Written by: Akiko Chau
Typical American 17-year olds ride in their parents’ car to school, have a part time job, talk to their girlfriend or boyfriend on the phone and study as hard as what is necessary to get them to a 4-year university.
Typical 17-year olds from rural areas of Ghana walk several miles to school, have parents and siblings to take care of, work on a farm to make living and study to advance in further education to provide for their future family.
Aduko Akolgoorrah Linda is among a typical 17-year old from Ghana. Linda attends Nyariga Doone Girls Junior High School located in Bolgatanga, Ghana that a non-profit organization, The Blessing Basket Project, and a supermarket, Whole Foods, sponsor.
A little over a dozen of Linda’s classmates’ tuition is fully supported by The Blessing Basket Project. The family of the students cannot afford an education and often times they rather need extra hands at home to put food on the table.
“I won’t be here without them, especially my father,” said Linda.
Her father weaves baskets for living. He not only takes care of Linda; he has a wife and their two young girls to look after.
Linda’s mother passed away when she was three months old. Linda has seen her mother’s picture before, but the mother is an unfamiliar figure in her life. Instead, her grandmother took on a role as a mother and raised Linda.
When talking about her mother, Linda paused few tens of seconds between her sentences and stared directly into the interviewer’s eyes. She chose words carefully as if she is not used to talking about her. She spoke as her mother is the most valuable memory she had.
“I want to be a good person in the future, like a doctor or a banker,” said Linda. When she was asked why she answered, “because I can take care of my parents.”
Linda wishes to build a house for her grandmother in the future. She smiled for the first time – her cheek pulled up and her thin line of a tribal mark stretched.
She must not only attend school but also perform exceptionally well at school to compete with students living in the cities and build a career.
Her community lacks electricity which causes many obstacles for students to study. Without the prevalence of electricity, the parents can only work during the daytime and children must also help to meet the workload demands. The children only has the evening for themselves but without lighting they cannot study.
Empower Playgrounds Inc. installed power-generating merry-go-round to Nyariga Doone Girls Junior High School in 2010. The equipment charges lanterns that help the students to study in the evening.
Linda said that the lanterns helped her recapture and prepare for the previous and coming class lectures.
This extra studies raised her exam scores, which used to be between 50-55 out of 100, to between 60-65 out of 100.
“I now pass the exams,” said Linda.
Linda diligently studies to give back all that the family has given her. Her peers have similar stories. Many students consider schooling as an opportunity to devote and give back to their families just as Linda’s dream was to build a house for her grandmother. This is not the first response students from the first world countries would give for the reason to obtain higher education. A typical Ghanaian student would be atypical in America.