03 DEC 2012
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.
If you’ve read my previous two posts related to this series, then you’ll know the more detailed back stories on the Yipala Junior High School and the Sumpuoryiri Primary School.
One my last Monday of my last week working in Bole district, I decided to take a day off work. It would be my 3rd such day not specifically doing International Development work. Rather I would do something that is traditionally classified as ‘humanitarian work’.
It would be classified in this way as it is entirely of a single event. Nothing sustainable or long-term. But I still have hope that it will bring more positive impact than negative.
First off was Yipala JHS. This is a typical village school – one with a combination of many students but few resources. Regardless of their reality, they were able to go from 0% (o of 24 students) passing the final exam for entry into Senior High School to an impressive 88% pass rate (14 of 16 students). All this in just one year.
To reward the teachers and students for their amazing success, me and others asked the school what they needed. They came up with two requests – textbooks and blackboards. The latter could more easily be achieved by themselves with material nearby, so we agreed to provide the former.
Based on the funds raised, I was able to purchase 60 textbooks. 15 each in Mathematics, Applied Sciences, Social Studies, and English. The thought behind this number was that each class would have enough books for a 2:1 (students to textbook) ratio. The beauty of these Aki-Ola series textbooks is that they can be used in all three forms (or grades) of JHS. So, four textbooks can be used in 12 different classes.
I also bought a dictionary and a few novels of classic Western and African literature, with the hope that some young student may gain a passion for reading. You can see the result below.
It was a little hectic handing out the books and making sure that everyone understood that books would stay at the school under look and key, but I’m sure they received the message. Well, maybe.
The teachers, who each did amazing work with only one textbook or less and a determination for improving the education within their classes, are most to congratulate for this feat.
I look forward to the 2013 examinations, where Yipala JHS will be sending 24 candidates to take the BECE exam. We will see if the textbooks had any effect, whether positive or negative. I’m hoping for the first one.
If I had more freedom and the time to explore, I would speak with GES and ask why students in the rural Northern Region are without the same textbooks that schools in the southern area have access to. It is an entirely unfair system, but requires more investigation.
After a short visit to Yipala, I moved on to my second mission for the day. This involved traveling with the IBIS driver from Yipala to the Tinga area – a 3 hour drive at least. But it wouldn’t be that simple!
Before arriving at the school, Alidu and I would have another list of items to complete. This started with making a quick stop at a gravel seller, which was mainly Chinese contractors – all of which knew no English. We then dropped off some furniture for my co-worker in the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba district. This involved not knowing the exact house and asking around for where the ‘white lady’ lives. Lastly, we picked up the fellow IBIS staff and headed on our way. Not knowing whether or not the students would be waiting for us, as it was approaching closing time very shortly.
We arrived in time though, with a swarm of students from Kindergarden, Primary, and Junior High Schools all set to take the walk to their respective homes. The headmistress was our organizer, as see found us an empty room and gathered the children who were about to receive their rewards for entering school only recently and showing a passion for learning.
This next part was chaotic!
To the best of my abilities, I sorted the clothes and sandals that each child was to receive. There was big kids, small kids, kids whose name might not exactly match the list we had. There was girl’s dresses but assigned to a boy and a few the other way around. There were dresses that were to small, with arm holes that didn’t work. There were boy’s trousers (like the boy in the center of the photo below) that were obviously too long for an 8-year-old.
In the end though, everyone received something close to what they intended. And if they need to be altered, so be it. The smiles on these children’s faces are beautiful and show the appreciation of that day.
It should be noted that the govenment education service does hand out uniforms on an irregular basis. This year, due to different reasons, Sumpuoryiri Primary missed out on the distrinution and it is unclear when the next round will occur and how many uniforms will be earmarked.
I want to give another round of thanks to everyone involved in making these donations happen, both in Canada with fundraising and in Ghana with logistics. I surely could not have done this much if I was working alone. We all need to work together.