Letter from Ghana! by Maria Tomai

Letter from Ghana! by Maria Tomai

St. Nicholas Preparatory School, Tema, Ghana

Dear Prof. Ramani,

Today I had the chance to spend one more amazing day at St. Nicholas Preparatory School in Tema. During my first visit there, a couple of weeks ago, I met the students and the staff, they showed me around the school facilities and they explained me how does the school works. But today was a special day. I spent more time with the children, we had lunch together and then we had a nice discussion with the whole staff, after I presented them the vision of FIN and our ideas for the Green Academ Project.

120 children, 8 teachers and 7 admin staff compose a lively community in a remote area, in the city of Tema. The school is offering a chance at education to less privileged kids, whose family doesn’t have the financial means to support it. Two meals every day, clothes, footwear and school bags are some of the things provided to the students by the school.

‘’The school has been of great hope and has brought a big change in the environment. We are almost a first-class school in the area. It is not only about the infrastructure, but mainly about academics, how we are taking care of the children, their well-being, and how we also try to educate the parents.’’ (Aisha, teacher)

Although the school has managed to achieve a high level of sanitation and hygiene, the surrounding area is suffering from serious problems. The community (mainly fishermen) use the sea as a toilet and disposal site. Consequently, all rubbish thrown in the sea are constantly washing up on the shore.

‘’In the school, the children are taught to wash their hands, to use the toilet and to collect their waste instead of dumping them. But when they go back home, they face a different reality’’ (teachers)

‘The school is highly affected by that situation. Instead of being a nice place for the children to play and enjoy, our shore has been transformed into a dumpsite and big source of contamination. We are organising clean-up exercises with the children, and the place becomes clean for a while, but after a few weeks the garbage is back. We haven’t managed to find any permanent solution. What can we do?’’ (teachers)

I was thinking about this question since my first visit in the school, and then I thought about the idea of the Green Academy project and how ‘’Friends In Need’’ have responded in similar cases. So, I grasped the chance of our second visit to the school, to talk to them about the FIN vision, how did it all start in Kameshwaram village in India and how similar the situation is in many places in India, as well as other in countries.

They liked the FIN vision! Further, the FIN (WASH)2 model provided a simple conceptual framework to start discussions. Talking about the present state of the (WASH)2 factors – (Clean Water, Safe Sanitation, Hygiene Behaviour, Waste Management), we agreed that in the school efforts are being made for all 4 variables, but due to poor government support, non-existent facilities and almost zero law enforcement, it is difficult to achieve a sustainable change.

In the end, we concluded that it is worthwhile to work towards the FIN Green academy vision. If St. Nicholas school succeeds, then it would provide a good example for other schools to learn from. Making the students the future circular economy leaders and schools the motor of a sustainable change is the path we should follow.

First battle won! The Green academy vision has won their hearts! Now – what are the next steps? This meeting was very important, a very good first step, because we have really brought their attention together to these (WASH)2 variables. In conclusion, I think my visit to the school has achieved the following main things:

Everyone agrees that the present situation of the WASH variables has to improve

They are willing to make change happen and to work towards St. Nicholas school becoming an example
They are most keen to work with us on a training project towards taking the next steps
To make this happen we need resources and partnerships, which is something we need to think about
Here, Dr. Ramani, I look forward to continuing the conversation! I think it would be interesting to twin a school in Kameshwaram with St. Nicholas – they would be most willing.

So, to be continued… ??

Maria Tomai from Accra