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Ghana: Newsline

Students in Ghana dream big

GHANA, 29 January 2009 - Every evening, 15-year-old Rashida* returns home from school, changes out of her uniform, and rushes to a neighboring farm to help her mother harvest vegetables. Her father is disabled, so the modest profit the two of them earn must cover food, clothing and other necessities for all seven children and their parents. Despite having precious little time to study, Rashida is one of the top students at her junior secondary school. But with so much responsibility on her small shoulders, she admits that it is sometimes hard for her to imagine a more promising future.

Last year, Rashida was invited to join 155 other girls at Camfed Ghana’s first Girls’ Career Camp, a program designed to inspire girls growing up in the country’s Northern Region to dream big, and to support them to pursue those dreams. “We organized this camp because we wanted to let girls know that even if they are struggling with poverty, their lives will not be defined by limitations,” says Dolores Dickson, Camfed Ghana’s Executive Director.

Over the course of five days, the camp led the junior and secondary school students through a range of experiences and career opportunities that were entirely new to them.  Dr. Agnes Apusiga, a lecturer from the University of Development Studies, ran the workshop on goal-setting and career choices, describing the universities and training colleges in Ghana that could help them achieve their aspirations. Participants then visited the University for Development Studies, where they toured the medical school and science labs. They were taken on excursions to Tamale’s sports stadium, and to the airport, where they watched Ghana’s air force perform a series of drills – noting with surprise that there were several women among the cadets.  Another highlight was a workshop at the computer lab at Tamale Secondary School. Many of the girls had studied information technology from a book but had never before seen a computer. The students’ initial uncertainty about how to interact with the machine soon transformed into impatience and excitement, as they jockeyed for a turn at the keyboard.

“When the girls arrived at camp, they were not ambitious, because they didn’t have any idea what the world held for them,” says Eugenia Ayagiba, Project Officer with Camfed Ghana. “Many had scarcely traveled beyond their own villages.”

“I think the most important thing that happened at the camp is that we opened a window of hope for a group of girls coming from backgrounds of deprivation,” says Eugenia. For Rashida, who has been ridiculed in the past by her schoolmates because of her father’s disability, the experience was transformative. “She told one of the camp mentors that when she is at school, she often feels like a misfit, and she prefers to keep to herself,” says Eugenia. “But at the camp, it was different. She befriended girls who have similar struggles. She took part in every single activity, every single game. On the last day, she said to her mentor, ‘The camp has challenged me to study hard. Now I see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.’

*Rashida’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.


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