Investing in Education: School Uniforms

This INVESTING IN EDUCATION series of blog posts will follow a set of charitable initiatives to help rural Ghanaian children attend and excel at school, removing some of the barriers that may keep them in a cycle of poverty. I want to extent a high level of thanks to everyone who contributed funds and time to make these activities happen.

After hearing the story of a young man who made the trip from his village of Gbodda to the district capital of Bole with nothing to show for his work, I knew I needed to help.

To help his family earn some money, this 12-year-old boy brought a bag of charcoal from his home to the district capital on market day — Friday. The cost to get there was 1 cedi. After an entire day of waiting for a buyer and negotiating back and forth, he was able to sell it for 2 cedis. After a short time, he realized his horrible fate.

He had spent 1 cedi already, had earned 2, so had made a profit of 1 cedi. But still needed to make the right back home, which would cost him his entire earnings for the day. He was about to head home, after a day of anguish in the market, and have nothing to show for it. No food for his family, no money for his efforts.

After realizing the situation, he was devastated and headed to the nearest NGO for help — IBIS. There he told his story and asked for assistance. He had told the story of his family. His mother had left him, his father was an alcoholic, and his siblings were mainly raised by their grandmother. He has 2 younger brothers and a younger sister.

The family was not earning enough to eat on a regular basis and the father was drinking away any money that was coming in. The grandmother would make pottery and sell to earn a living. The children would do some work, here and there, to also earn funds for buying food.  Sadly, they were not on course to earn an education.

To help them out, the intern at IBIS gave them a short term remedy by providing them with a bag of rice. This would mean a source of food for a few months. The family’s jubilation can not be described adequately.

The other thing missing was the clothing required to attend school. Each school has its own colors and its required that children wear the appropriate clothes to illustrate what school they attend. In smaller, poorer villages, there is usually only one school, but this requirement still stands.

Obviously, if a family can’t afford to eat, they won’t have the funds to afford new clothes. So, with a little help from the Budget Officer of the Education Department, we planned to purchase 4 school uniforms (3 shirts, 3 short trousers, and 1 dress), along with 4 pairs of shoes for this family.

The day we handed out the items was the first day I had met the children. It always surprises me to hear stories of hard working children and then realize how young they truly are!

First we met the younger 3 and then the oldest boy came later. By the look of it, these kids had only one outfit. The clothes were ripped and the shoes were close to being unwearable. Although we couldn’t talk directly to them, the buzz of what they were about to receive was definitely understood by all.

We had gathered everyone up and headed next door to the school to meet the chief. After an explanation of the mission that day and the story of the young man, the chief gave his thanks and assurances that he personally would watch over the food that was given. Sadly, it was pointed out that the father had attempted to sell the rice to earn money for alcohol. He was stopped in time fortunately and will be monitored for any other attempts.

The chief was handed the clothing and then tried to dress the children, which was very comical to watch. One of his opinion leaders was also there to help. In the end, it was a great day. Although a new set of clothes and some shoes won’t bring immediate wealth to their family or food in their bowls, it will give them the opportunity to gain an education and maybe improve their fortunes. We can hope for that at least.

The next step is to replicate this act of donating a school uniform and a pair of shoes to another 50 children. There is no shortage of kids with this need, but due to a variety of conditions, Sumpuoryiri D/A Primary School was chosen to be the recipient of this good will.

From IBIS:

“The other school we will visit is Sumpuoryiri D/A Primary School, which is one of the many schools in Tinga. IBIS has a lot of CEP-learners (Complimentary Educational Programme) who gets transferred into this school. But often the learners can’t afford the school uniforms, which in some cases leads to drop out and in other cases to poor attendance. The reason as to why it affects the attendance, is that the children will be asked to help generate an income for their families. Especially in Tinga the children are sent to the mining areas to carry rocks, sell food, do laundry, wash rocks and basically they do all the minor jobs that no adult would want to do. In average the earn 3-6 cedis a day doing this. But they also have to buy food out of that money so the reality is that after 8 hours of carrying rocks a child has earned just under one dollar. Or in other words the child has to carry rocks for two months in order to pay for a school uniform. Another unfortunate aspect of the activities (galamsey) in the mining areas are a high rise in the number of children with tuberculosis and teenage pregnancies. The tuberculosis is the result of the dust they inhale while carrying rocks. 

“The children often sleep outside or in tents with ‘relatives’ and the girls are thereby vulnerable to men who befriends them by offering small food or other things and then demands sex in exchange. It might sound amazing that giving a girl a school uniform can prevent her from getting pregnant at 13 or 14 but the fact is that it actually can make a difference. Teenage pregnancies in Tinga accounts for 24,6% of the dropout from school. A girl is not allowed to go to school if she is pregnant. She is allowed however to return after giving birth, but most girls end up never returning to school. 

“All of these factors are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to barriers to children’s education in the Northern region of Ghana.”

After receiving a list of needy children from the primary school headmistress, it was off to Wa to start the process of tailoring so many uniforms. The headmistress had done a great job, by providing all the measurements and shoe sizes. 22 girls and 28 boys, ranging from KG to P6, will be the recipients of this generosity.

Everything is in motion now. All I need to do is pick up the uniforms, get into a vehicle, and deliver some good will to a lot of smart kids.

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