On The Road Blog
The Power of Community Leadership and Meaningful Child Participation
- By Emmanuel Otoo on October 28th, 2014
- Category: Blog, Featured, Featured Blog, Home, Sub-Saharan Africa
It’s tough to be a community-based organization in Ghana. Traditional leaders are often preoccupied with issues related to chieftaincy and plots of land, in addition to focusing on their farms and other businesses. Local government officials tend to concentrate on their government-assigned responsibilities and often need some special kind of motivation to involve themselves in activities they consider “additional responsibilities”—especially supporting the work of NGOs, which are usually erroneously branded “wealthy” even though most of them struggle to implement their programs.
Similarly, parents tend to be more interested in their work, and children are busy playing board games like oware or ludu, or physical games like ampe or soccer. In other, unfortunate, cases, children are forced to do hard and hazardous work for several hours a day, negatively impacting their education, health, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
I witnessed a different situation when I visited Street Library Ghana (SLG), one of The Global Fund for Children’s grantee partners in Ghana. I was impressed with the positive deviation from the norm of community disinterest when I accompanied SLG staff members to Anoff, a small village in Nsawam in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
SLG works with children, parents, other community members, local government officials, and community leaders to promote education for vulnerable children in remote areas. The organization uses innovative mobile libraries and book kiosks to reach the community and also offers literacy resources, mentorship, counseling, and leadership programs. SLG has been supported by The Global Fund for Children (GFC) for the past three years and currently works with over 20 communities and 17 schools in three of the ten regions of Ghana.
During site visits to grantee partners, GFC program officers offer support in specific areas that a grantee has show weakness in or has requested assistance in improving. Sometimes, program officers happen to visit a grantee partner at a special time for the organization, and that was the case with SLG.
The occasion was the opening of a new center for children. The building of the center was the immediate result of a program that uses active child participation, effective community mobilization and contribution, creative parental involvement, and unique local government efforts to respond to the literacy needs of children in Anoff, both in and out of school.
Those who attend school will meet at the facility after school and during non-school days to be mentored by trained community volunteers, who will help the children learn how to read and encourage them to stay in school and improve their academic performance. Those who are out of school will be taught to read and write and will be supported to develop an interest in schooling, so that eventually, with the support of their families, they will decide to enroll in school.
When I arrived in Anoff, which is about a 90-minute drive from Accra, to be part of the inauguration ceremony for the center, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the children to learn and the zeal of their parents and other key stakeholders to support the children and SLG.
The passion of the children was manifested through a number of the activities they presented, which included a spelling bee and reading competition among children from five neighboring communities. I was awed by the exhibition of intelligence by the children and was honored to be invited to present the award to the overall winner of the competition.
Throughout the event, I observed how proud the Anoff community and its leaders were of their accomplishment. I could also clearly see their commitment to ensuring that the children not only access quality education but stay in school, and to supporting the children at home to achieve academic excellence.
One of the local government officials present at the ceremony said, “We will continue to work with SLG and other similar organizations to provide meaningful opportunities to enable children to learn both in and outside the classrooms and are grateful to the assistance GFC provides to SLG to support such initiatives.” I assured him of GFC’s commitment to continuing to provide flexible philanthropic capital and capacity-building support to innovative community-based organizations like SLG.
In addition to providing grant support to its community-based partners, GFC fosters their growth and visibility and highlights their innovative program models. These services help grassroots organizations like SLG to reach more vulnerable children and improve their lives, while also building active parental and community support.
One of the parents at the event embodied the high level of community involvement enjoyed by SLG, saying, “We appreciate the help from SLG and promise to work hard to ensure that our children are in school, use the library facility, and [are] not involved in activities that will affect their learning and harm their growth. We will encourage them to go to school, stay in school, and take advantage of the support from SLG.”
Abena Asante, a class 4 pupil who generously agreed to assist me in the ribbon cutting to declare the facility inaugurated and open for use, expressed her gratitude on behalf of her fellow students, saying, “Thank you for this building and the books. I am very excited that I will now have a nice place to see different pictures from nice books.”
GFC is committed to working with grassroots organizations to reach people like Abena and her friends and to support them in realizing their full potential and growing up in dignity to become productive members of their communities. This is why organizations such as Fondation Les Pâquerettes, based in the Netherlands, and so many others help to fund GFC’s support of grassroots efforts to promote sustainable education.
Please take action today to support community-based initiatives by joining us: like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, sign up for our newsletter, share this story with other people, and donate any amount to support our initiatives.
Above all, make it a point to provide sustainable support that will not create dependency but will instead promote empowerment of vulnerable children. And, as the Ga people of Ghana say, “Oyiwaladonn (thank you).”