This month, Luminos expanded our catch-up education programs to Ghana, serving 1,500 formerly out-of-school children in the Ashanti region. In the second installment of the series, “Luminos Leaders,” we are sharing the story of Ghana Country Director, Ethel Sakitey, who led our program launch in Ghana. You can read part one of the series featuring Liberia Country Manager, James Earl Kiawoin, here.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background. Did you grow up in Ghana? What was your own education like?
I grew up here and I’ve had all my education in Ghana. My mother was a teacher, and my father worked for the Ministry of Education—I come from a teaching kind of family. I completed my secondary education and then went on to university. I really love languages. In my first university program, I wanted to study French, Spanish, and then International Relations.
Later, I changed to pursue Social Work and Sociology where I had the opportunity to serve a number of organizations through internships and learnt about supporting underprivileged or marginalized groups. That was how I began working within the not-for-profit/NGO sector. My experience working within the sector has taught me and helped me to understand the fact that people are authors of their own development. People already know what to do to change their situation, but sometimes they just need a little bit of a push. “A little light” can push them forward in life.
My experience working within the [NGO] sector has taught me and helped me to understand the fact that people are authors of their own development. People already know what to do to change their situation, but sometimes they just need a little bit of a push.Ethel Sakitey
Q: The core of our mission at the Luminos Fund is education. Why is education important to you?
For me, education is about transformation. It’s about the development of people. When people become aware of their own situation and their circumstances, they are better able to address them when they have an education. I’ve realized that when people have even a little education, they can take care of themselves better. If we can provide education to all our girls and women, we can reduce the number of maternal deaths and teenage pregnancies. People who get an education can earn better incomes and come back and support their respective communities.
If we can get all our children in school from now on, I believe the next 10 or 20 years will bring a lot of transformation to the way we think about and address so many issues in Ghana; whether it’s nutrition, road safety, child protection, or care for individuals living with disabilities. Education will help us to be more empathetic towards one another and therefore resolve these issues much quicker. Education makes us better people irrespective of who we are or where we are coming from. That’s how I feel about education.
I believe every child in Ghana should be given the opportunity to have an education in line with our Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) policy. Let’s not forget the marginalized ones and our gifted or talented children who may have dropped out of school because they couldn’t fit into our current system of education. Some of them may have learning differences and other challenges that made them drop out. We need to better understand these children and support them. We all must make it a point to get every child an education. If they get better, Ghana will become even better in the future.
Education makes us better people irrespective of who we are or where we are coming from.Ethel Sakitey
Q: What makes Ghana special? What do you love about the country?
Oh, I love Ghana! I love our culture. I think Ghanaians just love people, we have a good sense of humor and are very peaceful as well. We are very hard working. Ghana is a bit unique because we place a lot of emphasis on our culture. In Ghana, a child doesn’t just belong to their biological parents alone: the child belongs to the community and communities support each other in raising children, although this is changing in modern times. Ghanaians are religious, and I hope we can use our fear of God to transform our communities and eradicate poverty and illiteracy. In Ghana, we love our food, and our visitors love it too. We love fabrics and fashion—and we love to add a lot of color to everything, that is Ghana for you!
Q: Why did you decide to join the Luminos Fund team?
I attended a webinar talking about work that Luminos was doing and the fact that they were going to start in Ghana. After that presentation, I decided to read a little bit about the organization. I know we [Ghana] are struggling when it comes to reading and numeracy at the lower grade levels, but it’s even worse for children who have dropped out or who have never been to school.
Looking at all the stages in my career, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot within the education ecosystem (early childhood education, girls’ education, child protection, school health education programs, play-based learning, teacher professional development, etc.), but interventions focused on out-of-school children and children who have never been to school is a new area for me. I wanted to learn a bit more about how these children are supported to get back to school. I believe education can transform the lives of these children and give them a second chance in life. I know education can help them identify their God-given talents and use them effectively for the growth and development of our country. I thought that this is one area that I would like to learn and understand more. How do we help these children? How do we better support them?
I like the approach that Luminos has used while moving into Ghana: trying to understand what Ghana was already doing and not reinventing the wheel. I also like the fact that Luminos started off by partnering with the Ministry of Education at the policy level and engaging with actors on the ground, right down to the villages, to understand what the local needs are. I am glad we are working with the existing system. We are not changing anything; we are only bringing innovations and additional elements that would enrich what Ghana as a country is already doing through the Complementary Basic Education policy and programs.
Q: What is your favorite part of your role?
I’m looking forward to monitoring classes in the communities! We’ve just launched classes and I’m looking forward to learning how it’s going to go. I want to see how young teachers are supporting learners. I also want to see how best to help the teachers better incorporate play-based learning, social and emotional learning, and a sense of personal and social responsibility in classroom activities. These elements should be incorporated in the learning so that we are not just building an individual with knowledge, but we are also building a complete human being; people who have respect for themselves and for others as well.
I’m also looking forward to engaging with parents to see how they can support these children. I am excited that we are looking at our work using a socio-ecological approach: building an effective ecosystem of support for the child. So, we have teachers, supervisors, coordinators, parents, and community leaders, and then we have other stakeholders—NGOs, etc.—all the influencers working together to support that out-of-school child who is at the center of this ecosystem. All those touchpoints need to intervene collectively so we can have a better impact on the child.
Q: What are you most excited for in the year ahead as the program rolls forward in Ghana?
We have a few reading goals because children enter the Luminos program essentially unable to read. I’m also looking forward to incorporating other elements—parental engagement, formative and regular assessments, and supportive monitoring are all very important to me. And, of course, making sure the children are enjoying and loving their classes.
Q: Can you describe your favorite moment from the Luminos launch events this month?
One of my favorite moments was when the Board Chair of School for Life [one of Luminos’ partners in Ghana] talked about how he was also out of school as a child. It took an intervention—just like Luminos—to help him get back to school. If it had not been for that intervention, he didn’t think he would have had an education, let alone become the Board Chair of School for Life. For me that story is very inspiring.
Q: What else inspires you?
I get inspired when I see people making an effort to improve their lives. Where possible, we should all support one another so we can all continue to learn, grow, and become better people. I get inspired when I put myself in the shoes of others to see how difficult their situation is sometimes, and this urges me to help. I believe that’s what gives me the passion to work for and with disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
I get inspired when I see people making an effort to improve their lives. Where possible, we should all support one another so we can all continue to learn, grow, and become better people.Ethel Sakitey
Q: What inspires you about the Luminos Fund?
A lot inspires me about Luminos. I like the mission in itself: that everybody deserves a second chance at education. I believe God has a purpose for every individual, and we therefore don’t have to give up on any human being. Every individual has something to offer to planet Earth. Everyone has something to contribute if given the opportunity and the chance to learn, to sharpen their skills as well as their God-given talents. Some children are excited to read, and others just want to listen. Others just want to do things with their hands. All these different learning styles should be taken into consideration in order to really support our learners to stay in school and to enjoy learning. God has provided a talent to every child. At Luminos, we bring out the light in that child. It’s a big gift to Ghana.
Everybody has the capability to learn, and they just need a little push. That’s why we are here.
To learn more about Luminos’ work in Ghana, visit our Ghana page.