We believe that a literacy rate of 5% for girls is unacceptable. We believe that we live in one world, not a first world and a third world. We believe that pocket change to us can have a significant impact when one community joins together to support another community, and we have shown this to be true.
Tools for Schools Africa: From Past to Future
by Marilyn Pottage
Tools for Schools Africa began in 2003. My personal history in African goes back to 1967-1969 when my family lived in Northern Ghana. My father, Allen Moore, worked for CIDA in a rural area of the Northern Region on an educational/agricultural project.
In 2003 I revisited Africa on a teaching tour for the Association of International Schools of Africa, visiting five African countries. Upon my return, it seemed that many the next-to-new resources being discarded in Alberta would be valued in African schools. Small shipments were sent to Morocco, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana. All recipients were appreciative but it was the Ghanaian teachers who wrote back asking for books. “Please madam, can you send us more books, of any kind, but especially library books as our schools have none.” With that request the next phase of TFS-Africa began.
In early 2004 a shipment of 240 pounds of books was forwarded to those teachers from Damongo, the same village where I had lived as a teenager. The teachers evaluated the materials and advised us on what they needed most. After unsuccessfully asking many companies for space in a container going to West Africa, it was decided to fundraise the $8,000 to ship a 20 foot container.
Damongo Project #1 Begins
The response from seven Alberta school districts to a request for used books and supplies was overwhelming, so we opted for a 40 foot container for $11,000, a better value anyway. Fundraising and the collection of books began. All books came to my garage where they were unpacked, resorted and reboxed. Soon one container became two, and in July of 2006 two forty foot containers left Red Deer loaded to the top. In the end over 33 tonnes of books from that shipment were delivered to over 50 primary schools in the Northern Region. Our thanks to Nossack Fine Meats of Red Deer and the Diocese of Damongo who both allowed us warehouse space.
Some larger schools got up to five half ton loads of books. As well we took a large number of teaching resources, and handed them out as we met with over 300 teachers. Each teacher took home some new ideas about how to teach English and resources to help them do it. One of the teachers won a door prize for having the largest class - 167 grade six students in one room. There were a dozen more teachers with numbers very close to his, and perhaps half the teachers had class numbers of 90 students or more. Marilyn and I spent four and a half months in Africa and returned home in February 2007. Before we left Ghana, we were asked to provide more teacher training in the future.
Left: Delivering books a truck load at a time.
The temperature in the warehouse was 44 degrees.
Above: Some kindergarten kids at Damongo Presby Primary the day that books were first delivered to the school.
Right: One of the libraries we set up, this one at St. Annes’ Girls Senior Secondary School. We also set up a teacher resource library.
As well, we left a well functioning computer lab with 24 computers at SAGISS, the residential girls high school. In August of 2009 we were pleased that the lab was still operating and girls were spending part of their summer holidays in computer classes offered by the school outside regular class hours.
Damongo Project #2, July August 2008
In the summer of 2008 a team of five
Alberta educators traveled to Damongo, offering the requested teacher training. Four sessions were held over three days each with a total of about 350+ teachers attending. The day started with a keynote address and then teachers broke into groups of about thirty. Sessions specialized in the teaching of English, Math and Science at various grade levels, addressing teaching methodologies as well as basic curriculum content.
L to R: Adrianna (conference organizer) Jean Mudd, Laz, Marilyn P, Marilyn G, Charles, Doug and Cathy Sather
July 2002 DamongoProject #2:
L: $22,000 of books are shipped from the coast including teaching manuals, African readers and visuals as well as African novels
Above: One group of teachers arriving after walking from the bus.
Above: Break out “How to Teach Reading” session and Make-and-Take sessions
Above: Teachers leaving with resource.
Each teacher left with one or two teaching manuals written for African classrooms, and a good number of additional classroom resources..
The teachers were so keen that sometimes we had to turn out the lights in the evening to get them to leave the classrooms.
The evaluations and thank you letters were heart-warming indeed. We thank the Diocese of Damongo for partnering with us on this project. Special thanks to Bishop Philip, Father Charles and Father Laz.
Damongo Project #3 - September 2008 to August 2009
Project #3 was the ‘Paperwork Project”. Our goal for Project #3 was to get Tools for Schools Africa officially registered as a charity in both Canada and Ghana with Boards of Directors and bank accounts for both. We also wanted to get the scholarship program up and running, and to meet the girls selected by the scholarship committee. We were successful in meeting all these goals.
April 16, 2008 TFS-Africa Foundation was formally incorporated in the Province of Alberta. Before we were incorporated, we received assistance from a number of other NGO’s. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of A Better World, Give Meaning Foundation and Canadians Reaching Out (CARO).
September 2009 Tools for Schools Africa Foundation received charitable status in Canada. The Board of directors include Marilyn Pottage, Cindy Jefferies, Marilyn Ganger, Marsha Smalley, Michael Keyes, Jean Mudd, Cathy Sather, Gary Pottage and Lois Tallas.
November 2009 Tools for Schools Africa Society was officially recognized in Ghana. The Board of Directors include Francisca Amoako, Lydia Ajono, Noble Donkor Marilyn Ganger and Marilyn Pottage.
TFS-A Society certificate of Registration.
Marilyn G. & Noble sign documents at government offices in Accra to register TFS-Africa Society in Ghana.
In August 2009 Marilyn G. and I met all the scholarship recipients in Damongo. Some of the girls travelled great distances to meet with us as they are from diverse communities. All of them impressed us with their commitment to education, to their families and to their communities.
Three of the girls are in junior high, and are staying at St. Anne’s Boarding House as post primary education is not available in their rural villages. Four of the girls are attending the Vocational High School in Damongo while four more are at the government high school in Damongo, DASS. Three girls are attending St. Anne’s Girls Senior Secondary School, a residential high school for high academic achievers.
Pictured above are some of the girls. Their scholarships range from $US 200 to $US 800 per year. As they say in Ghana, “When you educate a girl, you educate the future” because an educated girl will never see her own children uneducated.
Damongo Project #4 - May 2010
We are looking forward to another visit to Damongo in May of 2010 for three purposes:
1. Reviewing Scholarship Needs: We will meet and talk with the girls on scholarship, and discuss both their plans and needs for the coming year. As well, we will be offering scholarships to an additional fourteen to sixteen girls as selected by the scholarship committee, pictured below. Laz is absent from the photo. Present are Marilyn, Mary, Gabriella, Marilyn and Adrianna.
2. School Needs: We will discuss the needs of the schools and the teachers for the coming few years. This will guide us in formulating our plans for Project 5. Also we will check in with Damongo Presby Primary regarding funds raised by the students at Annie L. Gaetz Elementary School in Red Deer that were forwarded to them in November 2009. We will also check on the arrival of 26 boxes of kindergarten books to be shipped to Kumasi in January 2010. These books were donated by a number of individuals as well as area schools including Annie L. Gaetz Elementary, West Park Elementary, Red Deer Christian School and Poplar Ridge Elementary.
3. The Addition to St. Anne’s Boarding House
The purpose of this project is to provide accommodation to girls from outlying villages that wish to continue their education past grade six and have no post primary education in their village. The Boarding House gives them an affordable and safe place to stay while attending junior high. It is overseen by a Catholic nun, but girls from any religious background are welcome.
We are so pleased that the faculty and students from the Department of Architecture at the University of Manitoba will be overseeing and helping with this project. Kelley Beaverford will be visiting Damongo in December 2009 to make sure all the paperwork, people and details are in place for a May 2010 start. We are more than pleased to have such a high level of knowledge and expertise available on site.
The blueprint shows the basic addition we will add to the existing boarding house structure. The addition includes a dormitory for 24 more girls, bath stalls and a study hall. As well we hope to improve the kitchen facility and install an overhead water tank to gravity feed water to
two or three hand washing sinks. Better sanitation certainly has the potential to considerably improve ongoing health issues. If there is money left we would like to fence the compound. In the past year individuals have moved on to school land which they then have claimed as their own.
Pictured here are the existing dorm, bathroom and kitchen facilities at St. Anne’s Boarding House, Damongo.
Our total budget for the Building Project is $51,000 for the basic addition. With hand washing sinks, an updated kitchen and perhaps even a coat of paint and roof refurbishing on the older dorm, the total cost will be in the range of $68,000 to $75,000.
We need about $18,000 in place for continued support of scholarship girls, so our budget is in the range of $US 86,500 to $US 90,000.
At the moment we have enough money to cover the basics. Fundraising will be a big part of our spring.
All individuals associated over the long term with Tools for Schools Africa Foundation and Tools for Schools Africa Society are volunteers. For the first time in May 2010 we will have paid employees helping with the building of the Boarding House.
If you would like to assist with this project, please browse the
Support Us / Gifts page.
Pictures speak a thousand words. To see photos, view presentations & watch videos of our trips to Damongo, please visit the Gallery Page.
Tools for Schools Africa Foundation was incorporated in Alberta in April, 2008.
We are a registered Canadian charity (#119112522 RR 0001) and as well are registered in Ghana as Tools for Schools Africa Society (#4285).
Our Mission statement: Tools for School Africa Foundation works to improve the quality of life in the Northern Region of Ghana by enhancing educational opportunity and improving access to post primary education. We have been working with people in the Northern Region since 2003. We are based in Red Deer, Alberta. The founder and chair of the Board is Marilyn Pottage.
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