Many children in Ghana dislike reading simply because they lack the valuable resource of interesting reading material. Primary and junior high school students in rural Ghana often have only government textbooks available to read. In order to truly enjoy reading, students need access to storybooks and novels that engage their curiosity, creativity, and imagination.
The Yonso Project has been working since 2007 to bring interesting reading material to underprivileged children in rural Ghanaian schools. In the past eight years, the Yonso Project has built a total of eight libraries, four of which are still supported by our NGO. Thanks to the work of the Yonso Project and the generous donations of our sponsors, we have shown over 3,000 children the excitement and fun contained in a good book!
Our work in Apaah represented a turning point in the Yonso Project’s approach to building libraries. In 2010, having successfully built libraries in other communities, the Yonso project set out to give even more children the opportunity to discover the joys of reading. After much deliberation, the Yonso project decided on Apaah for its newest library. This town had abysmally low test scores, with less than 20% of students successfully passing JHS examinations and a huge number of school-aged children staying at home, discouraged by the poor teaching and levels of academic opportunity available in local schools.
The Yonso project, with generous donor support, gathered materials and funds in order to build Apaah a new library. Having fully stocked the new library with storybooks and other reading materials, as well as fifteen brand new computers, the Yonso Project optimistically opened the library in June of 2010.
However, at first, the library was not being used to its full potential. Upon visiting the library, the Yonso Project found the books to be in disarray, with dust covering the tables and shelves. Students did not want to use the library because it was so poorly kept, and the Apaah community, discouraged by the failings of their local schools, was unenthusiastic about the educational prospects that a well-maintained library could bring.
Recognizing the need for community buy-in, the Yonso Project’s director, Kwabenna Danso, turned to the the chief of Apaah, Nana Osiakwan. After two years of discussions, the chief began to recognize the need for improved educational facilities in his community, and even committed to funding a librarian to maintain the school’s valuable supply of books.
Today, the Apaah library is a bustling hub of learning in its community, where students flock during breaks and after school to take advantage of the reading materials it has to offer. Following our experience in Apaah, we began to take more seriously the importance of community buy-in for the success of our libraries. As a result of what we had learned in Apaah, we established our system of library boards in order to keep the community engaged in the running of our libraries.
Four years ago, Akrofoso was one of the towns with the worst preforming schools in the Sekyere Kumawu District of Ghana. In 2011 just 10% of students in Akrofoso were able to pass their national examinations to complete junior high school, meaning that the the school was preforming extremely poorly against the already low pass rate of 41% in the district.
Many blamed the failure of the Akrofoso school on the lack of educational material in the community, so in that same year, the Yonso Project set about remedying the situation. Gathering together a board of seven community members, the Yonso Project worked to establish a library in Akrofoso. With a donation from the Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation, the Yonso Project oversaw the establishment of the Akrofoso community library.
The library has been a great success! As kindergarten teacher Janette Danso observed, before the library was built, students were not serious about their academics. They came to class unprepared, and during breaks and after school they would just play around in the playing area. Now, however, Mrs. Danso sees students heading to the library to pick out books to read during their free time.Students come to class prepared and eager to learn more. Several students, including one of our scholars, Felicia Antwiwaa, go to the library every week to take out new books.
The impact of the library can be seen in Akrofoso’s scores on national exams. Within a year of its establishment, the pass rate doubled to 22.73%, and in 2014, 100% of students from Akrofoso passed their national exams!
The deputy district director of education, Mr. Felix Kwadzote, has been very pleased with the Yonso Project’s work in Akrofoso. Mr. Kwadzote hopes that the Yonso Project, as the only NGO of its kind working in the district, will continue its work in other communities in the area.
Community members in Sekyere recognized the importance of improving the quality of their children’s education. Members of the community sought out the Yonso Project in hopes of being able to receive a local library. One of the original library advocates, Daniel, says that he envisioned the library as a place where anyone in the community could go to learn. With a generous donation from the Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation, Sekyere’s community library was established in 2012, complete with tables, chairs, and over 2,000 books.
Along with the creation of the library came the formation of a library board. The board members at Sekyere consist of parents and teachers who are interested in ensuring the educational well-being of the students in their town. They are in charge of the continued maintenance and preservation of the library and its resources. The community in Sekyere is deeply committed to their library, as shown by the fact that community members themselves pay for the costs of having a librarian.
Daniel Osei Frimpong, a board member for the Sekyre library, has been able to see firsthand the effect the new library has had on the students in Sekyere. He has seen a dramatic increase in student engagement in reading, and this new interest has reflected in how students have performed on their exams. In 2012, the year the library was built, the schools in Sekyere had a 87.71% pass rate on government exams. In 2013 and 2014, Sekyere had an astonishing 100% pass rate. Thanks to the access to better reading material that the Sekyere library provides, students have developed a passion for learning that has led to their amazing academic success!
Tano-Odumase junior high school is located in the remote Sekyere South District of Ghana. In 2014, the local junior high school became the latest recipient of a library built with the help of the Yonso Project and through a generous donation by the Chen Yet Sen foundation. Before the establishment of the new library, the headmaster, Kyei Mansah Akomea, recalls the school’s struggle to find enough books for its already disadvantaged students. Outside of government textbooks, students, often the children of subsistence farmers and traders, had severely limited access to reading materials.
Recognizing the need for more books in Tano-Odumase, the Yonso Project set about establishing a new library in the community. As it has in several other towns in the region, the Yonso Project began by creating a library board, which included the headmasters of the local primary and junior high schools, as well as interested parents and community members. After securing a donation from the Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation, the Yonso Project worked closely with the library board to oversee the installation of tables, chairs, shelves, and books, as well as five desktop computers, all for the use of students and teachers in the community.
Today, the Tano-Odumase library is a bustling hub of learning for all the members of the town’s academic community. Teachers come to school early to use the library to research course materials before class, and students often spend their breaks reading storybooks in the building. Amoah Charles, a 5th grade teacher who lives near the library, says that he has even had students knock on his door at night asking to unlock the library so that they can get more books to study!
The head of education for the district, Mr. Alex Attah-Asante, says that he eagerly awaits the test scores from Tano-Odumase this year, as he hopes to see great improvements!