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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Becoming Educated in Ghana

A young 10 year old Ghanaian boy darts through traffic, carefully balancing a basket of dried fish on his head, contorting his hands and face to gain the attention of the passengers in each passing car. As the sun settles on the dry, red, ground of Sogakope, the boy returns to a barren shack he calls home, to an aunt who, disappointed by the boy’s failure to sell an appropriate amount of fish, refuses to feed him dinner. His stomach rumbling, a single tear gingerly winds down his smooth cheek. The boy wishes for a different life, different circumstances: a chance to become educated. Meet Louis.

I first met Louis in Akatsi, a rural city in Ghana, West Africa. He was 14 years old then and living with his abusive cousin, while also managing the life of his 8 year old brother Gershon. They were living in a two-room dirt floor dilapidated concrete structure, with both parents absent. I spent a day in the life of Louis at one point, which began at 5:30 AM with a half-mile trek to the nearest well, where he proceeded to drop a bucket down to fetch water, only to watch half of its contents drain out from the quarter size hole in the bottom. This wasn’t what struck me about Louis’ life, however. What caught my attention was his morning dedication to studying his notes from class, his rapt attention during my English courses at his middle school, and his continual thirst for knowledge, arriving immediately after school at our volunteer premises to engage in conversation with the volunteers, to sop up every word, every grain of knowledge.

Louis’ story is no different than hundreds of thousands of youth across our world, that because of the circumstances they are born into, do not have access to education, health care, or even basic food supplies. Louis’ story is one of success, however, a testament to the power of education and to what happens when a young boy decides that in order to become successful in this world, and to rise out of poverty, one must become educated.

I spent the entire past week with Louis, his father, his mother, his brother Gershon, and his younger sister. He has overcome such great obstacles in his life including being kicked out of secondary school for lack of school fees, going without food for several days in a row, and living in conditions not suitable for any human being. Despite these struggles, and because of his commitment to education, he recently graduated from a 3 year Polytechnic program in Marketing, having been the Marketing President in his final year, charged with overseeing the 3,000 plus student body. Now, as a 23 year old that has never seen a washing machine, and only tried pizza for the first time last week, he has aspirations of earning his Bachelor Degree in Marketing and travelling abroad to earn his Masters.

Louis attributes his success in life to one sole factor, the pursuit of education. It has given him opportunities to speak impeccable English, dabble in French, lead thousands of students, and earn a National Diploma in a very challenging field. The 10 year old boy that sold fish is now a 23 year old success story for all of Ghana. I say to you Louis, Well Done!
Me and Louis at the Kwame Nkrumah Museum

Me and Louis at a soccer match in Accra
Me, Louis' Brother Gershon, and his father Fred

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