The first group of 10 15-year-olds in Navrongo, Ghana, have started the three year senior high school course; their fees, uniform, school books etc being paid for by members of Our Lady Immaculate & St Margaret, Duns and St Andrew, Eyemouth Roman Catholic Church.
The link between the Berwickshire communities and the Ghanaian community is Father Robert Afayori, priest at St Mary’s, who arrived in Duns from Ghana while studying for a doctorate at Edinburgh University.
He told his new parishioners about the education system in Ghana, which is generally accepted as being very good. However, only primary and junior high school is free, taking students to 15. Those who want to contine in school and go on to college or university are only able to do so if their families can afford to pay for them.
Duns parishioners were keen to help and Pat Scott has been instrumental in starting up the Duns/Navarongo link after visiting Ghana twice. She explains: “Father Robert told us the people nobody helps are the students in the last three years of high school.
“Only those students whose families can afford the school fees, uniform, school books and materials can go to senior high school.
“Those students from poorer backgrounds, such as subsistence farmers in the north of the country, who cannot afford the fees and costs of the senior school, no matter how clever, no matter how bright or gifted, are excluded from further formal education.
“The approximate costs for a year at senior school are £60 for tuition, £20 for school books and materials and £20 for school uniform, and if out-of-town students require to board the annual cost is about £30.
“A group of local people felt that a fund could be established here in the Borders to assist financially some of those students best able to benefit from attending senior school.”
Pat has visited Navrongo twice: “The first time I went out I visited a baby orphanage and schools and it was so incredible how desperate they are for education,” she said.
“I went out again with Father Robert to Ghana, and we set up a committee of people who are all in education positions and ideal people to work with over there.
“We also have a committee over here of people from Duns and Eyemouth churches.
“The Navrongo committee work closely with the students and their families to assess ability and level of support required. It is expected there will be a wide mix of faiths and backgrounds and nothing will stand in the way of able, committed students from attending senior school.
“Once accepted on to the three-year course the fund will guarantee funding for the three years and it is hoped that donors will support this pledge.”
The first 10 students being supported by the fund have started this year and it is hoped a similar number will be started each year.
The local Navrongo committee will monitor progress and report regularly to Duns.
“Ten students have gone in with a guarantee of three years of education and another 10 will start later this year,” added Pat.
“It isn’t massive amounts of money we need.
“They are the age group who are just as vulnerable because if they don’t finish their education, nobody is going to take them on and they will end up with menial jobs, and they are too bright for that.”