In 2008, the Akaa Project established the Asiafo Amanfro Community School to address the lack of access to education for rural children. The closest school was an hour walk up a mountain and children could not begin school at a young age because of the distance. At age 10 and 12, children would start lower primary, leading to high drop out rates and low self confidence. Children’s education development is also significantly delayed when starting school late.
Students come from five villages in the region, and teachers are from the local community, making them more invested in the success of the school and its students. Because of the local-driven focus, the school incorporates strengths and recognizes weaknesses of a rural community, as opposed to a standard government school, which often does not consider the surrounding environment into its model. The Asiafo Amanfro Community School, which includes a nursery and serves those up to grade five, uses the Ghana Education Service Curriculum supplemented with additional activities, such as field trips, sports, drama, and agriculture.
The Akaa Project collaborates with other nonprofits, such as Pencils for Promise and Global Sustainable Aid Projects (GSAP), to provide teacher training. In addition, there is a great emphasis on teacher accountability, as they are paid based on attendance and perfomance; teachers have to sign in and out, and their pay is deducted when they are absent. Teachers are also paid through mobile money on their cell phones to reduce the possibility of corruption.
Parents and community members were instrumental in starting the school and have maintained an important role in the school. The school’s elected Executive Committee ensures the school is operating day to day and also manages projects such as fixing desks and organizing fundraisers. Students’ parents are expected to participate in communal labor and PTA meetings in place of tuition, or they face a fee.
The Asiafo Amanfro Community School was the first school in Ghana to build rural micro-flush toilets, which comprise a revolutionary system for sanitation in rural areas. The toilets organically break down waste into fertilizer and has a closed system that prevents flies carrying diseases and bacteria. Additionally, the toilets require users to wash their hands, as that water makes the toilets flush, teaching students about hygiene and sanitation. This new sustainable sanitation technology, developed by GSAP, is transforming how rural communities are able to access proper sanitation.
The Akaa Project has also worked with the community to invest in community ventures that help raise funds for the school’s operational costs. These income-generating activities include a school shop located near a tourist hiking trail and a school garden. Students also participate in these projects to develop life skills. For example, on weekends, students volunteer at the shop and get experience in inventory, budgeting, communication, and customer service. With a collaboration with 4-H Ghana, students work and learn on the school garden after school. These projects will be expanded and new ones started to even further financially sustain the school.
The Akaa Project also recognizes that child and family health, along with family financial welfare impact the success of education, and have added initiatives that address these village challenges. The Asiafo Amanfro Community School now serves as a platform for community development and spreading education and information in various forms throughout the villages they work.
The Akaa Project has embarked on numerous health care projects with the aim of educating students and the surrounding community of the importance of health and sanitation. In 2012 and 2013, the project successfully completed the addition of two borehole wells in an effort to promote wellness with the availability of clean fresh water for the community. They have also organized healthcare sessions on infant and child nutrition, and prevention of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
In addition, Moringa Trees, a highly nutritious indigenous tree, have been planted in the school garden. These trees serve as educational value for students and also a way for parents to provide nutrition and learn new agriculture practices. In partnership with Moringa Connect, a social enterprise that helps farmers increase their income and improve the health of their families, the Akaa Project is encouraging and teaching effective Moringa cultivation to villagers. The members of the Akaa community and the school will be able to sell Moringa seeds, providing income for their families and the school itself. Moringa would also serve a dual purpose of improving the nutrition of infants, children, and adults while offering health care benefits to the community at large.
In another recent partnership with GSAP, the school now has a solar-powered tablet lab. This resource is loaded with Khan Academy and Wikipedia for Schools along with dozens of other educational resources. The tablets can run for an extended period of time with solar panels and are used in classrooms as a learning tool and for ICT (Information Communication Technology) classes. The future goal is to create programs so that these tablets will be resources for youth and other community members to learn.
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CEI approaches in action
Since starting out with 30 students and three teachers in March 2008, the Asiafo Amanfro Community School has expanded to reach more than 100 students and works with seven teachers.
The school plans to add grade six in 2015. It has also received funding for a school bus, which will help more students gain access.