In 2013, the World Bank reported that an estimated 10.7 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. This percentage represents a staggering 767 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day. The report also mentions that poverty is unequally distributed among the world’s regions, with sub Saharan Africa being the home of about half (389 million) of the world’s extreme poor (World Bank, 2013). With such high levels of poverty in the region, Africa’s growth is stunted in various aspects of socio-economic life. One of the many aspects of concern is the effect of poverty on children’s development in the region. The UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report predicts dire consequences for children in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report by 2030 if development efforts are not put in place, children in sub-Saharan Africa will be 10 times more likely to die before their fifth birthdays than children in high-income countries, nine out of 10 children living in extreme poverty will live in sub-Saharan Africa and more than 30 million primary school aged children from sub-Saharan Africa will be out of school (UNICEF, 2016).

Poverty has severe consequences on children’s psychosocial and physical wellbeing. Some physical problems including malnutrition, stunted growth and poor health are common among children from poor households. The lack of education or the lack of access to education further hampers their developmental prospects, leading to the incidence of intergenerational poverty (UNICEF, 2016). Education has therefore stood out as one of the strategies used to tackle child poverty in many countries.

At national levels, investments in education take many forms. These include education for all programmes in line with global agreements such as the Millennium Development Goals and provision of school supports such as school feeding, uniforms and books.

The problem of hidden costs when government programmes are poorly funded creates a hindrance to education for children from low economic backgrounds. The cost of education often prevents children from low economic backgrounds from attaining higher education such as the Senior High School level. It is estimated that about 20% of students admitted into Senior High School in Ghana did not enroll, with many citing costs of fees as the reason (Ajayi, 2014).

The involvement of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in poverty interventions to support national efforts has become a common feature of the development process in Ghana. One of such organisations is Compassion International (CI), a Christian-based organisation that engages in child poverty intervention and child protection advocacy, with the aim “…to release them [children] from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.”(Compassion International, 2017c). The CI model combines various approaches that have been used or tested by government in its effort to tackle childhood poverty through education. As part of its aim to release children from poverty, CI provides beneficiary children with educational support by covering extra costs of education, such as school uniforms, books and part payment of school bills.

In view of the on-going debate on the efficacy of poverty alleviation interventions, the present study evaluates Compassion International’s effort to reduce child poverty through their Christian based education intensive intervention. Using a mixed methods approach the study assesses the effect of the CI intervention on the educational performance and educational progress of students who have been in the CI programme in Agbogba over the period of 10 years. This study seeks to ascertain whether the intervention has succeeded in making education accessible to children in the programme as it aims towards the broader aim of releasing them from poverty.

       Problem Statement

A high incidence of child poverty persists in Ghana despite national interventions (GSS et al 2006 cited in Mba et al, 2009). In the case of Ghana, findings of the 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey showed the levels of multiple deprivations that children suffered. Education proved to be the second highest deprivation that children suffered at 30.1 percent (GSS et al 2006 cited in Mba et al, 2009). In 2014, poverty was found to be higher among households whose heads were uneducated. Poverty levels had an inverse relationship with level of education of household head. “More than a third of household heads with no education are poor compared with 15.7 of those with a BECE and 8 percent of those with a secondary education”. Households headed by uneducated heads made up 72.4 percent of the national poverty incidence. (GLSS6, 2014)

Education has been recognized as an important tool in reducing poverty, especially due to its intergenerational effects (Lee, Hill, & Hawkins, 2012 and Janjua & Kamal, 2011). Thus poverty reduction efforts have often targeted the educational sector. This brings up the question of what

works in child poverty intervention. Both international bodies (UN, UNICEF, World Bank) and national governments have highlighted education as important in poverty reduction but government efforts have been insufficient in ensuring that all children, including the poor have access to education. The involvement of NGOs such as Compassion International has the potential of helping poor children gain access to education by providing support to cover educational needs and hidden costs. In view of this, this study examines the effect of the intervention on the educational performance and educational progress of children who have received the intervention. The children involved in the study are beneficiaries of the Compassion International Project in Agbogba, namely the Bethesda Methodist Child Development Centre. The study poses the following questions:

       Research Questions

  1. What are the strategies used by Compassion International in Childhood poverty alleviation?
    1. What are the effects of Compassion International’s intervention on educational performance and progress?

       Objectives of the Study

  1. To investigate the strategies used by Compassion International in childhood poverty alleviation.
    1. To assess the effects of the intervention on educational performance and progress.

       Significance of the Study

The research presents the opportunity to compare and contrast best approaches in poverty reduction. In view of this, this study looks at the educational approach used by Compassion International in reducing childhood poverty and what this approach contributes to our understanding of what works. Compassion International has been working in Ghana since 2005 (Compassion International, 2017b). This research will be useful in providing literature on the work that the organisation does in reducing childhood poverty. Also the research will be an addition to the literature on NGO work in Ghana, specifically among those that engage in child welfare.

       Organization of Study

The study is sectioned into five chapters.

Chapter two – The literature review is discussed in four sections. The first part provides a background to the Compassion International Intervention. The second part reviews literature on national efforts to reduce childhood poverty. This part concentrates on sub- Saharan Africa and especially Ghana. The third part reviews literature on the contribution of NGOs in improving access to education for poor children and the relationship between educational interventions and educational attainment. The final section reviews the literature on factors that affect educational attainment of students.

Chapter three- The methodology covered in this chapter outlines the whole process of the research, including a description of the research site, research design and techniques, and sampling strategies. The methodology also describes the method used in analyzing the data.

Chapter four – Data Analysis and Discussion- In this chapter the findings from the research are presented and discussed in line with the research questions and existing literature.

Chapter five- Conclusion. This chapter includes a summary of the research, concluding chapters and policy recommendations.