Of the total population of 576,583 enumerated in the region, 95.1 per cent are Ghanaians by birth while 2.9 per cent constitutes naturalised Ghanaians. Other ECOWAS nationals constitute 1.2 per cent whereas African Nationals other than ECOWAS (0.3%) and Non- African nationals (0.5%) account for 0.8 per cent.
In the region, there are two predominant ethnic groups, the Mole Dagbon (75.7%) and the Grusi (18.4%). The Wala (16.3%) of the Mole Dagbon and the Sissala (16%) of the Grusi are the major subgroupings in the region. Other indigenous ethnic groupings collectively constitute an additional 5.0 per cent of the population in the region, while all Akan ethnic groups put together constitute 3.2 per cent.
There are wide variations within the districts. For example, in Nadowli (91.7%) and Lawra (90.5%), the Dagaabas constitute more than 90.0 per cent of the population. The Dagaabas who are also in the majority in Jirapa-Lambussie (71.8%) constitute the largest single ethnic group in Wa.
Although the Sissala make up only 16.0 per cent of the population of the region, they constitute 74.9 per cent of the population of the Sissala District and an important minority ethnic group in Jirapa-Lambussie (13.5%). The Walba (Wala) also make up 16.3 per cent of the region’s population but are concentrated in Wa (40.3%).
There are three main religious groups in the region, Christianity (35.5%), Islam (32.2%) and Traditional (29.3%).
There are marked differences among the districts in relation to religious affiliation. Christians make up the largest religious group in two districts Nadawli (58.5%) and Lawra (56.4%), with a very strong presence in Jirapa-Lambussie (42.5%) and Wa (24.7%).
The Islamic religion has most of its adherents in Sissala (70.1%) and in Wa (44.4%). Adherents of traditional religion make up 44.8 per cent of the population in Jirapa- Lambussie, with fairly good presence in Lawra (34.1%), Wa (27.1%) and Nadawli (25.0%).
Catholics constitute the majority of Christians in all districts, ranging from 69.3 per cent in Wa to 96.1 per cent in Jirapa-Lambussie. The Pentecostal/Charismatic group is the second largest denomination, after Catholics. Other Christian groups are as important in Wa as the Pentecostal/Charismatic and are second to Catholics in Sissala.
Educational Attainment And Literacy
Information on school attendance was collected from all persons 3 years or older. Such information relates to full time education in an educational institution.
Such institutions include nursery, kindergarten (pre-school) primary middle, junior secondary, secondary/senior secondary/vocational/commercial, teacher training college, university or similar types of school where a person spends or has spent at least four (4) hours a day receiving general education in which the emphasis is not on vocational skill or trade training.
Although the information on school attendance was collected for all persons 3 years or older, the official school entry age in the country is 6 years. Much of the analysis therefore focuses on school attendance of persons age 6 years and older.
For the country, the proportion of the population that has ever attended school is 61.2 per cent in 2000, (66.9% of males and 59.5% females). This means that the proportions who have never attended school at the national level is 38.8 per cent (33.1% males and 44.5% females).
Comparing these national figures with those for Upper West Region, one observes a very wide gap in the educational attainment between the country as a whole and the region. In the region, 69.8 per cent of the population, aged 6 years and older, have never attended school (65.1% males and 73.9% females).
At the district level, Sissala has the highest proportion (75.4%) of the population aged 6 years and older that never attended school (73.1% males and 77.6% females).
Lawra has the lowest proportion (65.1%) of the population without formal education (60.3% males and 69.3% females). The low level of education in the region is due not only to general poverty and cultural practices but also to the very late introduction of higher education into northern Ghana.
This, in effect, limited education in the north to primary and middle school levels for the older generations and is reflected in the high proportion of those who attained only primary/middle school level in the region.
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.
Current school enrolment, in primary one, is still generally lower in the region compared with the national situation for both males and females. Substantial differences also exist between the national and regional pattern at the JSS level.
The gross Admission ratio (GAR) is the number enrolled at a first grade divided by the population of the appropriate age group (the official entry age) multiplied by 100. The gross enrolment ratio (GER), in say primary school, is the number of pupils enrolled in P1-P6 divided by the total population of primary school going age (6-11 years) multiplied by 100.
Data on current enrolment shows that the gap between boys and girls in school attendance is minimal. At the entry point of both primary (74.5% boys and 75.6% girls) and JHS (36.4% boys and 36.3% girls) the proportions of boys and girls admitted are about equal, but at every level, the proportion of girls progressing to the next grade reduces from one grade to the next, such that there is a widening (though small) gap between boys and girls.
For the population aged six years and older who have ever attended school, 45.1 per cent attained primary level, 23.8 per cent attained middle/JHS, and about one in eight (12.8%) attained Secondary/SHS. About five per cent attained each of the other levels: vocational/technical/ commercial (5.6%), post-secondary (5.6%), and tertiary level (5.2%).
The rather large proportion of the educated population of the region attained only primary and Middle/JHS, as the highest level (68.9%). This poses a big challenge for the full implementation of the fCUBE and other education improvement programmes.
Data show that in each district, at least 60.0 per cent of those who had ever attended school attained primary or middle/JHS level. The proportion varies from 64.7 per cent in Wa to 74.4 per cent in Nadawli. Within each district, at least 10.0 per cent of those who had ever-attended school attained secondary/SHS level.
This proportion ranges from 10.4 per cent in Nadawli to 15.3 per cent in Sissala. The proportion that has vocational/technical/ commercial education ranges from 4.2 per cent of the educated in Sissala to 6.4 per cent in Wa.
The proportion that attained post secondary level ranges from as low as 4.3 per cent of the ever-attended school in Nadawli to as high as 6.5 per cent in Wa, where they are above the regional value. The proportion that attained tertiary level ranges from 3.4 per cent in Nadawli to 5.9 per cent in Wa. The proportions are above the regional value of 5.2 per cent in Wa and Lawra.
There is a disparity in the level of educational attainment between males and females in the region and in each district. At the regional level, the proportion of females who have ever attended school and attained the level of primary school constitutes 48.0 per cent while that of the males is 42.7 per cent. At the secondary school/SHS level the proportion is 14.1 per cent for males and 11.2 per cent for females, and at the vocational/ technical/commercial level the proportion for both sexes are the same. At the post secondary level, the proportion is slightly higher for males (6.3%) than for females (4.7%)
It is noted that at the tertiary level, the proportion of males (5.7%) is slightly higher than that of females (4.6%). After the Middle/Junior Secondary School level, the proportions for females begin to reduce as they progress to the tertiary level. Differences in educational attainment between males and females in the region may be explained by differences in initial enrolment as well as to differences in continuation rates.
Since fewer females than males had ever attended school, even assuming the ideal situation of females achieving the same continuation rates as males, there is bound to be fewer numbers of females at each successive level of educational attainment. In the region and in each district, the proportions for females are highest at the pre-school and primary, but lower after the middle/JHS level, as they progress to the tertiary level.
In the region, and in each district, the proportion of the educated population (aged 6 years and older) that attained secondary school or higher is lower for females except at the Vocational/Technical/Commercial level where they are the same (5.6%).
Of those who have attended school in the region, 29.2 per cent attained secondary school or higher. The proportion for males is 31.7 per cent compared to 26.1 per cent for females. A comparison of the regional and national levels shows that the region and districts have higher proportions than the country as a whole, at secondary school or higher.
At the regional level, the proportion of the population aged 15 years or older that is not literate in any language is 73.4 per cent, which is much higher than the national average of 42.1 per cent. The overall level of illiteracy in three of the five districts (Nadawli, Sissala and Jirapa-Lambussie) is higher than the regional average of 73.4 per cent.
The data also show that for the region as well as for each district, illiteracy is higher for females than for males. For females, the level is higher than the regional value in the same districts where illiteracy levels are higher than the regional level.
The 2000 Census results show that only 25.4 per cent of the region’s population aged 15 years and older is literate in either English or a known Ghanaian language or literate in both English and a Ghanaian language Since most publications and mass communication are in English, the proportion that is effectively functional is only 24.3 per cent in the region (13.4% in English only and 10.9% in English and a Ghanaian language).
In the districts, Lawra has the highest functional literacy level (28.3%), with males at 34.2 per cent and females at 23.7 per cent, followed by Wa 27.5 per cent and Nadawli 21.7 per cent. Sissala (19.7%) and Jirapa-Lambussie (19.5%) have levels of effective functional literacy just below 20.0 per cent.
Literacy in a Ghanaian Language is low in the region. The proportion literate in a Ghanaian language (Ghanaian language only 1.1%, and English and a Ghanaian language 10.9%) is only 12.0 per cent. In the districts, this proportion ranges from 4.2 per cent in Sissala to 15.2 per cent in Lawra.
Since instruction in schools in Ghana is in both English and a Ghanaian language, the low level of literacy in “a Ghanaian language” in the region may therefore imply that the teaching and learning of Ghanaian languages in schools in the region are not being pursued in a sustainable manner.
The differences in the proportion which are effectively functionally literate and the proportions literate in a Ghanaian language may also imply that literacy in the region is acquired mostly in the classroom setting than through the existing adult education or functional literacy programmes.