooling today!’”
The original version incorrectly identified Pastor Adam as the head of the Good News Bible Church denomination and the individual who invited Mike to Ghana. Another, unnamed, pastor is the head of the denomination and the one who extended the invitation.