Author Archives: Elizabeth Patterson

About Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth is the founder and executive director of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG. Visit- www.girlsedgh.org for more on students and programs. Twitter- @GirlsEDGH/ @anyarkop FB- www.facebook.com/GirlsEDGH

Delivering letters of acceptance to girls in Ashanti region

After meeting the Accra students, I returned to Kumasi to deliver acceptances to students at Esreso D/A2 and St. Augustine’s Anglican Primary. While all the students were happy to be accepted, Fauzia of St. Augustine’s was especially emotional. Following introductions, students were informed of their acceptance. I was mid sentence explaining that selections were based on academic record, familys’ indicated financial need, and leadership potential when Fauzina lifted her hands to cover her face. She began crying. I asked why she was crying and she said she had never been given a scholarship before. After a minute or two she stopped and thanked me.

Also impactful was meeting Hamdalatu. Hamdalatu was a last minute addition to the first class. I was informed by her teacher of her intelligence (she’s been consistently in the top of her class since elementary school) and the hardship her family faces to support her. The teacher said, “she won’t be able to go to secondary school if you/GEIG doesn’t help.” Hamadalatu has been paying for her own school fees since she was in class 3. She earns all of her money for school by selling water or acts as a servant to her guardian’s first-born. She does not see her mother often.

In her interview Hamadalatu mentioned wanting to be a nurse when she grows up, hoping to work her way to eventually become a doctor. She also mentioned feeling frustrated when she sees friends spending money on treats and food at school, and she can’t afford any of it, as all her money that she earns goes to her schooling – to her, “life becomes dull.”

Unfortunately, students with stories like Fauzia’s and Hamdalatu’s are not uncommon in Ghana. I’m hopeful that in the years to come GEIG can support many more deserving students.

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Is This the African Awakening? Second Teacher Strike in Ghana

2011 was marked by the Arab Spring, a period of protests and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the world. The Arab Spring gained a lot of media presence and attention. Little known about has been the African Awakening, a movement marked by marginalized populations throughout the continent protesting for equity. From Zimbabwe to Sudan and recently Burkina Faso, African countries, often living through the legacy of colonialism and lackluster leadership since independence is rising against the status quo. Yet, there is a price to pay for such an awakening.

A good example is what has been taking place in Ghana. With rising inflation at 25%, according to the Ghana National Bank, the impacts of the unstable economic situation is felt across all sectors and overall development. This has been especially true for education. From October 20 to November 10, 2014, three teacher unions,  the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) have been on strike.  A result of  cancellation of teachers’ pension plan, this strike has been negatively impacting students in government schools.

Ashanti region students of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG, were asked to document and discuss the effects of the strike of them and their education.

Here is what they had to say:

martha

“We are wasting much time and we cant get the time back. It (the strike) can even let us fail the exams that are awaiting us in November/December”

Martha Frimpong of Esreso D/A 2 

 

 

bushira2

  “ The truth is that the students will go around without learning… students will not get understanding of topics to be taught and teachers will rush getting nearer to exam times and students will not get the understanding of topics and their results will be poor.”

Bushira Sumalia

 

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“Foremost, the strike action has brought academic activities in government schools to a standstill. This has really affected the students in final year. The students are in panic for fear of failing their examination. Furthermore, it has also led to delinquency. Children are found to be loitering about in the streets during school hours.

      Harriet Osei 

zakia

  “The students will not be able to go to school and for that matter put pressure on their parents. However, the positive aspect of this strike is that it will help the teachers get what they’re asking from the government. The government and teachers will go to the negotiation table and solve their differences.”

Zakia Ali

 

 

These insights from students are indicative of some of the hardships youth in Ghana and elsewhere on the continent face. I am especially impressed by Zakia’s input. While she acknowledges the difficulties posed by the strike on students, families, and society as a whole, she has the understanding of governance and civic participation and acknowledges the positive aspect of a trying situation. Reform for the education system and the country as a whole will stem from adequately prepared students who are civic minded and forward thinking regarding their futures and the future of the country, the continent, and the globe. The African Awakening is something long awaited for. We have endured colonialism, independence, revolutions and periods of political unrest, some stability and now another wave of public dissent. History ebbs and flows and I’m hopeful the recent wave of protests on the continent is indicative that the youth population who will usher in a new phase of leadership will be progressive and keep the well being of all in mind.

Elizabeth Patterson is the founder and executive director of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG. She writes from Ghana on issues related to education, girls education, inclusive education, and youth development.

More on GEIG- http://www.girlsedgh.org

Twitter- @anyarkop/ @GirlsEdGH

Facebook- http://www.Facebook.com/GirlsEDGH

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The Diaspora Returns: A Young Woman’s Journey to Running an NGO in Ghana

10419547_781736818531005_7629443650401715938_n In the six weeks since coming back to Ghana to oversee the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG, I’ve had many joys and challenges living and working here. My greatest joy has been meeting the girls and being able to match their applications to their personalities. One of the first things I did was visit their schools again and reintroduce myself to school administrators and students.

I’ve now visited the schools of all 12 beneficiaries, met their heads of schools, teachers, and parents. Whenever I meet the students, they’re always surprised that I’m Ghanaian. When I transition from English to Twi (Ashanti language) it seems I earn more of their trust and they see me as one of them.

But, there are still challenges. Ghana politically, economically, and socially goes through ebbs and flows. Civilians are upset about the country’s direction – the general feeling is that the leadership in the country in unresponsive and inefficient. There have been many protests. Still, I’m excited to see civil society engaged around these issues.

Amidst Ghana’s current situation, it is reassuring to see the 12 GEIG students determined and excited about their education and futures. It is my hope that GEIG’s programs, specifically the mentorship and leadership development programs, will teach our students to informed citizens who have the tools to create the changes they’d like in our society.

In the first year of junior high school, students will be paired with mentors who are either professionals or of university age. Having these mentors will encourage the girls to aspire beyond heights they ever thought possible.10616682_680655712017255_2145901662624236258_n

In the following year, students will be tasked with developing sustainable solutions to issues plaguing their communities. GEIG will assist students with these ideas in community service projects. I hope GEIG can teach our girls to be socially and politically conscious and take action whenever it’s needed to advocate for their rights.

Overall transitioning to Ghana has been really good. I’m home and as a friend told me some time ago, I’m doing “God’s work”. In the difficult moments, I think back to a lunch meeting with the Greater Accra students where students met me for the first time. They were surprised I knew them by name and bits about them and their family. The students had heard of me and I knew them only on paper.

This informal meeting made GEIG real for all of us. Their excitement around meeting me humbled me. Having lunch and interacting with them assured me that I’ve made a good decision to come back to Ghana to work. They are what sustain me.

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