The photo on the screen above pictures Gloria Addae Serwaa from Abofour in the Ashanti region of Ghana. After finishing Senior High School, Gloria devoted an entire year to voluntarily establishing and running the Abofour Community Library, also creating and running a readers’ club that is the most creative club we’ve seen! She is now training to be a nurse, but returns every break to help run the project, which is now going to be expanded. She is just one of a team of 35 committed volunteers working in Reading Spots projects whom Brighton College pupils had the chance to meet and learn from during their trips to the country.
On behalf of volunteers such as Gloria, on Friday night we were absolutely delighted to receive the TES ‘International Award’, sponsored by the British Council, for our work at Brighton College, particularly given the outstanding work of the other seven candidates shortlisted for the award. All state and private schools, whether primary, secondary, early years or offering alternative provision, were able to apply. The TES website writes that:
‘This award is for the school with the most innovative international strategy. This can be an initiative to improve pupils’ and teachers’ understanding of other countries, languages and cultures or a full-scale international partnership.’
This award is very much due not only to the remarkable proactivity and curiosity of so many Brighton College ‘pupil ambassadors’, alongside hugely supportive staff and parents, but to the hard work and innovative approach of our team of Ghanaians working across the projects, including numerous Senior High School pupils and those on gaps years waiting for the opportunity to attend university, who wanted to use their time to improve the educational opportunities of others in their communities.
Since September 2015, we have raised roughly £130,000 which has enabled us to build nearly 13 community libraries (providing solar power for 5 of these projects), ship 20,000 books and buy roughly 3000 African story books and text books. We are working with the Ghana Library Authority and have partnered with Book Aid International, as well as receiving grants from the Fonthill Foundation and four other trust funds, also receiving books from three publishers, with the GEDAid foundation helping us to print low cost African storybooks, too.
However, a key purpose of the project is also to educate pupils in the UK and Ghana in the value of literacy and reading, the complexity of development policies, and the moral dilemmas involved in charity work more widely. We have also written an online course introducing pupils to key themes in international development and charitable ethics, which will be repeated next year.
We are are at an exciting stage as a project where we are establishing our future development plan, and hope that this award can help to give us credibility in application for further funding from trust funds, and encourage any schools across the country to get in touch to join the growing project, which now involves a number of UK schools and numerous Ghanaian partners. We would also love to collaborate with anyone interested in combining global learning and charitable action more widely.
These photos show the progression of the Akumadan library from the vision in 2015 of six remarkable pupils, three Ghanaians and three Brighton College teachers, to the community-led project it is today! Certainly, this project demonstrates that the ability of pupils to create ambitious initiatives should never be underestimated.