Ghanaians by birth or parenthood constitute 92.5 per cent of the population of the region. Naturalized Ghanaians constitute 5.3 per cent and the rest are non-Ghanaians. There are far fewer non-Ghanaians (2.1 percent) than naturalised Ghanaians.
Ethnicity of Ghanaians
The main ethnic groups in the region are the Mole-Dagbon, Grusi, Mande-Busanga and Gurma. Among the Mole-Dagbon, the Nabdam, Kusasi, Nankani/Gurense and Builsa are significant. The significant other subgroups are the Kassena among the Grusi, the Busanga among the Mande-Busanga and the Bimoba among the Gurma.
The regional picture however changes, depending on the base district of the ethnic groups. The Nabdam who form 30.5 per cent of the region’s population, make up 94.2 per cent of the population of Bongo and 83.8 per cent of the population of Bolgatanga.
The Builsa, who constitute 7.6 per cent of the region’s population, make up 84.1 per cent of the population of Builsa. The Kassena and the Nankani, who make up 15.7 per cent of the region’s population, together make up 88.3 per cent of the population of Kassena-Nankana.
The Kusasis make up 22.6 per cent of the region’s total population, but they make up about 75 per cent of the population of Bawku West and 47.6 per cent of the population of Bawku East. The Busanga also make up about 6 per cent of the region’s population and are mostly in Bawku East (15.4%) and Bawku West (7.8%).
The Mamprusi comprise only 1.8 per cent of the region’s population. They are thinly spread in the districts. The highest concentration is in the Bawku East district where they comprise 3.7 per cent of the population. However, the two adjacent districts in the Northern region, which are located to the South of Bawku East and Bawku West, are mostly Mamprusi.
Bawku East is the most mixed district in terms of ethnic groups. Only the Kusasi and the Busanga constitute more than ten per cent of the population. The two ethnic groups account for 63 per cent of the population. The remaining 37 per cent is made up of over thirty other ethnic groups, including the Bimoba and the Mamprusi. The socio-cultural problems that can arise as a result of the ethnic diversity of Bawku East often manifested in the many ethnic conflicts in the district.
Three main religious groupings are found in the region, namely the Traditional (46.4%), Christianity (28.3%) and Islam (22.6%). Builsa has the highest proportion of Traditionalists (63.7%) followed by Bawku West (61.9%). The lowest proportion (26.8%) is in Bawku East where Islam (51.1%) is the predominate religion.
The second major religion is Christianity, constituting of 28.3 percent; it is not predominant in any district. Within the Christian religion, the Catholics are in the majority. This is explained in terms of the work of the Order of the White Fathers who arrived in Navrongo in 1906 and began proselytizing the northern territories.
Following the Catholics (57.7%) are the Pentecostal/Charismatic groups (21.7%) and Protestants (12.3%). The regional picture is replicated in all the districts (irrespective of the size of the Christian population) except Bawku West where the Pentecostal/Charismatic group constitutes the majority of Christian population.
Educational Attainment And Literacy
The high correlation between levels of education and positive health and other social indicators makes education a very important variable in any development planning at the district level. Higher education, especially of women, is usually associated with greater knowledge and use of sound health practices and family planning methods.
Successive governments introduced various policies aimed at reducing illiteracy among the population to the barest minimum. The current programme of Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (fCUBE) is supposed to guarantee free education to all children of school going age.
Although the information on school attendance was collected for everybody aged 3 years or older, official school entry age in the country is 6 years. The analysis therefore focuses mainly on the school attendance of persons aged 6 years and older, while the data for the 3-5 years are presented to show the extent of pre-schooling, which has become official policy, but is not fully enforced. Of the total of 19,469 children aged 3-5 years in the region who are in school, 77.2 per cent are in pre-school and 22.8 per cent are in primary school.
While the start-up for primary school is age 6, a few pupils start at age 5. The proportion of boys (76.5%) and girls (77.9%) who are in pre-school is about the same. For the country as a whole, the proportion of the population that has ever attended school is 60.4 per cent (66.2% of males and 54.8% of females).
The gap in the educational attainment between the country and the region is still very wide. The lack of education in the region is not due only to general poverty and cultural practices but also to the very late introduction of education into the region.
A comparison of the data on school attendance shows that there has been some improvement in the region. In 1984, 82.3 per cent of the population aged 6 years or older had never attended school and this proportion dropped to 69.4 per cent in 2000.
Among the males, the proportion that had never attended school was 75.6 per cent in 1984, but reduced to 64.0 per cent in 2000. Although the proportion of females who had never attended school is still higher than that for males, the proportion has reduced from 88.1 per cent in 1984 to 74.4 per cent in 2000.
At the district level, Bawku East has the highest proportion (77.3%) of the 6 years and older who have never attended school (91.3% males and 82.7% females). This situation is most likely due to the combined effects of the late introduction of Western education, the influence of Islamic religion, general poverty and other cultural practices. The lowest proportion (61.2%) is in Bolgatanga (55.9% males and 66.2% females).
The problem with education is the large number of persons aged 6 years and older who have never attended school. The data shows that in the region, more females than males have never attended school. When the population who have ever attended school is isolated, the levels attained are not significantly different between males and females. Primary school is the highest level attained by 52.4 per cent in the region.
Three-quarters (74.5%) of those who have attended school in the region reached only primary or middle/JSS levels. The proportion of males who have attended school in the region who reached primary school level is 18.0 percent, compared to 14.3 per cent for females. About 8.1 per cent males and 5.5 per cent females attainted middle/JHS level.
Thus put together the proportion of females in the region (19.8%) with primary and middle/JHS is lower than that for males (26.1%). A higher proportion (9.4%) of males attain higher levels of schooling than females (5.3%).
Only 3.5 per cent who have ever attended school reached secondary/SHS level. This is made up of 4.5 per cent males and 2.6 per cent females. The proportion with the vocational/technical/commercial level is 1.3 percent, made up of 1.7 per cent males and 1.0 per cent females.
Those with post-secondary level (agricultural schools, nursing training schools and teacher training colleges) make up 2.5 percent, with 3.2 per cent being males and 1.7 per cent females. About 1.0 per cent attained the tertiary level, made up of 1.4 per cent males and 0.8 per cent females.
A comparison with the national situation also shows that there is significant difference between the proportions of males and females who have never attended school. Although the differences between the region and the total country for various educational levels, the differences are very large. For example 45.8 per cent at the national level attained up to middle/JHS, while at the regional level it is 22.7 percent.
The data shows that within each district, three out of every four persons (74.5%) who had ever attended school attained primary or middle/JSS level. The proportion ranges from 72.2 per cent in Bolgatanga to 81.1 per cent in Bawku West. Within the districts at least 10 per cent attained JHS/SHS level except Bongo (9.7%) and Bawku West (8.6%).
The proportion that attained Vocational/Technical/Commercial education level ranges from 2.9 per cent in Bawku West to 5.2 per cent in Bolgatanga. The proportion that attained Secondary/Teacher Training level varies from 3.0 per cent in Bawku West to 5.2 per cent in Kassena-Nankana. Only 3.5 per cent of those who had ever attended school reached the tertiary level varying from 2.3 per cent in Builsa to 4.0 per cent in Bongo.
The much-discussed educational difference between males and females in the region is due, as much to differences in initial enrolment, as to differences in school achievement. Since fewer females than males have attended school there is bound to be fewer females at each level of education, even assuming the ideal situation of females achieving the same school continuation rates as males.
Data on current enrolment show that the gap between boys and girls in school attendance still exists. In each district and at almost every level, more boys than girls are enrolled; Builsa is the exception, where the majority of pupils are girls. Generally, at every level the proportion of girls progressing to the next grade reduces from one grade to the other.
The 2000 Census results revealed that only 23.5 per cent of the region’s population (15 years and older) are literate in either English or a known Ghanaian language (7.0% are literate in both). For the region as a whole and for each district, illiteracy is higher for females than for males. The overall level of literacy is about 80 per cent or higher in three districts, Builsa (79.8%), Bawku East (81.2%) and Bawku East (87.0%). For females, the level is below 80 per cent in Kassena-Nankana (78.6%), Bolgatanga (76.3%) and Bongo (74.9%).
Much of literature and mass communication is in English. This means that the level of effective literacy (literate in English only or literate in English and a Ghanaian language) is only 21.4 per cent in the region. Among the districts, Bolgatanga (27.7%) has the highest effective literacy level with 34.2 per cent for males and 22.0 for females. The lowest effective communication level (12.0%) is in Bawku West with 17.4 per cent for males and 8.2 per cent for females.
Three districts (Builsa (17.3%), Bawku West (12.0%) and Bawku East (16.5%)) all have literacy below 20 percent. These are the same three districts with very low levels of school attendance. In view of the fact that current publications effectively exclude the proportion literate in Ghanaian language only, greater efforts need to be made to translate very useful reading communication materials as well as publish newspapers in Ghanaian languages.
Literacy in a Ghanaian language is low in the region. The proportion literate in a Ghanaian language (Ghanaian language only and English and Ghanaian language) is 8.3 per cent compared to the proportion literate in English only (14.4%). At the national level, the proportion literate in a Ghanaian language/English and a Ghanaian language is 40.6 per cent compared to 16.4 per cent literate in English only.
In the districts, the proportion literate in a Ghanaian language ranges from 0.5 per cent of the population aged 15 years and older in Bawku West to 2.6 per cent in Bongo. The low level of literacy in a Ghanaian language in the region may imply that the teaching of Ghanaian languages in schools in the region is not being pursued in a sustainable manner.
The differences in the proportion which are in the “effective functional literacy” category and the proportions literate in a Ghanaian language may also imply that literacy is acquired mostly in the classroom setting than through the existing adult education or functional literacy programmes.