“Championing education by telling stories”July 9th, 2015
While education is a highly-valued goal, there can be hurdles along the way. Nutifafa Geh, 29, a Correspondent from Ho in Ghana, writes that sharing stories about those struggles is one way of solving problems and helping students.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and unlike the way I normally spend my break time, I decided to go to the beach. I didn’t go alone but I went with John*. John is a co-worker and we went to the beach together that afternoon because we had a longer break time and we only needed to walk five minutes to get there.
We talked at length and it was at that time John told me his story. He also gave me permission to share his story.
John told me he dropped out of school at age nine; he didn’t drop out because he wanted to but as a young child he was forced to quit because of the conditions he faced at school. He lost his father when he was five years old, and his mother single-handedly cared for him and his siblings.
At age nine, John was in class five and unfortunately for him, her mother couldn’t pay his school fees on time that year. For this reason, his teacher paraded him in front of the class, lashed him and sent him home to get his school fees. That meant he missed his classes for those days he was sent home. This happened not once or twice but on one fateful day, he received so many lashes that he vowed to not ever step foot in the classroom. It wasn’t long before he lost his mother as well, and that was the end of John’s pursuit of education.
I asked John what his career ambition was at that time and he said he had wanted to become a banker. Unfortunately, John’s ambition was truncated. This story reflects what students sometimes experience, but how many of these stories ever get told? Many ambitions and visions never see the light of day because a single event is potent enough to change the course of things; either for good or for bad. Sadly, in John’s case, it was for bad. John is very skilful. He presently plays different roles in the company we work for, and I strongly believe he would have been a guru in the financial sector had he continued his education.
Now a contrasting story is that of Peter Banoebuuri, who scored A1’s in seven subjects and a B3 in English Language in the 2013 West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). This story is also from Ghana. This student gained admission to Medical School at University of Development Studies (UDS) in 2014 but he couldn’t accept the offer because of finances. Peter’s plight changed, however, when his story appeared in the national newspaper (Daily Graphic), and subsequently got broadcast on radio, television, and social media on the 12th February 2015. The paper reported Peter saying, “My mother sacrificed everything to enable me to buy the admission forms at GH¢120 last year. I was only hoping that a miracle would happen and I would find myself in school. But it didn’t happen, although I qualified for the medical school”.
The action part was that the editorial team members raised GH¢1,500 as seed for a fund called Master Banoebuuri Fund. They also made appeal for funds from the public. The gem of the story was that a day after the first publication, the paper reported they received overwhelming responses from individuals and corporate bodies. On the third day, it was published that Ghana’s President, John Mahama, has instructed the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) to grant full scholarship to Peter. Finally, help and assistance came to Peter because his story got told – thanks to the media.
In short, these stories don’t need a visa to cross borders; either regional or internationally. For example, how did Malala get to where she is today? She made it through and fought against the odds and even won a Nobel Peace Prize because her story was told, thanks to the internet, TV, radio, and social media. It would therefore be worthwhile to tell our unique stories to spark hope in others, as well as to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Let’s tell the stories to champion education, but let’s also take action. The fact is, most of the time those whose stories should be told don’t have a voice to tell their story. All the stories cannot be told at once, but we can begin one at a time.
I see myself as many things, and one of them is a storyteller. I love stories because they have lessons to teach me. And the stories we tell or hear can fall into two categories: either they are made up or they really happened. The two stories I just told actually took place. I will continue to tell these stories for the right reasons – to call for action and because I am for students. Where can you also contribute ‒ what will you do to shine a light on someone’s path?
*John is not his real name
About me: My name is Nutifafa and I am for students (#Iam4Students). I believe what wings are to a bird is what education is to every boy and girl whether young or old. For that reason, my interest in education is very keen, and it is a joy for me to give a hand in empowering students to reach their full potential.
I love life and photography, and I believe I can make students smile by giving them the reason to.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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