SchoolNet: A Catalyst for Transforming Education in Ghana

William Anim Dankwa
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana


Electronic communication and computer systems have been testified worldwide as having significant impact on learning and teaching. They have the potential to provide teachers and students with useful up-to-date information and communication resources, motivate students to learn by fostering sharing of ideas between teachers and students. These are the reasons behind the establishment of a SchoolNet in Ghana.

This paper critically looks at SchoolNet--a project that will begin in March this year. Its goals, the infrastructure that is to be put in place, implementation, the nature of schools to be connected in the preliminary stages of the project and benefits to be derived from it are all considered.

The paper also presents details of technical and administrative problems to anticipate, political opinion, user support, training programs available and the overall expectations of the project.


Ghana is one of the countries of West Africa that has seen some improvement in its developmental efforts in the last few years. Many sectors of the country's economy have had these improvements due to the inflow of technology and ready access to information. This has been made possible by the introduction of computers either for storage of information or for processing data and lately for accessing data from the outside world. Most of the computer users in Ghana have made progress in their work and are asking for more, while some institutions and ministries of Government have been relegated to the background using old typewriters for data processing and storage. One of the sectors that seems to be oblivious of these improvements is the Ministry of Education. In all schools, especially secondary schools, processing of administrative records is done by manual typewriters.

Gradually, things are beginning to change since the duty on computers that are meant for educational purposes has been waived. With this waiver, there has been an influx of computers into the country that is gradually helping to foster computer-mediated communication.

Internet in Ghana

Internet as a word become part of the Ghanaian diction only at the end of 1994 when Network Computer Services (NCS) finalized arrangements with a provider to begin test of full IP services in Ghana. E-mail however has been known since 1989 but usage as a means of communication gained prominence only during the latter part of 1995. With these developments and the experience obtained, it is becoming increasingly clearer that all sectors of the economy could benefit from this idea of networking. In fact Ghana can make gains through advertising and creation of a home page on tourism, industry, agriculture, health and education.

Following the examples of other countries, especially the industrialized countries, it is clear that the educational sector can have a big boost when schools are networked. It is a result of the gains in other places that the SchoolNet project has been initiated to help transform secondary education in Ghana.


SchoolNet is a nonprofit project initiated by Dr. Gideon Chonia, a lecturer of computer science at Zurich University, to help Ghanaian secondary school students take advantage of computer networking to enhance their learning, socializing and communications skills.

Structure of operation

The project will be initially managed by Chonia Informatica, which owns GhanaNet, a Local e-mail service provider. In Ghana, the project will be coordinated by the SchoolNet Committee, which is a 12-member committee made up representative teachers drawn from the 10 regions of Ghana and others who have shown considerable interest in the project.

The committee has the following responsibilities:

Apart from this committee, SchoolNet will also be staffed by an informatic supporter and a Ghana network engineer who will provide the needed technical and software advice and expertise as well as train students and teachers who will be playing key roles in their respective schools.

Since the conception of the idea, the project organizers have done the following:

Already meetings have been held to select the SchoolNet Committee, which is made up of teachers of secondary schools and personnel of the Ghana Education Service (GES). It is gratifying to note that the Chairman of the Committee is the Ministry's Director of Education in charge of secondary education. A proposal of work has been submitted to the Minister for Education for ratification, and project activity will begin immediately.

Present state of secondary school education in Ghana


There are 452 secondary schools in Ghana.

Standard of education

Secondary school education in Ghana has for some time been the subject of discussion regarding a downward trend in standards. While this could be attributed to the general state of the economy, it has also been attributed to the poor infrastructure, inadequate equipment and the disparate locations of some schools. This has been the case because many a teacher would prefer the metropolis to the rural areas because their goals are best achieved there. This bias has governed the results of the schools because all the good teachers prefer the urban areas. As a result, there are grade A schools with the others falling into other categories. These schools tend to have the best teachers and the best resources, hence their good results at all levels.

Conditions under which secondary education is organized

The following have continued to be the conditions under which secondary school education has been organized:

The government's current infrastructure improvement program has led to the extension of electricity and telephone lines to other parts of the country that will enable schools in these areas to take maximum advantage of the SchoolNet program.

Goals of the project

The goals of the project are both immediate and long term. The immediate goal of SchoolNet is to connect 50 secondary schools and help them achieve the following:

The long-term goals of the project are:


The project will begin with the provision of 50 used computers and modems that will be distributed to the first 50 secondary schools that have electricity and telephone. These would be backed up by a 10 gigabyte terminal server in a wide area network. This will also be connected to what has been termed an Academic Computer Center (ACC).

The ACC as an adjunct to the program will play an important role in training both teachers and students in management and servicing of computers and act as a backup server for SchoolNet.


The implementation of the SchoolNet project is in three phases.

Phase one

This involves the background work of securing the computers, registration of the domain and organization and setting up of the infrastructure. These have already been achieved as mentioned above.

Phase two

The project is at present in this phase. Activities earmarked include:

Phase three

Activities earmarked for this phase include but are not limited to:

Benefits of the SchoolNet project

The project goal is to establish 110 science resource centers that would (1) provide tuition and opportunity for science practical work for secondary schools offering the science laboratory facilities, and (2) provide science students with the opportunity to observe and use modern science equipment including computers that are meant for demonstration purposes alone and are not normally made available in individual schools.

SchoolNet will help to whip up enthusiasm among student to study science subjects in secondary schools. In this project, two computers and accessories would be presented to some selected schools. Teachers of science who would be handling them were given some training in the programs that were to be used. These centers so created can benefit immensely from the SchoolNet in the sense that problems arising at one school could be solved at little cost and within a limited time frame.

Technical and administrative problems to anticipate

There are some problems that should be anticipated in view of the nature of the project:

Political opinion

There is no official policy on computer communication and networking in Ghana today. The tendency now is to believe that since the government cannot initiate the projects by itself, everything is welcome provided it meets its aspirations and moves the country forward in some way. Government is committed to improving the basic infrastructure by providing telephones and electricity to all district centers. However, because this has not been tested in Ghana, it is difficult for the government to make policies on it. Government's reaction to the project will be based on how it fares in the first two years of operation.

User support and training programs available

To facilitate economy and efficiency in an environment in which information technology is required, training and user support are required for the schools involved. It must be acknowledged that there are built-in mechanisms to ensure that there is support for the project. As mentioned already, the first 50 secondary schools will receive one computer and a modem. The schools so selected will each send a team of three (made up of the coordinator of the project, who must be a teacher, and two students, one of them in a senior class and the other in a junior class to ensure continuity in organizing the project) to the Academic Computing Centre (ACC). The ACC will be the center to train core personnel involved in the project. The center will also serve as a training locale for students of the universities in Ghana who for obvious reasons will need some practical training when school is not in session.

The content of the training courses includes:

Besides these courses, the ACC will also introduce participants to the following:

The project will also tap the expertise available in Ghana. At the moment there a few private companies engaged in providing Internet services. These include Network Computer Services, Datatel, and others like the University of Ghana, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Friends of the Earth, which are basically Fidonet connections. There are also a few organizations using Unix-to-Unix copy (UUCP).

Expectations of the project

The SchoolNet project is generally expected to transform secondary education from essentially classroom-based and teacher-oriented instruction to a system that will involve students in the learning process. It is anticipated that when the project takes root student will begin:


The SchoolNet project has the potential to transform secondary school education in Ghana. What is needed now is commitment on the part of government to ensure that the project goes through smoothly. The commitment of heads of secondary schools is also needed to ensure that the right climate is created for the students to make the best of the project. It is the wish of the writer that the international community will also assist the project to achieve its objectives.


  1. Ministry of Education Science Resource Centre Project: Program of Action, 1996.
  2. Eng Pheng Tan. Internet for Schools: The Singapore Experience, INET '95 Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 293-297.
  3. Anim Dankwa, W., Status of E-mail in Ghana, 1995.