Can Nudge Messaging Positively Influence School Attendance?

A story from Northern Ghana’s Zarantinga Community

In recent years, Northern Ghana has made significant strides in providing and expanding educational opportunities for girls, aiming to encourage returns to school, encourage classroom attendance, and combat early child marriages – a culture still practised in some communities. Wunni Sabo, a parent from the Zarantinga community, shares his experience of a time when girls were discouraged from pursuing education. However, his perspective shifted when a marriage proposal was brought forward for his daughter, who was then attending Senior High School.

Motivated by the nudge messages that he received on his analogue mobile phone from our research partners, School for Life, as part of our research study in Ghana aimed at promoting school attendance, Wunni Sabo made a resolute decision. He declined the marriage proposal, emphasising his daughter’s need to learn, acquire knowledge, and become self-reliant. This bold choice has proven to be immensely beneficial, not only for his daughter but also as an example within his community.

Although his daughter didn’t perform as well as she had hoped in her Senior High School exams, she is determined to try again, this time with the assistance of a private school. Undeterred by the initial setback, Wunni Sabo believes in his daughter’s potential and encourages her to persist in her educational pursuits. He also supports his daughter’s plans for her future, to attend Nursing Training College, recognising the value of empowering young women in professions that contribute to personal growth and independence. 

In the Zarantinga community, there is a growing collective effort among parents and caregivers that emphasises the importance of education for all children in Northern Ghana. In Ghana, agriculture is a significant part of daily life, and many parents prefer their children to work on farms instead of attending school. However, a positive shift is happening, as more caregivers are abandoning this traditional practice and taking responsibility for the well-being of their children. This means that children, like Wunni’s daughter, now receive the necessary support to pursue their studies, ensuring they have choices and are not solely encouraged to work in the fields, but also have the opportunity to attend school.

Wunni realised that relying solely on his children’s help for farming was not leading to significant progress. This realisation came as he observed other parents prioritising education for their children. After witnessing the numerous advantages of education, such as acquiring knowledge and being able to offer financial stability to families, he found inspiration. He firmly believes that education has the power to uplift not only his own children but also to catalyse positive transformation across the entire community, resulting in the emergence of esteemed and respected individuals in society.

With a strong belief in the power of education, Wunni has started advocating for it among fellow parents. His vision is of a future community where educated individuals support and care for the elderly, regardless of family ties.

In this inclusive and forward-thinking vision, education becomes a powerful force for positive change and unity within the community.

The messages he received, which included reminders about important school events like opening days, parent-teacher meetings, public holidays, and exams, were a constant source of motivation. They kept him focused and serve as a great reminder to always put education first. Wunni Sabo’s story epitomises the shifting attitudes and increasing support for girls’ education in Northern Ghana. It serves as a testament to the transformative power of education, aided by EdTech, especially in low-resource settings, and the profound impact that both individuals, like Wunni Sabo,  and community-driven decisions, can have on girls, families, and entire communities.

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