Growing in Ghana: The Zongo Program

Due to a combination of poor memory, procrastination, and the onset of a new semester, I neglected to write about one of Invictus Institute’s newest programs, the Zongo program, back when it was still new. My apologies, readers. Still, better late than never.

In February 2017, Invictus Institute began mentoring students in Ghana. As the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) details in an education-centric working paper, the need is pervasive. As one of our volunteers summarized in their personal research, Ghana faces a series of educational challenges, among them, their lack of teachers. In lower secondary school during 2005, only 51,419 teachers were responsible for 919,334 students; in that same period in upper secondary school, it was a mere 16,527 teachers to 338,664 students.  (Note: Ghana organizes its public education into six years of primary school, three years of lower secondary school, and three years of upper secondary school). Disparities to this degree make it all but impossible for students to receive specialized, one-on-one attention they may need, hampering the quality and quantity of their learning.

This is where Invictus Institute comes in. Through our online tutoring system, we offer the individualized support students need, enabling better absorption and future recall of material. And, as of July 2017, we are extending these tutoring opportunities to one of Ghana’s numerous Zongo communities.

One of the program’s participants describes Zongo communities as “Muslim dominated communities. Interestingly, most villages, towns or cities have Zongos.” Cecilia S. Oben, an Associate Professor of Applied Health Science at Indiana University, characterizes Zongo settlements as West African communities composed primarily of settlers from Northern regions, particularly Northern Nigeria. Currently, Invictus Institute operates in Adomi Senchi, a “half a mile away from the Senchi-Ferry Community library…a suburb village of Senchi-Ferry.”

The Zongos’ social services such as education are in a dilapidated state. Our participant confesses that “Zongo communities have high rates of illiteracy and hence appear the poorest in most cases, concerning poverty, education, sanitation etc.” With conditions as unfortunate as these, one would expect civil strife to be commonplace, a part of day-t0-day life in the Zongos. “However,” our participant adds that “there is huge harmony and peaceful coexistence between both Moslems and non Moslems.”

The social calm, and especially the unquestionable need, within the Zongo neighborhood make it an optimal site for Invictus Institute’s tutoring. The Zongos, and Ghana as a whole, stand to gain a great deal from an educational boost among its populace. Our aforementioned volunteer researched one of the Education at a Glance reports from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and discovered that countries “able to attain literacy scores 1% higher than the international average will achieve levels of labour productivity and GDP per capita that are 2.5 and 1.5% higher, respectively, than those of other countries.”

Similar advantages are available to Ghanaians, both Zongo and otherwise, from enlarged English proficiency skills, a hallmark of Invictus Institute’s tutoring programs. This proves particularly true among job seekers; our volunteer reports that “recruiters and HR managers around the world report that job seekers with exceptional English compared to their country’s level earned 30-50% percent higher salaries.” He also points out “a direct correlation between English proficiency and the Human Development Index (a measure of education, life expectancy, literacy, and standards of living).” 

The prospect of heightened prosperity and well-being is a dream for people all over the world, from Zongos, to Ghanaians at large, and beyond. Our volunteers in the Zongo program, along with the rest of Invictus Institute’s programs worldwide, strive to make that dream a reality for all who desire it.

New Beginnings in Ghana

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Adventist Preparatory & JSS Shool, where Invictus Institute has begun operations in Ghana.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, last week marked the beginning of Invictus Institute’s tutoring sessions in the nation of Ghana. The timing of this new beginning is rather fitting given Ghana’s upcoming celebration this weekend of a momentous new beginning in their history: 60 years of independence!

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Ghanan students meeting with stateside mentors.

Invictus Institute’s first tutoring session was a small affair, with two students from a school from Adventist Preparatory & JSS School located in Winneba being instructed by volunteers from Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. By next week, that number will rise to twelve. “We have big plans to grow in Ghana,” founder Kasey Beck explains, “at other schools and community centers.”

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Two parties deserve credit for this and future endeavors in Ghana. This first is Mustapha Salifu, a local Ghanan college student who Kasey praises as “crucial in getting this set up and running smoothly.” The second is EVCO [Every Village Community Organization] Africa, a nonprofit organization that “seeks to eradicate poverty by fostering community involvement and development through projects focused on computer literacy and sustainable farming.” Invictus Institute will partner alongside EVCO Africa as they spread across Ghana. Carrying on the theme of new beginnings, it is likely to be a rewarding partnership; “They are great to work with,” Kasey applauds.

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Many of the students we are tutoring will commemorate Ghana’s 60th anniversary of independence through a collection of marching competitions. As Invictus Institute instructs them in English, science, and math, the distant hope is that one day, these pupils will celebrate their freedom from poverty, commemorating the occasion once again with marching, only this time in a graduation setting.

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Students in marching practice.