After she gathered litter of black plastic bags and used tissue paper into a small pile, she hid her face shyly and ran off to her classroom with bare feet. She joined a crowd of students curiously staring and giggling at the older student as she set up three blue plastic chairs for an interview.
The older student’s legs were bruised on the knee and on her heels; her hair was cut the same way as the boys in school as part of their uniform. Her body was built like an athlete, properly proportioned and as if she didn’t carry any unused muscles.
The older student gestured the interviewer to sit, but waited until she was asked to be seated on the chair. She introduced herself as Juliana. She is a class six student, oldest in the Ata’ampuurum ‘A’ primary school.
Ata’ampuurum is located in Bolgatanga in the northern region of Ghana. The area has a high concentration of poverty unlike the developing southern region where the capital, Accra, is based.
Despite financial challenges Juliana and her family face, Juliana understands the importance of receiving an education and sees the essential role it plays in the progress of the country. The lanterns provided by Empower Playgrounds Inc. made a significant change in her academic performances.
“Our parents don’t know what school is. They didn’t do school. Some people here, because they don’t school and they don’t like school, they don’t come,” Juliana said.
Juliana attends school to help her family in the future but also to look after her community. “We are the future leaders,” Juliana said. She explained that people who have enough money to take care of their immediate family can do more. Juliana herself wants to become a doctor after schooling so that she can cure sickness.
Though she seeks to help people outwardly, she has her immediate family to take care of. Her father passed away and her mother and her aunt make a living weaving baskets. They live in a compound (a collection of rooms) that Reverend Fathers built in 2013.
Juliana contributes to her family’s living by working at a farm. She doesn’t want her mother to be out working, so while her mother stays at home weaving, Juliana farms. “Because I know how to do it, I go and make money.”
“If there’s food in the house, I’ll eat,” said Juliana when asked how often she eats her meals.
Juliana nodded with a smile when she was asked whether she was happy. She did mention, “When they ask me of my father I don’t know, I always cry because there’s no one to take care of us.”
Juliana strives to do her best in school and at home with the many responsibilities on her shoulders.
The lanterns allow the children to study at night after school hours. Many students are expected to help their parents work during the daytime, and they do not get the chance to review materials outside of the class.
“We study all the time,” said Juliana. There are two other students who study with her; During their study sessions, they quiz each other on spelling and help each other understand the reading.
Before receiving the lantern, Juliana scored 15th place in the class, but she has achieved first place consistently in the past few terms. She said that she can read well and understand the materials better in the class.
She remembers a particular moment during a term when she read a section about the importance of education.When she came to school the next day, an exam given contained a question about what she had read, and she was able to answer the question because of her previous evening study. She scored around 80 on the exam, which was a good score for Juliana.
“If teachers ask question in the class, I couldn’t answer them. But now, we now have the lights,” said Juliana.
The lantern helps the children’s academic performance, which influences something larger—the community. The lantern project enhances the children’s learning and encourages children to dream bigger.