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African Cup of Nations: Youth reporter Samuel Tronu tells a story of Ellen's struggle to stay in school
Takoradi, Ghana, 28 January 2008 - In a crowded junior secondary school classroom in a small village school sits a young woman with a story. This is a story about a girl who’s humble and hardworking.She educates herself in everything that she does. She goes to school at Shama Junction JSS. She’s called Ellen and she is 24 years old.
Born in 1983, Ellen lived with her mother and father in Axim, on the Gulf of Guinea in the Western Region of Ghana. When Ellen was 13, her mother was transferred to Cote d’Ivoire. She went to live with a man in Shama who owned a poultry farm and needed labor. The man maltreated her and beat her, so she told her mother that she wanted to go to Cote d’Ivoire.
Ellen got a job as a house girl in Cote d’Ivoire. While working there she was not able to go to school and it was hard for her to communicate.
She worked, cooking and cleaning, until fighting broke out and she was forced to flee the country. She was almost happy that there was fighting, because it meant she was able to go home.
She returned to Ghana about six years after she had left. She decided to go back to school, returning to school at the age of 19.
She now lives and works with an auntie who runs a local restaurant in Shama. Ellen tries her best to speak the English language, but cannot fully express herself.
Everyday she wakes up at 4 or 4:30am to start work in the kitchen to prepare the food for the day. “I wake up, put the rice in fire, cook the egg, fry the chicken, do the groundnut soup, pick up all the utensils, sweeping…”
She works until she is ready to go to school at 10am. She stays in school until 3pm and then goes back to work until 10pm.
She doesn’t have any help. If she doesn’t cook for the day she will not get money to go to school. So the teachers allow her to come to school when she can.
“I am not caned by the teachers when I come to school late. They understand my situation.”
She finds it difficult to learn because the time she has to learn is the time she uses to cook.
“Too much, difficult, look at the work, you can’t take a book to the kitchen when you are frying, it cannot be possible and you cannot put it into your head”.
Even though she struggles to go to school, she does it because she now has a dream to own a restaurant.
“When I was 13, 14- I was still in school. I wanted to be a journalist. But now at my age I cannot. Already I know how to cook. I will look for a small place to cook to make money to give to my mother and father.”
Education is important for Ellen because without it she cannot reach her goals in the future.
“I know education is important for me. Without school you can’t be a journalist, you can’t do so many things- driver, carpenter, trader. A man who is educated will never marry you if you don’t have an education.”
Ellen has a word of advice for the children out there and their parents.
“Children should learn hard. Some have the head to learn but they use it foolishly. So they should sit down and learn hard. I want to encourage those that are in school to learn hard and make it in the future. So work hard to achieve your goal.”
To know her problems and what she is going through in her education is to see the struggle many face in accessing an education. While she is humble, hardworking and tries to educate herself in everything that she does, her work is very difficult. She educates herself through cooking, and in what she is able to do in school, because she knows she needs to learn to help her in everything that she does in life.
Ellen struggles to go back to school, because she knows it will make her become someone in the future and it empowers her to be somebody today.