x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Abu Dhabi charity to rebuild school in Ghana

A group of educators is raising money to rebuild a school in Ghana that was destroyed by a storm, which forced children to study outside.

The remains of the school in Adubiliyili which was ruined by storm and will be replaced by a charity based in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Building Walls of Wisdom
The remains of the school in Adubiliyili which was ruined by storm and will be replaced by a charity based in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Building Walls of Wisdom

A charity aimed at ridding poverty through education is raising funds to build its sixth school, this one in northern Ghana. The group, based in the capital and run by educators, is well on its way to achieving its target of constructing 10 schools in 10 years. Ramola Talwar Badam reports

Braving wind, rain and sun, about 300 children have been studying under trees for five months after a storm destroyed their mud-and-brick school in Adubiliyili, northern Ghana. Their hardship will end after a small group of Abu Dhabi educators raises enough funds to rebuild the school.

This is the sixth school, the third in Ghana, that Building Walls of Wisdom (BWoW) has constructed since 2009.

The schools are built in poor communities as part of the teaching community's dream for education to break the cycle of poverty.

"Our aim is to build this school as soon as possible," said Geoff Morgan, the founder of BWoW and an administrator at a private school in Abu Dhabi. He asked not to identify the school.

"The children are attending class outside so it's an urgent need. They get distracted by the rain and the wind. Our fear is that they will stop coming to school and we will lose them."

In the farming community of Adubiliyili, teachers take classes near the battered school structure. Students are seated on wooden benches and in chairs scattered across muddy stretches and green fields.

The project is part of BWoW's larger goal of building 10 schools over 10 years. The organisation works with local groups to identify where funding is needed.

The group's first school was built in the Kenyan village of Emori Joi, using money raised from fund-raising activities and company contributions or those from teachers, students and parents in Abu Dhabi.

Several people made donations after seeing videos on the group's website, buildingwallsofwisdom.com, showing the cracked walls and inadequate lighting in the old structures.

More than 90 people from countries including Canada and China chipped in with contributions ranging from US$25 (Dh91) to $3,000. Five schools have been built in Kenya, Ecuador, Sri Lanka and Ghana, with $50,000 collected over the past two years.

While the first five school projects covered about 40 students each, the challenge in Adubiliyili is much bigger, with 300 primary schoolchildren.

Community fund-raising events are planned over the next few months to raise the $32,330 required, of which $4,325 has been collected so far.

"This time it may be difficult for a small network so we are hoping to spread the word," said Mr Morgan.

"We want to connect with like-minded people to make a change in one small community at a time. We connect our donors by video so they can see that people's lives are changing."

The campaign is also teaching vital lessons to Abu Dhabi students. Visiting BWoW's first school in Kenya last year was an eye-opener for Natasha Krell, 17.

As she listened to the career dreams of students her age, the Uruguayan-American student understood the transformation education could bring.

"There were 40 kids and every kid had something they wanted to do in life - a doctor, a lawyer, a social worker," said Natasha, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for three years.

"The most basic things that we take for granted - clean drinking water, a school - they appreciated everything. Education in the developing world helps children to be self-sufficient.

"For these kids in a rural village in Kenya, it meant the world to them."

Her classmate Lucyna Mierzejewska, 18, agreed the visit was a learning experience.

"What I realised is really how sheltered we are living in Abu Dhabi," said Lucyna, a Polish national born in the capital. "When I complain or hear my peers complain about anything like … homework, I remember how the children there [Kenya] love studying.

"So I try to remember I shouldn't complain because anyone would love to have the opportunities we have."

The projects help Ken Fernandez, a Grade 3 teacher, raise awareness among his students. He asks them to contribute towards building schools instead of giving gifts to teachers for the holidays or birthdays.

"That got them fired up and they wanted to understand what it was about," said Mr Fernandez, who is a regular BWoW contributor.

"It's important to instil a sense of global community with the kids no matter what age. It helped them understand what it was like for kids not as fortunate.

"We're trying to make alliances around the world with education."

 

rtalwar@thenational.ae