Henry Kissinger said, in response to a question about building a powerful and influential career for oneself, ‘Do the most important thing you can think of this year, and your career will build itself’. As we approach Rosh Hashana it’s a great mantra, for life.
Last month I visited Ghana with two of our trustees. We asked some of the local leaders in the Northern Region what their priorities for the coming years. Education came top of the list. Education attainment is a high priority because it’s a national strategy to break the cycle of poverty.
When we were with Head teachers in the schools and asked the same question, the answers included training teachers and creating resources to use in the classroom to help their teaching. The challenges of school life include teacher motivation, absenteeism. Children are hungry and find it hard to concentrate. And much of the infrastructure is depleted. These are hard challenges to tackle.
The School for Life programme that the Jewish community is funding, has had exceptional result this year. On average pupils of primary scored 14% better than control school pupils in numeracy and literacy. And the by products are increased motivation of teachers.
This shows us that while the challenges are hard, there are opportunities for real success.
Knowing the impact of the School for Life programme alongside conversations with the local leadership in has led us to think that the most important thing Tzedek can do in the coming year is look at how to expand the impact of School for Life and the teacher training within schools.
We have a lot of resources within our community. I’ve met teachers who want to find ways to better support teachers in the Tzedek network in Ghana. I’ve heard parents requesting to be able to do something practical to help. And we have many students ready to volunteer their time and energy.
So our ambition this year is going to be to match those energies and ideas, with the needs in one district, Kumbungu. Kumbungu is a district in the Northern Region where 95% of the population are farmers, and illiteracy is the norm. We have always believed at Tzedek that we should play our part in the jigsaw of solutions on the ground. We are looking to focus on a few schools and increase the impact of teacher training by adding additional programmes that can make a step change.
As this idea develops we will be letting you know how you can play your part.
Meanwhile, it’s worth considering ‘What is the most important thing you can do this year, to reduce global poverty…’ Giving your time, energy and tzedakah to Tzedek is a great answer.
Jude Williams, Aug 2015