As Told by Genia Peterson, President of the EEC Board
In November of 2011, Rev. Francis Mercer, EEC’s board vice-president, Suzanne Dyer Wise, EEC’s treasurer, and I traveled to Ghana. A great deal was accomplished on this trip. Important information was gathered; existing working relationships with the Ghana Organization of Volunteer Assistance (GOVA) were strengthened; high schools in Manya Krobo were visited where we had meetings with the administrators and talked with the students. Friends were visited and market places were explored.
It was sad to learn that Ghana is getting poorer. The discovery of oil changed the status of Ghana from least developed country to a lower middle income country. This change in classification caused Ghana’s development partners to withdraw their money and programs, but it will be a very long time before Ghana sees much money from the new-found oil. First the multi-nationals have to recoup their investment money.
Ghana continues to have a high orphan population. According to the latest statistics, Ghana has 1.2 million orphans (170,000 of these orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS.) The highest percentage of Ghanaian orphans whose parents have died of AIDS live in the Manya Krobo area. Traditionally, it is individual members of the community who care for the orphans without any compensation.
Our first meeting was scheduled for the day we arrived. We met with two board members of the Ghana Organization of Volunteer Assistance (GOVA). GOVA, formed in 1976, is an independent, non-government, non-profit organization that is an outgrowth of the Peace Corps. GOVA has a proven record of success in assisting non-profit organizations such as ours. Professor James Anoba Annorbah-Sarpei is chairman of the GOVA board. He has over 40 years of professional consulting experience on development issues. An Environmental, Human Settlement and Social Management Specialist in the areas of child/human rights, gender and poverty reduction, he is the founder, in Ghana, of the Centre for Community Studies, Action, and Development (CENCOSAD). He has lectured on development issues at major universities in the United States, England, Europe, and Africa. Emmanuel Sawer is the Project Director of GOVA and has been responsible for implementing and administering numerous projects for several decades. Mr. Sawer was educated in Ghana and the US and has a degree in management and finance from the University of Denver.
We discussed the goals and management of the EEC Scholarship Program. Particular attention was paid to the selection of the students and accountability of the money and the record keeping required by the EEC board.
Professor Annorbah-Sarpei thanked us for coming and emphasized the need for developing a program which focuses on the students in senior/vocational high schools. Schools at this level are all fee based. The student must pay for everything. Financial assistance for these adolescent students is extremely rare. A program such as EEC can have a significant impact on the future of the Manya Krobo community, and Ghana in general. Professor Annnorbah-Sarpei has a long history of involvement in the education of young people in Ghana. He strongly believes in the UNICEF statement that “adolescents are the next generation of actors on the social and economic stage” and need to be educated. A belief that is shared by everyone involved in the Educating Every Child organization.
We traveled to Odumsae in the Manya Krobo area with GOVA’s project director Emmanuel Sawer. We met the GOVA team in this area that will be assisting Emmanuel Sawer. We were impressed with the team’s educational level, their professional backgrounds, community involvement and their dedication to educating the youth of the area.
The EEC team and the GOVA members visited 4 of the 5 schools in this area:
- Akro Senior High Technical School
- Krobo Girls’ Secondary School (Presbyterian)
- Manya Krobo Senior High School
- St. Anne’s Vocational School
The Yilo/Krobo Secondary School was not seen due to the lack of time.
With all the school administrators, we discussed the core curriculum. All schools are required to have the same core courses. Each of the schools also offers specialized programs which are studied along with the core. The specialized programs vary somewhat from school to school (See the Course of Study page for details).
All of the schools have a student government organization and school clubs, such as a Media Club. We learned that girls are very active in school clubs. Most of the schools have a school newspaper run by the students. The schools have a code of ethics that the students need to follow. Violations of the school’s code of ethics are brought to the disciplinary committee for adjudication. The disciplinary committee is composed of teachers and students.
Everyone assured us that there is lots of financial need. The school officials are unable to determine who can pay or who will have difficulty paying when the student is admitted. Almost all students have saved enough money to pay for the first term. There are three terms per year. After the first or second term payments, the students who are financially needy pay only a small part of their fees. The schools allow them to continue in school as long as a small amount is contributed to their school fees. However, they are not given a diploma until all the fees are paid in full.
We learned that there were so many highly motivated bright students who need financial assistance. We discussed how to develop a selection process that addresses this in a fair way that can be efficiently and economically monitored. The following criteria were developed:
- The program would start with needy students who were already in school. Everyone felt it was very important to select students that have already demonstrated a financial commitment to their education. The students’ financial contributions can be very small, but there needs to be a financial commitment by the student.
- Preference would be given to orphaned girls because they are the least likely to get help from other sources. In Ghana, like so many other places in the world, if there is money available for education, it always goes first to help pay for the boys’ education.
- Scholarship grants would be given to students from two different schools in January, 2012. Our future goal is to support the neediest female students in all five schools. Not only do we reach the neediest students this way, but the Manya Krobo area also sees that our scholarship program is community based and designed for the students.
- A home visit by a GOVA team member will be conducted before a student is selected for a scholarship award. The purpose of the visit is to ascertain that the student is truly needy and that there are no other sources of income that could be used toward education in the caregiver’s household. Since we are dealing with orphans, some of our students may be abandoned and have no home. They will be given priority in the program.
We left Ghana with a sense of accomplishment for putting into place a scholarship program for highly motivated, very bright, needy students who understand that education is the key to their future and that can be effectively monitored by the EEC Board of Directors.
We also left with a sense of admiration for the young peoples’ determination to obtain an education, the schools’ mission of providing a quality curriculum and leadership opportunities for their students, and for all the people met who are involved in helping to secure a brighter future for their community. And all of this exists in an area where most people live on less than $2.00 a day. It truly is impressive.