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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Columnist: Ebenezer Sarfo

My heroes and heroines of change ( A National Service Story)

It is traditional for every university graduate in the country to undergo the ‘ritual’ of National Service to contribute their quota to the nation.

Nevertheless, most companies or firms are keen on the graduate’s provision of his/her National Service Certificate before processing the graduate’s job application.

We were placed in our respective random choices respective to the three regional and sectional options we made when we applied for National Service. Almost everyone had high aspirations and keen hopes to be placed in a top level institution or firm s(he) could boast of. None showed interest in being placed somewhere not found on the country’s map. “Me… After paying all these huge amounts of school fees, do my service in a village? Oh wow I can’t think farther. One could tell these were the thoughts rebounding in people’s mind.

Finally, the first batch of placement was published by the National Service Secretariat. Some whose hopes were to be placed in high places were met while the others who were posted to villages and urban traffic control became the comic muse of the day. One person who caught my senses with her reply to one of the mockery made by a colleague was Jennifer. She was was posted to a school: Agona Duotu A.E.D.A Basic School, Agona Duoto in the Agona East District. Wow. I’ve lived almost all my life in the Central Region but I’d never heard the name of this village. In her defense, she said “You don’t know why God placed me there. Maybe I have to cause a change there”. To some people, she sounded religious, like a Roman Catholic Sister.

Fast forward to the latter end of service, she made a post on our class WhatsApp group page, recounting the difficulties the pupils had to go through before having access to Information Technology. The whole school with an approximate population of one hundred and above didn’t have a single computer to aid their studies yet they wrote exams on the subject of Information Technology.

The beautiful part is, Jennifer, together with her three service colleagues didn’t turn a blind eye to this ‘educational disability’ but pressed on to do something different and impactful. In my conversation with her about what propelled them to cause such a change, she said “I don’t know how to put it. But can you imagine stirring ‘banku’ without a pot; it’s meaningless. They had an ICT teacher and numerous books on ICT but not a single computer. They were writing exams on ICT without any computer to practice with.” She bemoaned and added, “So we convinced the headmaster and he got one computer but that one wasn’t functioning. But the excitement the pupil had just so they could to sit behind a computer moved us to do more for them”.

I further inquired about how they made this possible considering the financial state of the school and they being Service Personnels, their ‘midget sized’ allowances of GHC350 each. What blew my mind in their quest for funds and appeals from family and friends to put smiles on the faces of these pupils to enjoy education as their colleagues in schools like Jack and Jill or Datus are getting didn’t yield much. So they sacrificed their one month allowance and a little support from one generous woman, so they could get four extra computers to the school. They also raised funds from their petty businesses: Jennifer sold ‘sobolo(local drink)’, Sandra sold ‘iced kenkey’ and Godfrey sold ‘rice mochichi’. They summoned their entrepreneurial skills to raise funds to acquire the extra four computers.

These were ‘strangers’ sent to serve the nation in a village their ears had never dreamed of hearing, yet didn’t feel pompous with their qualifications. They went the extra mile to cause change in the lives of these school children. As if securing four desktop computers for the deprived school wasn’t enough, they further bought bags for the pupils from Kindergarten 1 to Class 3 and some students in JHS, made photocopies of KG2 workbooks for the class, bought pencils and crayons for them and organized “Our Day” school party for the whole school.

Though my time of Service had stressful stretches of twelve hours (both day and night shifts) at Ghana’s import and export hub, I believe Jennifer, Samuel, Sandra and Godfrey made a huge impact in the nation than I did. Considering the growing rate of ICT in the development of learning and advancement, these pupils having the privilege of been upgraded with the services of these four gems is a blessing. Their kind gesture won’t only impact the lives of pupils today but the future. By their deed, a section of the generation to lead the country in future had access to ICT. If any of these pupils grow to hold positions to make this nation proud, it’s because hope was planted into their lives years today. May we live in interesting times of change.