Post Office Facilities
Post office facilities are generally not easily accessible in the region, even in the capital district, Tamale. As a matter of fact, apart from Tamale (7.2%) and two other districts, Savelugu Nanton (2.0%) and Bole (1.1%), all the remaining 10 districts have much below 1.0 per cent of localities having a post office. A post office facility is located within five kilometres in just about a quarter (25.0%) of localities in two districts, Tolon-Kumbungu (25.9%) and Tamale (24.5%), in a tenth but less than a fifth of localities in two other districts, Savelugu-Nanton (18.9%) and Saboba-Chereponi (11.0%) and in 5.0 per cent but not exceeding 10.0 per cent of localities with a post office facility in four districts.
The rest of the five districts have less than 5.0 per cent of localities within a distance of five kilometres. Infact, with the exception of the Tamale municipality (1.4%), Tolon-Kumbungu (15.5%) and Savelugu-Nanton (16.2%), the remaining districts have over 40.0 per cent of localities located 31 kilometres or more from a post office facility.
Irrespective of the distance one considers, three districts, Tamale, Tolon-Kumbungu and Savelugu-Nanton, are much better endowed with telephone facilities, relative to all the other 10 districts. The three districts have telephone facilities within about a fifth (20.3%) and a third (34.5%) of localities; over two fifths (43.9%) and two thirds (66.9%) within 10 kilometres while 68.2 per cent in Savelugu-Nanton, 70.2 per cent in Tolon-Kumbungu and 87.0 per cent in Tamale, are within 15 kilometres of a telephone facility. This contrasts drastically with the remaining 10 districts.
For example while three districts Gushiegu-Karaga (1.1%) Zabzugu-Tatale (2.4%) and Saboba Chereponi (4.8%), have less than five per cent (5.0%) of localities with a telephone facility within a distance of 15 kilometres, Bole (32.9%) and Yendi (32.7%) districts have just under a third of localities with a telephone facility within 15 kilometres and the remaining five districts have just around a fifth (21.1-23.0%) of localities with a telephone facility within the same distance (15 kilometres).
If communities at grass root level in the districts within the region are to be effectively involved in on-going development affecting them, they need to be well informed and have effective means of communicating their ideas and seeking further information. The telephone is one of the best means of such information sharing. The current situation of access to a telephone facility, even in the best-endowed districts, is far from satisfactory in most districts of the region.
Access to mobile phones in the region is very limited due to the lack of an information technology network backbone. Only the Tamale municipality has access to mobile service providers (One touch now Vodafone, Areeba ,now MTN and Tigo). Areeba (MTN) services have recently been extended to Yendi.
The ability of the poor to access facilities that are located at considerable distances is influenced by the road infrastructure and the transportation system. The poor are more likely than the better off to live in remote areas where roads become impassable at certain times of the year. Existing government policy recommendation requires the siting of health facilities within eight kilometres of the localities of residence.
In Tamale, 12.2 per cent of the communities have a local hospital facility compared with all other districts, with only Savelugu-Nanton (3.4%) and Nanumba (3.0%), having around 3.0 per cent of communities with a local hospital facility.
Although the low density of the region (25.9/sq.m), compounded by the scattered nature of localities, makes the siting of difficult, it nevertheless does not justify the current distribution of hospital facilities in the region. Tamale, which is a municipality and regional capital, however has two thirds (66.8%) of localities within 10 kilometres of a hospital facility and only 3.6 per cent beyond 25 kilometres.
The next relatively better-endowed district with a hospital facility is Savelugu-Nanton with just under a quarter (24.3%) of localities within five kilometres, and under a fifth (18.9%) beyond 25 kilometres. The disparity between Tamale and Savelugu-Nanton Districts, on the one hand, and the other 11 districts on the other hand, becomes clear when one realises that, in most of the other 10 districts, less than 42.0 per cent of localities are further than 25 kilometres from a hospital facility. In fact, in seven of the districts, over 60.0 per cent of localities can access a hospital facility only beyond 25 kilometres. This situation is deplorable, in view of the policy of the Ministry of Health recommends the sitting of health facilities within eight kilometres of localities.
As with hospital facilities, existing policy provides for the siting of clinics within eight kilometres of localities. The proportion of communities with a local clinic is lower than 10.0 per cent in all districts, except Tamale, where 19.4 per cent of communities have local clinics.
Although higher proportions of localities are located nearer to clinics than hospitals, the situation is far from satisfactory. The most disadvantaged districts with respect to location of clinics is Gushiegu-Karaga, with 44.2 per cent of localities beyond 25 kilometres of a clinic, followed by East Gonja (37.4%) and West Gonja (39.9%).
Five other districts have over 20.0 but not exceeding 30.0 per cent of localities beyond 25 kilometres of a clinic. The disparity with the location of hospitals re-appears, with that of clinics, in the case of three relatively better endowed districts, Tamale (2.9%), Savelugu-Nanton (8.1%) and Tolon- Kumbungu (8.8%), which have less than a tenth (10.0%) of localities beyond 25 kilometres.
Basic health services can be brought nearer to communities through the strengthening of community based health programmes, on the basis of those initiated by the UNFPA/Institute of Adult Education on Mass Media and Adult Population Education (MMAPE). This project trained Adult Literacy group leaders to dispense health/family planning community specific, activities including the dispensation of basic First Aid and non prescriptive drugs, at the local community level.
The distance households have to travel to reach health facilities is an important determinant of the use of health care services. The distance may influence the ability of pregnant women to patronise antenatal care services or for children to access well-baby clinics. Complications arising during labour may also result in the loss of life of mothers when the distance to the nearest facility is too long. In other words, without reliable roads or ambulance services, the health of communities may be seriously affected by the location of health care facilities.
Primary School Facilities
Existing policy recommends the siting of primary schools within five Kilometres of localities, taking into consideration the population density.
Although the policy of the Ministry of Education on the distance to a basic education facility is far from satisfied, the distribution of primary school facilities indicates that some progress has been made. The Tamale municipality is far ahead of the other districts, with a local primary school facility in over three quarters (78.4%) of localities. All other districts have less than 50 per cent of communities with local primary schools.
There is however a local primary school facility within 40.0 per cent and 50.0 per cent of localities in four districts and within at least a fifth (23.6%) and a third (34.1%) of localities in the other eight of the 13 districts. On the other hand, eight of the 13 districts have between 70.0 per cent and 97.0 per cent of localities with a local primary school facility within five kilometres. Four other districts each have more than 60.0 per cent of localities within five kilometres of a primary school facility, leaving Gushiegu-Karaga, with 57.4 per cent of localities with local primary school within five kilometres
Beyond 15 kilometres, the proportion of localities without a local primary school facility diminishes considerably, to below 5.0 per cent in six districts. The corresponding proportion is 7.6 but less than 10.0 per cent in four other districts and slightly over 10.0 per cent in West Gonja (14.6%), Gushiegu-Karaga (17.0%) and East Gonja (19.6%).
The distribution of primary school facilities in the region is encouraging in view of the dispersed nature of settlements and the low population density of 25 persons per square kilometre. Much more investment is needed to provide more primary schools for the relatively deprived districts such as Gushiegu-Karaga, East Gonja, West Gonja, Nanumba and Zabzugu-Tatale. Provision of school facilities is necessary and essential to ensure that pupils enrol in schools and remain in the education system for as long as practicable.
Junior High School Facilities
There is a considerable drop in the accessibility and availability of Junior High Schools (JHS) in the region, compared with Primary Schools. Even in the Tamale municipality, the proportion of localities with a local JHS facility is low (21.6%) compared with 78.4 per cent for the primary school facility. Only two other districts, East Mamprusi (12.4%) and West Mamprusi (13.0%) have slightly over a tenth of localities with a local JHS facility. In fact, in four districts, the proportion with a local JHS is lower than 5.0 per cent compared with four districts with the lowest proportion of localities with a local primary school facility between 23.6 and 29.3 per cent.
In the Tamale municipality, three quarters (75.6%) of localities have a JHS facility within five kilometres. In three other districts, Tolon-Kumbungu (59.8%), East Mamprusi (57.1%) and Savelugu-Nanton (52.7%), more than half but below 60.0 per cent, of localities are within five kilometres of a JSS.
The corresponding figure is 42.2 per cent for West Mamprusi. The proportion varies from 26.6 per cent to 37.5 per cent of localities in seven of the eight other districts. In Gushiegu-Karaga, however, only 12.7 per cent of localities are located within five kilometres of a JHS facility.
Apart from the Tamale municipality (6.4%), no other district has less than 10.0 per cent of localities beyond 10 kilometres of a JHS facility. Around a fifth (19.6%) to a third (34.0%) of localities, in five districts, and about two fifth (39.7%) up to just under half (49.0%) of localities in six of the remaining eight districts, are beyond 10 kilometres of a JHS facility.
As high as 72.0 per cent of localities in Gushiegu-Karaga, are beyond the same 10 kilometres. The analysis portrays a stark disparity between the provision and availability of JHS facilities in the region. Apart from the region being far from satisfying the policy of the Ministry of Education on location of basic education facilities, the disparity between JHS and Primary school facilities implies that many communities do not have a JHS complement.
This implies that not only are many pupils likely to drop out of the school system but that, to many, the primary school will be their highest level of attained education. In view of the fact that JHSs are generally not residential institutions, serious efforts are needed to invest in infrastructure and staff to complement, as many primary schools in the region as possible, with a JHS facility, particularly Gushiegu-Karaga, Gonja East, Gonja West, Saboba-Chereponi and Zabzugu-Tatale Districts.
Senior Secondary School
Unlike the primary and the JHS which are expected to serve residents in the community, the Senior High School (SHS) serves a much broader population, given that most have boarding facilities. In most districts, less than one per cent (1.0%) of localities have local SSS facilities, while in the Tamale municipality, the figure is 7.2 per cent.
In 11 of the 13 districts, between 50.0 and 95.0 per cent of communities are more than 10 Kilometres away from a SHS facility. While much has to be done to increase the number of SHS facilities in the region, with at least a well equipped and well staffed SHS in each district, it is important to increase the income earning capabilities of parents and guardians in the region.
This is to enable them afford the cost of a child’s SHS education and to ensure the completion of the SHS cycle. Investment in hostel facilities for SHSs by the District Assemblies may provide an incentive and promote attendance at SHS institutions far from home. Investment in SHS and higher education facilities are fundamental for the effective exploitation and development of both the human and material resources of the region. When children have to travel long distances to educational facilities, the chances of dropping out of school may be greater. Since parents may not be able to check on school attendance, and teachers may not be able to communicate effectively with parents, truancy and absenteeism may occur frequently.