Beyond Axim: follow up projects in Ghana
Konongo Odumase Secondary School Library Collection
After our Journey to Axim, Ghana Project Co-Director Barbara Gilday visited the Konongo Odomase Secondary School where she taught many years ago while in the Canadian University Services Overseas. She was disturbed to see that the only books to go in the library were very few books and generally out of date, so she made a commitment to raise $20,000 to purchase new books for the library.
Konongo Odumase Secondary School (KOSS) is a government boarding school serving 1600 students in the Ashanti region. It was built in 1953 as a part of the new democracy of Ghana under its first president, Kwame Nkrumah. It was his vision that boarding schools would mix students from different tribal backgrounds giving them a sense of being Ghanaians first and from their tribes second. This has been a successful strategy and Ghana as for the most part been free of tribal warfare. Barbara Gilday taught there and served as librarian while a Canadian volunteer from 1966-1968. Recently the Ghanaian government began implementing a policy of improving the infrastructure of senior secondary schools, and KOSS has been designated as one of the schools to be upgraded to take pressure off some of the larger and better known schools. Many alumni from KOSS have become leaders in business, communities and government in Ghana. There are many who envision a new generation of leaders emerging from KOSS, supported by an adequate library with an updated collection.
Barbara’s team has completely fulfilled her commitment to raise funds to purchase books for the library. With other former volunteers and a former student, this dynamic group completed their goal of fundraising in order to buy $20,000 of new books. Alumni in Ghana raised $2000 of this. The Chief Librarian of the university nearby, a KOSS alum who purchased and catalogued the books, plans to make this a model secondary school library that other schools can emulate.
Students and staff were elated at the opening. One comment made to the Headmaster: “Do we get to read these books?”
Ghanaian alumni are completing a teacher’s housing duplex and will then work on increasing the library collection. One of the staff has been part of a student training for assistants in another school library, and he will institute this at KOSS. The headmaster has requested that a National Service library graduate be placed in Konongo to run the library until the collection is large enough to warrant hiring a full-time professional librarian – their ultimate goal.
At Konongo, Barbara also trained 1000 students and 35 teachers in Appreciative Inquiry, a process that inspired them to consider their own talents and resources and formulate a dream in order to make positive plans for their lives and work.
Appreciative Inquiry in Ghana
Jim Taylor and Barbara Gilday taught Appreciative Inquiry techniques – a strengths based methodology to find an individual or community’s resourcefulness and empower them to create their own visions of their possible futures. It is used extensively in corporations and coaching as well as development work. They taught over 1100 students, teachers, business owners and board and community members (including students and staff at Konongo and the WHH Board in Axim). They have been asked to return next year to work with small communities, other schools and Chambers of Commerce.
Life Story Project
A major focus in Barbara Gilday’s work this year was collecting human interest stories. Hagar Hajara Yakubu seen here has an inspirational story of her vision and the challenges growing up and getting an education. She is now the Director of the Community Development Vocational Institute in Axim. As a successful career woman, she has helped many others to manifest their dreams. The focus in the interviews was to help the interviewees see that their lives are important and to highlight their strengths and values. These stories are informing North American presentations and will likely become the basis for a book. When we come to know our neighbors, and become aware of their wisdom, are inspired by them, and are thoughtful about some of the lessons we can learn from them, we will become better global citizens ourselves.
Back in North America, Barbara is traveling and doing educational and engaging presentations and workshops in schools, churches and communities to inform and transform our ways of thinking about the world. See www.BarbaraGilday.com for more information.