To students in the U.S., the scene is a familiar one: each day, the senior class humming with anticipation, breathless for news, for the thick official-looking envelope. It’s hard to imagine, but at Manye the class I knew as Junior High 2 will also be getting their high school placements in a matter of weeks.
The Ghanaian government took a huge step in the late 1980s to subsidize primary and middle school education for all children, but high school is a figment for most students at Manye. I remember talking to them about high school as if it were a forgone conclusion, but even then, many of my students shook their heads and smiled sagely at me. They grew up a lot faster than I ever had to. Their parents, mostly farmers, migrant workers, and peddlers, need their elder children to take care of younger siblings at home. The girls learn to cook and hawk wares. The boys learn their father’s trade. There is no time for secondary education, and even if there was—who would pay for it?
I was talking to Ben earlier this summer, and he reminded me of something I wrote when I came back from Manye almost a year ago in 2010: “If any student could pass the high school entrance exams, it was Rose; and I vowed to myself that no amount of tuition was going to stop her from attending high school.”
Rosalinda Mensah. The most blazingly intelligent girl in her class, but unlike most intelligent, self-aware individuals, she has an enormous heart instead of an ego. Last summer she told me of her dreams of studying social science and becoming a Pan-Africanist. I suppose I thought at the time she would never get the chance, which is why, when I realized her high school entrance exam results were finally arriving one year later, I decided to make high school happen for Rose.
As I understand it, Rose currently lives in Community 25 with the pastor of the local Presbyterian church. Her parents do not have the means to support her through secondary school, which means that unless she finds outside donors, she will never go beyond her middle school education.
This term, I sold pizza in the library twice and raised just shy of $200 for Rose’s first term, which will cost between 300-500 GHS (1 USD = 1.5 GHS). (Thank God: high school tuition in Ghana costs about as much as the student activities fee at Dartmouth.) It was a lot simpler than I thought it’d be.
Still, I don’t exactly know where I’m going with this. As a full-time student myself, maybe I could support Rose through high school just by selling C&A’s pizza, but more important I realized that, for former volunteers, our relationships with the children don’t stop when we go home. Quite honestly, knowing Rose has helped me savor what I have in life, so I only hope that my friendship and mentorship with her will continue to enrich hers.
In the fall, I will try to get World Partners in Education’s first undergraduate chapter recognized at Dartmouth, but also in the hopes that others will see how such simple actions on our part can transform the life trajectory of a gifted and deserving young woman like Rose. Dartmouth students are full of creativity and compassion, and I can’t wait to see what a coalition of fellow volunteers and likeminded individuals can come up with to make a continued impact on those special students—the Roses, the Wisdoms, the Jerrys—even after we’ve left Manye or NAP. And of course, I’m banking that there’s nothing quite like an idealistic freshman class to get the energy going for 2012.