After years of dedication, Daniel Dotse ’09 (above, left) has finally seen his dream of impacting Ghana’s education system flourish. Dotse, along with Abdul Razak Musah ’10 and Sadik Antwi Boampong, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus, has launched a new nonprofit initiative, Teach for Ghana.
As part of the Teach for All network, which has 39 programs around the world, including Teach for America, the new initiative is the first in Africa to join the global organization. In January, Teach for Ghana began its initial application process, encouraging university students in Ghana and recent graduates to apply through campus visits and social media. Similar to other Teach for All programs, recruits pledge two years to the program and are placed in underserved schools.
The journey to revitalize Ghana’s education system began while Dotse was studying for his bachelor’s degree, when he went home to Ghana to visit his family. He noticed that a large number of impoverished children had little access to educational tools or were not in school. Upon returning to Arcadia, he organized a book drive and began the process of building a library in the Akatsi region of Ghana. However, he knew this wouldn’t be enough to provide children with the education they would need to be successful adults.
Both Dotse and Musah credit their experiences at Arcadia for encouraging their pursuit of equal education. For Dotse, it was the diversity of Arcadia’s campus, which he said encouraged his belief that no matter what your background, everyone should have the opportunity to achieve. For Musah, it was the support from faculty and staff who believed in him, even as he struggled to stay in school.
In 2012, Dotse reconnected with Musah, a Teach for America alum and a native of Ghana. Together, they researched the Teach for All model and adapted it to the needs of their home country. For two years, they met with Teach for All representatives to develop a program for Ghana. In 2014, Dotse moved back to Ghana to begin the process of developing a recognized educational nonprofit.
I hope I can give back to my home country [and] give them an opportunity, just like Arcadia gave to me.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, everyone has the potential to learn,” Musah said. “I hope I can give back to my home country [and] give them an opportunity, just like Arcadia gave to me.”
During the application process that closed in April, the organization received hundreds of applications to fill the 30 positions available in schools throughout Volta, a rural region of Ghana, for the 2016-17 school year. By filling the 30 positions, Teach for Ghana estimates it will impact 1,740 children in the first year and nearly 10,000 by the end of 2018, as the organization continues to expand each year.
To create a successful school environment, Teach for Ghana recruited individuals from a variety of backgrounds who show the potential to develop into leaders and overcome educational issues of poverty, lack of resources, and distance. Recruits completed training throughout the summer in preparation for teaching in September.
“Once we are able to make systematic changes, we can make sure every child has access to an education,” Dotse said. “We want to develop leaders who are conscious of the educational issues and are willing to do something about them.”
However, providing equal education to Ghana’s students will not be easy. Musah said Teach for Ghana is looking to enter primary schools because, by second grade, there are already differences in the quality of education students receive based on economic class. Children in the rural areas of Ghana scored lower on reading and math evaluations done by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ghana’s Ministry of Education in 2014. In the report, nearly 80 percent of students in the Volta region scored a zero on the evaluation for reading comprehension. Additionally, only 17 percent of students could complete second grade mathematics.
The study concluded that these students were more likely to miss at least one day of school per week, lacked reading resources outside of school, and had no one with whom to practice language skills at home.
“Parents don’t always have the funds to send their children to schools, and they lose hope,” Dotse said. Both Dotse and Musah said parental opinion of education is critical to success—when parents don’t think education is important, the students usually don’t care about learning.
In the years to come, the hope is that Teach for Ghana students will look back, see the impact it had on their lives, and feel the need to come full circle to continue the improvements to education. Musah believes that all children today can have an impact on education as business leaders, politicians, or teachers in the future.
Teach for Ghana, acclaimed by Teach for All, has worked with the network to find funding for the program. So far, the organization has received funding from educational organizations such as the Varkey Foundation, Pershing Square Foundation, and SWIFT Center (Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation). It is also supported by the Ghana Education Service, which allows recruits to teach in public classrooms.
However, with a goal of $850,000, Dotse said there is still much to do to meet their financial need by the end of the year. Musah is one of two fundraising ambassadors for Teach for Ghana in the U.S., where much of the funding has been generated so far. Since Ghana struggles with a poverty rate of over 20 percent of its population, according to the U.S. Government Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, Dotse said it is difficult to find third-party funding within the country.
Most recently, Teach for Ghana was the recipient of a Bridge Funding Award for $50,000. However, this matching grant requires Teach for Ghana to raise $50,000 before the organization can access the funds.
“[Fundraising] has been a challenge,” Dotse said, “but we are pushing forward.”