New Fadama, a community in the southern region of Accra, Ghana’s capital, is what is known as a “Zongo” community – an informal settlement with no basic amenities or infrastructure and high levels of illiteracy, crime and teen pregnancies. The only school in the entire community is the local public school. Like many government schools, it is underfunded and understaffed, and students attend simply as a formality.
“The average youth in New Fadama is more focused on making money than on education. To them, school is a burden,” says Theo, who works at a Compassion center in the community. When the Compassion child development center opened here 14 years ago, it faced an uphill battle, especially in its mission to champion education. Staff members began providing children with school fees and education materials like books and backpacks.
When COVID-19 hit, crowded communities like New Fadama faced a greater risk of an outbreak, and families were deeply impacted by curfews and lockdowns. Additionally, children quickly fell behind in school, threatening all of the progress the center had made.
When the quarantine restrictions eased and things slowly returned to normal in the country, the center rallied and organized tutoring classes at the center to help children catch up on the education they had missed.
“When things started coming back to normal, we started organizing free classes at the center,” says Theo. “While older children volunteered to teach the younger classes, the project hired professional teachers to come in and teach the higher grades.”
The success of the center's efforts is evident in their graduates and older students. Today, Salamatu is a 20-year-old law student who was able to keep up with her studies during the pandemic. She joined the program when she was 6 years old. “I remember I was always sacked from school because I was owing school fees and food was sometimes a problem at home,” says Salamatu. "When I joined Compassion, all that stopped. I always had books and my fees were always paid on time. The burden on my family was also reduced because the resources that would have been spent on me were directed towards my six other siblings.”