By Lolo Amevinya
A clean, attractive and healthy environment is not only a pleasant place to live and learn but also the value of the good impression it makes on any academic discourse community cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, students of the oldest school in the Tamale Metropolis; Lamashegu MA JHS in the Northern Region of Ghana cannot but feel down in matters relating to a clean and an attractive environment. The school, together with two other junior high schools in the community, encircle a portion of land that over the years has come to be used by community members and some students as a site for dumping refuse and a place of convenience.
This has persisted for over 10 years. It has been my major concern about the school. The students cannot stay in the class because of the smell. No one is willing to help. This is really hard!" The Headmistress of Lamashegu MA JHS, Mrs Martha Kaye-Essien recounted.
The safe and conducive atmosphere the teachers strive to create in their classrooms daily is threatened each day. The site sends a stench that disrupts lessons and the situation sadly escalates during the rainy seasons.
Teachers and students of these schools had totally given up and accepted this situation to be the norm until a unique and vibrant set of young leaders from Teach for Ghana joined the school as teachers. Speaking to one of the fellows; Mr. Richard Yeboah, he said; "We cannot wait for the government or the district assembly to do this for us. What if they never intervene? The onus falls on us to rise to the occasion and deal with this problem. We are the ones who struggle because of this situation "
With the support of the head of their school, these Teach for Ghana fellows started having conversations with stakeholders in the community about how to deal with the refuse dump that is gradually dispossessing students of their schools.
Speaking again to Mr. Richard Yeboah, he said; “Regardless of the great initiative to solve the problem, the Lamashegu cleanup project has suffered loads of challenges. Getting stakeholders like parents, community leaders and the district assembly together was one of the major challenges. We’ve had instances where meetings were scheduled with key stakeholders given prior notice but only one or two people showed up.”
Miss Nina Spio Quansah, another fellow stressed one more challenge they faced. She said; “It has been hard raising funds to finance the project. Almost everyone we shared our proposal with and spoke to commended us and said it was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, no one was willing to provide financial support. There were so many reasons to give up on the project.”
With support from some executives from the Teach for Ghana team, the fellows have recently had their project approved, winning a grant from World Connect to help them undertake the project. They are on the verge of solving a problem that has persisted in the community for over 10 years. Some tools and equipment have been secured. The date is set for teachers, students and community members to come together to undertake the exercise of cleaning up the area. In the quest to ensure the sustainability of the project, the Teach for Ghana fellows are also organising a major educational workshop to sensitise the students and community members about the need to ensure a clean and safe environment. The fellows also hinted plans to extend the project to cover other communities in the next year. In a final word, Mr. Yeboah sent a word of advice and encouragement to young people all over the world who have thoughts about leading a movement of change in their communities. He said; “The determination and energy with which the youth can work make them very valuable to every country. It is important that this zeal and power is consistently channeled to the building of our communities; combating filth, educational inequities, gender issues, among others.”
He added as a final point that; “Leading any movement of change is not easy. The road will get lonely. You will face resistance from all sides. You may feel like giving up but do not forget that change is difficult in the beginning, messy in the middle but absolutely gorgeous at the end. We are the change we want to see! You will look back and thank yourself one day for not giving up!”
Thanks to the creativity and initiative of Richard O. Yeboah and Nina Spio Quansah, both fellows of Teach for Ghana, the Lamashegu community can have a clean and safe environment. Students and staff of Lamashegu JHS and other junior high schools in the area are moved by their commitment to ensuring a safe school environment. Kudos to the special breed of selfless change mongers leading the movement of change in their communities and beyond all over Ghana.