COMMUNITY CHAMPION: How Diana Agbenyo is Building Student’s Leadership Capacity in Ashaiman Community
Diana Setsofia Agbenyo lives in Ashaiman, a community (suburb of Tema, Ghana) which has a low rate of education coupled with increasingly low performance in most public schools in the community. Her passion for education saw the need to start Consulteen Ghana, a non-profit organization which aims at impacting young people by providing them with educational options and skills to achieve more.
She spoke with Rural Reporter’s Charles Mensah on her work, education and the future for the project
The realisation that the world was fast advancing and in effect, leaving behind the young people in my community got me angry and willing to do something about the situation, indeed, I had benefited from various interventions of empowerment outside my Ashaiman and I figured, why not bring one into the community?
What are the major areas you want to impact in education and capacity building with Consulteen?
They are primarily,
* Leadership consciousness at the basic levels
* Soft skill acquisition avenues in schools
* Introduction to Entrepreneurial and Voluntary work at basic levels of schooling and so on.
What are some of the major projects Consulteen Ghana have embarked on?
We have embarked on two really exciting projects so far, the first is the “Exams Preparation workshop” where in the duration of the program we touched base with over 200 BECE candidates and adequately exposed the rubrics of exams and as well, life after the exams. It was our first edition and we must make acknowledgement to YOUTH ARENA NETWORK who partnered to pull it off credibly.
Then we run the ASHAIMAN READS PROJECT, a mobile library that goes to students in Public schools without libraries, in the community.
What are some of the success stories from the activities of your organisation?
Our first success story was the great turn out to our programs that alone sends to us, a message that we are relevant to the needs of our students. Also, the fact that indeed our students are willing and ready to be given the exposure and experience other like aged students enjoy elsewhere.
The great transformations we encounter in our students are success stories to us. We believe our ability to have initiated or unearthed these positive growth is a job done. More especially, when five of our students under the reading project qualified and won the Regional Spelling Bee competition.
So far, what major challenges have you faced as a young social entrepreneur in Ghana?
My challenge is mainly going through the bureaucratic system within the Education service more explicitly in the public schools I work with.
How do you fund the projects?
The projects are ran through the benevolence of our partners and schools mainly. However, moving forward, we envisage providing our services in school leadership training, as another income stream to fund our projects.
Do you think the government is doing enough to develop curricula to hone the skills of students in schools which will make them ready for the job market?
The government’s contribution to providing infrastructure and reviewing the curricula from time to time has been averagely done in the past decade, I strongly believe there is still more to do especially in areas of intentional leadership skill training amongst students where we all attest to as being very lacking. In my opinion, the intervention of government is not enough in getting students ready for work is not enough.
What can be done by the government and stakeholders to make the youth in Ghana become more interested in education?
When the government and we as Ghanaians, revise our priorities as a nation, it will become more evident to strategically and intentionally craft a final relevant educational or socialisation method that best speaks to our national needs in human resource development. More specifically, if the government does a thorough research into the problem of education loop holes, that will be the first step into finding lasting solutions pertaining the interest of the youth in education.
To what extent does education contribute to boosting economic growth and development in Africa?
Interesting question there, the relevance of a sound and skill enabling education is the basic fact that it nurtures our human resource in Africa into solving the dynamic global issues of today, especially in economic growth which in itself ripples to affect every other sector of nation building, especially job creation.
What are your views on the local language and its impact on education in Ghana?
I support the use of local language in teaching; no language is in itself inferior to the English language and as a teacher, experimenting the method has shown its feasibility. However, since it is still in its initial stages of implementation, we must continually modify the method to find the perfect one that accurately gets us the results we need.
What will be the most significant change that will affect the Ghanaian educational sector over the five coming years?
Relatively, a revision into the teacher training system will indeed begin the change needed, taking the system through a revised one that involves the teacher trainees themselves to be given skills in mentorship and leadership, so they are no more teachers but mentors of the students they engage with, will be the initial breakthrough of seeing change in the right direction.
How do you see your project in the next decade?
In the next decade, we foresee the organisation, CONSULTEEN GHANA, partnering with various educational institutions to provide relevant resources for teachers, parents and students to benefit from.
Some nuggets of advice you would give to aspiring educational/social entrepreneurs.
Social enterprise in education is a worthwhile venture, if harnessed well through resilience, you would attest to its relevance. The willingness to continue and how wide you access information about the enterprise is what will determine how decided you are in this pursuit. So don’t give up just yet, crawl or walk of fly if you may, as long as you keep moving.
THE PAINT SPLASH PROJECT
Diana recently launched another project, Paint Splash, which involved the restocking and renovation of a library space in one of a public school in Ashaiman. She realized with a population of about 5000 students who are on a shift system, they were on limited reading materials and unattractive space for the library. Through this intervention, about 1500 junior high school (JHS) students can have access to the library. When asked about the rational for that project and her other social innovations, she stated that, “We consider it a privilege to be undertaking this project and subsequent ones for the young people of Ashaiman. It is long overdue and we have decided to be the change we wish to see happen in Ashaiman. The habit of reading is one very important skill that we believe can begin tremendous changes in young people. It is one skill that is the basis for personal development of these students as well as initiate the exposure we seek tto enable for them. We have personally been beneficiaries of the prospects of this skill it of this skill and it is our quest to with the share it around.”