Friday, September 9, 2011

A Back To School Message From Humjibre

As many of us, and our younger friends, head back to school grumbling, let’s take a moment to think of those who cannot start classes this September, but desperately want to… 

Here in Humjibre and surrounding communities, students who complete Junior High School (JHS) often do not continue their education to Senior High School (SHS).  It’s not because they don’t want to.  While primary school is free, SHS is not, and if a student in Humjibre wants to go to SHS, they have to go to a boarding school, as there are no High Schools locally.  Tuition is expensive; tuition and room and board is far too expensive to most. 
Anglican Primary School, across the yard from GHEI
In 2002, the year before GHEI began offering after school programming and extra tutoring session to JHS students, only 29 students sat to take the entrance exam (the B.E.C.E.) to get into Senior High School: 24 boys and 5 girls (all figures from Ghana District Education Office in Bibiani).  The pass rate was 28%. Think of that for a moment: Imagine your 8’th grade class is that size and only 8 of you go on to High School.
GHEI’s decision to start the Youth Education Program (YEP) in 2003 was clearly a good one.  And it got results…results I’ll share a bit later.  

Not much info exists on how many students who can go to Senior High School do go to Senior High School, but anecdotal evidence from Lawrence and Christina’s own experience, and in discussion with GHEI Country Director Clement and Education Program Manager Happy, it seems like a little more than half of those who can go to SHS, do.  If that held true back in 2002, 4 or 5 students likely went to Senior High School.  The rest may not have gone because of obligation, but more than likely, their family simply could not afford it. 

At GHEI, we believe the surest way to strengthen a community is to invest in its future, which is why GHEI began the Senior High School Scholarship program.  For those whose families could not afford it, an option now existed.  GHEI doesn’t see this as helping one student; we see this as building a brighter future for this community.  When students complete Senior High School and return to Humjibre , they bring expertise, options, and energy.  Their success becomes the community’s. 

Brown, during the Reading Club quiz
Ernest “Saga” Badu completed SHS thanks to a GHEI scholarship, and now teaches the YEP students in Humjibre, and develops programs on staff at GHEI. 

Samuel Godfried Brown Tano, completed SHS thanks to a GHEI scholarship.  He teaches at a primary school in Humjibre as part of a pilot initiative sponsored by The Ghana Ministry of Education to focus on struggling students.  He also volunteer teaches with GHEI.

Alfred Appiah completed SHS thanks to a GHEI scholarship.  He is now studying Agricultural Economics at University of Ghana. 

Now let’s think back to September 2002.  A few students might be going to Senior High, but GHEI is already cooking up an education program for the next year, something to get even more students into SHS.  YEP and tutoring sessions begin in 2003, and the scholarship program follows in 2005.  Quickly, GHEI grows, a Transformer movie is released, Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt, Barak Obama is elected president of USA, Professor John Atta Mills is elected president of Ghana, and another Transformer movie is released.  It’s April 2010, Ghana is preparing for a fantastic 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and in Humjibre, 74 students sit to take the B.E.C.E. and they all pass. All of them.

In 2002, 8 out of 29 students graduate JHS in Humjibre, and in 2010, 74 out of 74 students graduate JHS in Humjibre.  That’s an extraordinary difference, and it still gives me goosebumps. 
How girls in Humjibre have done taking the B.E.C.E. till 2009

What hasn’t changed?  While education capacity has grown, the economy has not grown at the same speed, and the average family isn’t all that better off now than they were in 2002.  According to Clement, still, only a little more than half of those students will go to SHS.  That means more students are going to Senior High School, but it also means more students who can go to Senior High School, don’t.

More than ever, Humjibre needs the GHEI scholarship program.  And more than ever, GHEI needs your support. 

Sponsoring a student through all three years of High School at one of the regional boarding schools is only $900, and we don’t commit until we have all of Senior High covered.  It does seem like a lot to ask, but you must have 8 friends, right? Imagine each of you gave $100, and formed a coalition to support one student in Humjibre, a student that you would get regular updates on, a student that all of you could root for.  Imagine yourselves as “Team Kwasi” or as “Team Gloria”.  But really, supporting GHEI’s scholarship program means you’re joining “Team Humjibre” as well.  It’s a good team to be on, we’re an optimistic bunch!

Are you going into 9’th grade this September?  If thirty of your fellow freshmen gave $30, all of you would go through High School knowing that you helped someone across the world do it too.  So, while I’m sure there’s a bunch of you really bummed that you’re going to High School, where you’re at the bottom of the social food chain (been there, kids, solidarity), here in Ghana, there’s a bunch of kids really bummed that they aren’t going to High School this year. 
The YEP students on their field trip to the Cape Coast Castle in February. Many of these students are graduating JHS this year.  To see more pictures of JHS students, check out our slideshow taken at The Career Opportunity Lecture Series this year

Please hurry, high school starts later here in Ghana, but not much later, and our deadline for scholarship funding is approaching fast. Over 100 students sat for the B.E.C.E. in Humjibre this year, we want to help as many as we can. You can donate here, or write to us at if you have fundraising ideas or want more info.

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