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Snapshots of Ghana

9.9.11

Students learn about computer skills in a classroom at Christ is the Answer Preparatory School in Adansi-Dompoase, outside Kumasi. According to school proprietor Anthony Kwasi Nyarku, private schools such as his are superior to Ghanaian public schools because the government-run schools are often under-supervised and a strong union protects the sometimes negligent teachers.

Students learn about computer skills in a classroom at Christ is the Answer Preparatory School in Adansi-Dompoase, outside Kumasi. According to school proprietor Anthony Kwasi Nyarku, private schools such as his are superior to Ghanaian public schools because the government-run schools are often under-supervised and a strong union protects the sometimes negligent teachers.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky


Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Anthony Kwasi Nyarku, a retired schoolteacher, founded Christ is the Answer Preparatory School in 1997. After retiring to his home village, Adansi-Dompoase, his wife encouraged him to found a school, but he resisted until he had a dream in which his brother showed him the plot of land on which Christ is the Answer would eventually be built. Anthony took this as a sign and began. His school began with four students and now serves about 180.

Anthony Kwasi Nyarku, a retired schoolteacher, founded Christ is the Answer Preparatory School in 1997. After retiring to his home village, Adansi-Dompoase, his wife encouraged him to found a school, but he resisted until he had a dream in which his brother showed him the plot of land on which Christ is the Answer would eventually be built. Anthony took this as a sign and began. His school began with four students and now serves about 180.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Boatong William's Class 2-level students at Christ is the Answer Preparatory School are encouraged to speak English inside and outside the classroom.

Boatong William's Class 2-level students at Christ is the Answer Preparatory School are encouraged to speak English inside and outside the classroom.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

A torn alphabet poster hangs in the nursery of Desmercy School, where the students come from relatively low-income families. Though the school has benefited thanks to microfinance loans from Opportunity International, parents such as Richard Dedzoe, a mason, and Florence Oppong, a trader in foodstuffs, hope Opportunity International will further assist the school in improving its  computer training and plumbing.

A torn alphabet poster hangs in the nursery of Desmercy School, where the students come from relatively low-income families. Though the school has benefited thanks to microfinance loans from Opportunity International, parents such as Richard Dedzoe, a mason, and Florence Oppong, a trader in foodstuffs, hope Opportunity International will further assist the school in improving its computer training and plumbing.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Children enjoy their naptime inside the kindergarten 1 and 2 classroom of Salomey Kortsu at Desmercy School.

Children enjoy their naptime inside the kindergarten 1 and 2 classroom of Salomey Kortsu at Desmercy School.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Bright Ofori is a Class 5 student at Desmercy School and the son of its founder, Mercy Senyegah. He has dreams of becoming a famous politician someday: "I want to be president to maintain peace and order in the country."

Bright Ofori is a Class 5 student at Desmercy School and the son of its founder, Mercy Senyegah. He has dreams of becoming a famous politician someday: "I want to be president to maintain peace and order in the country."

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky


Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

A child in teacher Anane Vera's Basic Secondary 3-level classroom at Romesco International School learns about plants in the day's lesson.

A child in teacher Anane Vera's Basic Secondary 3-level classroom at Romesco International School learns about plants in the day's lesson.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Rebecca Appiah is a Form 1 student at Romesco International School.

Rebecca Appiah is a Form 1 student at Romesco International School.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Samuel and Rita Quaye are the proprietors of Samrit Academy. (Its name is a combined version of their first names.) Mrs. Quaye owned plenty of land and wanted to use it for something beneficial to her community, and the couple decided to use their resources to cater to the growing demand for high-quality education for local children.

Samuel and Rita Quaye are the proprietors of Samrit Academy. (Its name is a combined version of their first names.) Mrs. Quaye owned plenty of land and wanted to use it for something beneficial to her community, and the couple decided to use their resources to cater to the growing demand for high-quality education for local children.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

Students at Samrit Academy are served their lunch of kenkey, a popular dish of fermented maize dumplings usually served with soup or stew, in the mid-afternoon. The school caterers receive training through Opportunity International to provide more nutritious and sanitary meals.

Students at Samrit Academy are served their lunch of kenkey, a popular dish of fermented maize dumplings usually served with soup or stew, in the mid-afternoon. The school caterers receive training through Opportunity International to provide more nutritious and sanitary meals.

Photograph by Sara Joe Wolansky

This summer I worked as an intern for Students of the World, a nonprofit media-production company dedicated to pairing teams of college students with nonprofit organizations. My team—seven students from Harvard, Boston University, and the University of Texas at Austin, each of us with a specific role such as filmmaker, journalist, producer, or development coordinator—was partnered with Opportunity International in Ghana—a microfinance organization that operates in developing countries worldwide and provides services such as micro loans, mobile banking, financial advice, and training to farmers, school proprietors, and other small-business owners and entrepreneurs.

One initiative that we spent a large amount of time documenting was Opportunity International's Banking on Education program and its partnership with the IDP Rising Schools Program. Ghana has a free public-school system throughout the country, but the quality of education provided is generally very low because of factors such as extremely large classes and irregular teacher attendance. Private schools are thus an important alternative, and make up 80 percent of the top-ranked schools in most districts. But because such schools are so costly, many parents cannot afford private education for their children, even though they view the government schools as a waste of time and resources. Furthermore, even many private schools are often in need of more funding and better infrastructure, as well as a sufficient supply of classrooms, books, school vehicles, furniture, and toilet facilities.

To aid these struggling private schools and the projected 1.6 million children who attend them, Opportunity International's Banking on Education program offers loans to private schools and training to school proprietors. Proprietors use the loans to hire better teachers, improve the infrastructure of their buildings, create more classrooms, and make other improvements. Often Opportunity International also provides loans to assist parents with the cost of tuition. Two of the schools where we filmed, Desmercy School Complex and Samrit Academy, are part of this program; they are located in Zenu New York, Ghana, in a village about a two-hour drive from Accra. The two other schools we visited, Christ Is the Answer Preparatory School and Romesco International School, are both located in the village of Adansi Dompoase, outside Kumasi, and are part of a similar initiative handled by the IDP Rising Schools Program (in collaboration with Opportunity International and Sinapi Aba Trust). These groups have provided loans to private schools. In addition, school proprietors, teachers, and the caterers who provide food for the students during lunch hour receive training for their respective jobs.

The most surprising aspect of these schools was their heavy emphasis on computer training and on information- and communication-technology (ICT) classes. Every school we visited had incorporated ICT training into its curriculum, so students learned skills like typing and were introduced to the anatomy of a computer—its structure and function. Though some schools, such as Samrit Academy, had their own computer labs, others were hoping to acquire computers through future microfinance loans. Many of the parents we met commented on the fact that computer-training skills are not just useful but essential. Emanuel Akoto, whose son attends Samrit Academy, said, “In my age, you had to travel to see a computer…the whole world will improve through the Internet.”

The juxtaposition of children learning about modems and hard drives in classrooms that often lacked or had only recently acquired cement walls or basic toilet facilities was striking but showed the efforts of private schools to prepare Ghanaian children for their futures despite challenges and lack of resources. The Ghanaian educational curriculum reflects the awareness that computer skills are not just the domain of the wealthy, but are important for social mobility for children of all economic classes.