Even in normal circumstances, over 35,000 children of primary school age are out of school in Ghana. Over 40% of children are not enrolled in secondary school.
Girls in Ghana are particularly affected by a lack of access to education with a school life expectancy of 11 years. According to Opportunity International, many girls face particular challenges attending school due to poverty, early marriage, or pregnancy.
As the founder of Solid Rock Foundation Schools in Accra, Ghana, Victoria Hazel knows how essential education is for unlocking a child’s potential, especially for girls.
“Never say that, because you are a girl, you can’t do science, or you can’t do mathematics, or you can’t be who you want to be,” Ms. Hazel says.
“When girls are educated, it makes the world a better place,” she adds. In fact, a girl’s future wages increase with each additional year of primary school she is able to attend.
Hazel started the school in her garage in 2005 with 36 students. Today, there are 256 students enrolled at Solid Rock. Ms. Hazel has big dreams for the school — like establishing a music department — but finances are a challenge.
Hazel is a client of Opportunity International, a nonprofit supported by Cisco working to end extreme poverty. Opportunity International provides financial solutions, training, and support to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and schools, send their children to school, and work their way out of poverty. They have provided loans, savings accounts, training, and other resources to help Ms. Hazel build and maintain her school, and support her students’ education.
Cisco has supported Opportunity International’s work to design and deliver digital financial products and solutions across their education, small business, and agriculture operations – including support for school proprietors and teachers, who reach nearly 4 million children in more than 13,000 schools.
For instance, the school was able to upgrade its computer lab thanks to a loan from Opportunity International. It’s a critical part of Ms. Hazel’s push to educate young girls against the odds. According to the United Nations, less than half of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have computers and internet access. Internet connectivity is vital, and for Solid Rock’s students, it opens up new opportunities to overcome any digital divide.
“Education is life,” she says.
And Ms. Hazel understands that education can empower whole communities, even countries.
“I always tell them that this is their motherland,” Ms. Hazel says. “And whatever we are giving to them, we want them to give it back.”
Solid Rock, like schools around the world, was forced to close because of COVID-19, creating a significant challenge. Students in sub-Saharan Africa are especially at risk of falling behind in their education due to school closures — 89% of learners in the region do not have computers at home.
Opportunity International has been supporting closed schools and educators like Victoria Hazel by providing a new School Leader Toolkit. This resource helps schools deal with the financial ramifications of closures by helping teachers adjust their syllabi to at-home learning environments, and connecting with schools over social media platforms and communication apps such as Facebook Lite and WhatsApp group messages.