Children’s mobility in Ghana: An overview of methods and findings from the Ghana research study

Children’s mobility in Ghana: An overview of methods and findings from the Ghana research study

This paper is part of a collection forming A Special Issue, which covers selected themes from a larger project on child mobility in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa. The themes are those which individual members of the Ghana research team identified as of particular interest and on which they have reflected, drawing on material collected and analysed by the team as a whole. In this paper the authors take a broader view, first presenting the background history and context of the three-country study in which the Ghana research is set (country selection, project design and methods), then focusing on the research process in Ghana. 

The two research strands pursued in the study present different entry points through which we can explore children’s mobility and access to services. One strand comprises relatively conventional academic research: the first part of this is qualitative (in-depth interviews with children, parents and other key informants; focus groups; life histories; accompanied walks), the second part consists of a large-scale quantitative questionnaire survey directed at children aged c. 9-18 years (N= 1000). The second main research strand, less conventionally, is based in young people’s own research, in which (following some preliminary training) they have selected their research methods and directly undertaken research with their peers. Findings from this second strand, which was undertaken at a relatively early stage in the project, by young people aged between about 11 and 20 years, also helped shape questions in the adult academic qualitative and quantitative elements.

Key findings from the project include:

  • Mobility constraints interacting with heavy work demands place a particularly strong constraint on rural girls’ education. Distance from school, when coupled with a heavy workload at home, affects school attendance, punctuality and performance.
  • Inter-generational frictions around access to resources, youth sexuality, mobility and adult surveillance are widely in evidence in the qualitative data, though the way these play out varies with family and local context.
  • There has been remarkably little recognition of children’s contributions to filling Africa’s transport gap. Qualitative data emphasizes the scale of children’s load carrying in Ghana and suggests the particularly important role of girls as load carriers.
  • Physical access presents a major barrier to health service use for children. In Ghana over one-third reported that travel costs/difficulties had prevented them seeking healthcare in the preceding year. 
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