Underperformance and dropouts among children in schools in the country and beyond is usually associated with malnutrition, according to the Ghana Report on Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) launched in Accra on Tuesday.
Presenting the Report on Social and Economic Cost of Child Undernutrition in Education, Dr. Reginald Odai, Head of COHA National Implementation Team at the Ministry of Health, said children who suffered from malnutrition before five years of age are more likely to repeat grades as compared to those who were not affected by malnutrition.
He said, “in order to ensure that we meet higher educational standards and maintain children in schools, the issue of undernutrition which leads to stunting must be solved by health and agriculture sectors to implement right policies to that effect.”
Based on information provided by the Ministry of Education, he said 160,576 children repeated grades in that year and using data on increased risk of repetition among stunted students, the model estimates that the repetition rate for stunted children was four per cent, while the repetition rate for non-stunted children was three per cent.
“That presents an incremental differential risk of one percentage point for stunted children thus, given the proportion of stunted students, the model estimates that 19,720 students or 12.3 per cent of all repetitions in 2012, were associated with stunting,” he stated.
However, he said, there were far fewer children who repeat grades in secondary school largely due to the fact that many underperforming students drop out of school before secondary level.
According to available data and taking into account the relative risks associated to the consequences of stunting on educational performance, he said, there was an important gap in school completion between those who suffered from stunting as children and those with who had healthy childhood.
“The model estimates that from the current working age population aged 20 to 64, 81 per cent of those who were stunted as a child (and presently of working age) completed primary school compared to 87 per cent of those who were never stunted,” he stated.
He therefore urged stakeholders to use the recommendations of the COHA Ghana Report to ensure that under nutrition among children in Ghana is addressed as its effect could impact on the economy.
The report is aimed at raising awareness among policy makers and development practitioners about the necessity of prioritising nutrition in national development planning and allocating the necessary resources to it as part of a broader strategy for pursuing social and economic transformation in Ghana.
Launching the report, Vice Chairperson of the National Development Planning Committee (NDPC) Dr. Esther Ofei-Aboagye said, stunted children means stunted economy, and hoped that the future would be better for children in Ghana and Africa as a whole.
She added that there would be a mainstream food and nutrition policy to address the problem of undernutrition.
From Michael Abayateye