HopE Ghana is dedicated to serving brilliant students from underprivileged backgrounds to be transformers of their communities. The next stage of my experience and the belief that education is the key was at the Notre Dame Girls High School in Fiapre-Sunyani. I spent almost seven years there (September 2005 – December 2011) as a teacher and the first substantive chaplain. The situation was no different there either. Some of the girls were better off, but the majority of them struggled and suffered to find the money to pay their fees.
One day when I went to school in the morning, I found a prefect in tears. When I asked her why she was crying, she told me that she had been paraded in front of the assembly of about 600 students for not paying her school boarding fees. To us it seems a bit trivial, but for a 15 year-old girl, and one of the senior school prefects, it was humiliating to be singled out in front of the other students. Imagine how she felt. On one hand, she’s told to set a good example for the other students, and on the other, she’s chastised in front of the school for owing school fees. One can only imagine how crushing and distressing it was for this ambitious young woman.
As I looked into the situation, I learned that her father died leaving two wives behind. Her mother was in nursing school. Her older brother was in college as well when her father passed away. There was no way her mother could find the money to pay for all three of them to be in school. Her mother appealed to the school to grant an extension so she could find the money. At the same time, her son’s school called saying he was being sent home for not paying his tuition. Watching this woman in tears beside her crying daughter was too much to bear. It inspired me to find friends to come to their aid. I must pay homage to the Delbalso Family of Mentor, Ohio for their support to this girl.
There are many other stories like this, but this one left an indelible and profound impression on me. It also taught me a great lesson in my fledgling apostolate as the school’s chaplain. From that day on, I realized that I needed a new approach to evangelism to support the girls I ministered and to help them as much as I possibly could.
(To be continued…)