Conference sneak preview

The ICWE team visits a rural school in Nyanyano, Ghana

Following the conclusion of the third successful eLearning Africa conference, held at the end of May in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, a team from the conference organiser, ICWE, visited the Kempshot Grammar Academy in Nyanyano. The junior high school is in a rural area on the coast around 50 kilometres from Accra. ICWE donated to the school. The money will be used to buy stable school benches and tables.

Fifi Abbas McLean, the founder and director of the school, led the ICWE group through the new school building, which has recently been built with the aid of donations from Germany. Each of the private school’s classes have separate rooms in which the 250 pupils now study. The Kempshot Academy also has pre-school and kindergarten facilities, so learning opportunities are available even for the smallest children.

“Most of the pupils come from very poor fishing families,” McLean explains. “Education is considered so important that many families make an effort to send at least one of their children to a private school, so they can get a good education.” Attending a private school is often the only way to achieve this.

Still no universal education

Since fees for public elementary schools were eliminated in 2005, the number of pupils in Ghana has risen considerably. The state-supported educational system, though, was not prepared for the rush: Between 2006 and 2007 alone, the number of elementary students rose 10 percent, meaning that classes of 80 or 100 pupils are no rarity. In addition, there is a shortage of qualified teachers, and so far, even with assistance from the World Bank, there is no long-term solution in sight.

Meanwhile, at the Kempshot Grammar Academy, some of Fifi’s former students are already at work. Sampson Bohala was one of the first graduates; he now teaches the third grade. With its exceptional results in the yearly national exams, the school ranges among the top three in the Central Region.

Infrastructure remains a problem

Fifi McLean, who founded the school in 2001 based on a homework-assistance initiative, has further plans for the school. Donations have been used for the installation of a small solar device that now supplies the school with electricity, which needsd to be extended.
“This year, electricity is our biggest infrastructure problem,” says Fifi. “We have set up a computer pool to enable the children to learn to use modern communication and information technology. Without electricity, though, we obviously can’t offer computer instruction. Producing electric power with a diesel generator is too expensive and would mean having to charge a separate fee – something we want to avoid.”

Schools and computers

The acquisition of media competences was introduced into the national curriculum in 2007, but very few schools in Ghana have the required equipment. Some pilot projects, such as One Laptop per Child, have been launched, but an adequate supply of computers in schools remains a distant goal. Nonetheless, the schools usually remain the only access point to computers or the Internet for the children and youth: In rural regions the few available Internet cafes are expensive and far apart.

“Providing computer instruction is one of our priorities,” explains Fifi to the visitors. “The demand from pupils and parents has risen in the last year, meaning we have to find a solution in spite of limited resources.”

Thus, Fifi is planning to muster all of the forces in Nyanyano at his disposal in order to get the connection to the power gird going so his students can have access to the Internet, both during classes and at the weekend. Thanks to donations through the German association Kasapa Brücke e. V. and individual funding, the solar panel for the school will be expanded. Currently, the school is working on buying solar-powered PCs through the Inveneo initiative.

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