One nice thing that happened last week was that my friend Joseph (name changed) started another year of school. Wait a minute, you say. Didn’t all kids start school last week? What’s so nice about that? What you need to know about Joseph is that he lives in Ghana, West Africa, and in his hometown of Bolgatanga, not all kids get the chance to go to school.
Joseph and I met in Ghana about eight years ago. At that time, he was a young boy who lived next door to me. For four years, he often used my veranda to study in the evenings because I had lights at my house, and at the time, he did not. He is a very bright boy and since I left Ghana, he graduated from Grade 12 and decided to go to college to become an accountant.
Each year, I send a little bit of money to contribute to his education fund. I do this because while I was in Ghana, I was taught that education is one thing that a person can have that can never be taken away. I also know that my small contribution makes a big difference to him and to his mother, while still leaving the work of saving for school in his hands.
What was challenging this year was a considerable depreciation of the local currency, the Ghana cedi, against major currencies of the world. This meant that while the cost of school had increased slightly, the amount of money I sent to him this year was worth about 50 percent less than when I started contributing to his fund in 2004.
Joseph prevailed, of course. He sold his donated computer, his mother gathered much of her salary together, and somehow they managed.
The email I received from Joseph the day he paid his school fees was heartwarming and filled with excitement. It arrived the day kids here headed back to school, which gave the day extra meaning and importance. I find it so easy to forget how lucky I have been to be able to access a meaningful education with relative ease. In Ghana, for example, only primary level education is free, after which point some families have to decide which children they can afford to continue sending to school.
For an inspiring talk about education in Africa and the hopeful things that are happening, go to http://tinyurl.com/l74o6h. It is a video of Neil Turok accepting his 2008 TED Prize. In his speech, he speaks out for talented young Africans starved of opportunity, saying that by unlocking and nurturing the continent’s creative potential we can create a change in Africa’s future. He says, “The only people who can fix Africa are talented young Africans.”
And for me, that means Joseph.