Education is not an option for most girls in Ghana. Instead of becoming doctors, teachers or civic leaders, they face a life of daily toil.
“They have to work very vigorously, transporting water, wood and charcoal, and gathering food,” said Cindy Jefferies, vice-chair of the local Tools for School Africa Foundation.
She gave a public presentation on the charity Sunday at the Red Deer Public Library, to highlight the plight of girls in the West African country, where the female literacy rate is only five percent.
While education is the only elusive hope for a more progressive future, Jefferies said “families send boys to school first. If the families don’t have enough money, girls don’t get to go to school.”
The Red Deer city councillor has been involved in the seven-year-old non-profit started by her neighbour Marilyn Pottage for the last four years.
Jefferies finally got the chance to visit Ghana for the first time last May, and was profoundly affected by what she saw. The problems initially seemed overwhelming.
“In the capital city of Accra, a lot of people don’t live in houses. They live in what we would consider sheds,” said Jefferies. “They didn’t have running water, or plumbing, or sewage or electricity.”
But as the question “why do we think we can fix this?” went through her head, Jefferies began meeting girls and women who have been helped by Tools for School Africa scholarships.
The charity that operates in the northern Damongo region of Ghana has been sending females to elementary school and through high school. It’s also sponsored a teacher workshop that brought North American teachers to Ghana, and helped build a boarding house in 2009, with University of Manitoba architecture students, for girls who would otherwise have to walk a long way to school every day.
Some of the girls being assisted are orphans, while others come from poor families. All were very grateful for the opportunities Tools for School Africa gave them, said Jefferies.
“They are told, ‘Remember, if you go away for your education, you must come back here to the north, to help other people. If each of you, who has received help, someday helps two more girls pay for their school fees, we can get some critical mass here . . .’”
Jefferies said a few girls are now receiving post-secondary education scholarships. “They know what this means. This has changed their lives totally.”
Tools for School Africa, can do a lot with relatively little, added Jefferies, who noted the local charity can send a girl to elementary school for a year for a donation of a few hundred dollars.
“It’s nice that this is local, and that everything’s done by volunteers that pay their own way . . . We are very accountable and it’s easy to see what difference is being made through our great connections in Damongo.”
For more information, please visit www.tfs-africa.org.