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29.09.2004 General News

Huge success of youth technology program in Accra

By Shirley Somuah
Huge success of youth technology program in Accra

....leads to planning for future programs throughout Ghana (Palo Alto, CA) - U.S.-based youth technology education nonprofit Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group had been planning its pilot project in Accra for over a year. The team, consisting of American educators, university students, and technology experts, left for Accra enthusiastic, prepared to share expert knowledge and carefully crafted lesson plans in the field of technology, with an inspirational hope that the program would sustainably benefit students and teachers in Accra. Due to a limit of available funding, however, the team had been forced to plan for only a small technology training session of 25 students.

Upon arriving in Ghana, the Camp Amelia team quickly learned that their enthusiasm was met equally by the excitement of hundreds of students in Accra. Hundreds of students as well as many of their parents throughout the Greater Accra Region had eagerly submitted applications hoping to be selected for the training program. Limited by resources and funding, the team was forced to reject several of the applicants.

"To see such a huge number of worthy applicants and to have to turn away so many students...that is something that no one in education wants to do. We want to help every student who is curious about technology and eager to learn - and there are so many in Accra,” said Dr. Herbert Walberg, Distinguished Visiting Faculty Member at Stanford University and Camp Amelia Board member who was also recently appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Board for Educational Sciences.

The team was determined to reach as many students as possible. With the substantial involvement and help of 25 local Ghanaian volunteers, the Camp Amelia team found a way to expand its program to over 100 students. By creating multiple training sessions per day and increasing their teaching hours, the Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group was able to train approximately five times the students that it had anticipated.

"Teaching four sessions each day was completely exhausting but tremendously rewarding -- I'd do it again in a heartbeat," says Ghanaian Stanford student and camp teacher Shirley S. Somuah.

The program teachers said that without the help of volunteers and the impressive self-discipline of Ghanaian students, they could never have expanded to accommodate so many students. By the end of the program, the students, ages 9-13, had markedly improved their computing skills and nearly all of the students showed dramatic improvements in keyboarding and Internet navigation proficiency as shown in post-program evaluations. Moreover, over 95% of participants hoped to continue the program next year.

The Hon. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, spoke at the program's opening ceremony on September 6, about the importance of technology training:

"Better education is the most important step a country such as [Ghana] can take toward widescale poverty reduction. [Information and communications technology] is a powerful tool for enhancing both the quality and accessibility of youth education," affirmed Mr. Baah-Wiredu.

After such welcomed but unexpected success in its pilot program, Camp Amelia is already planning to return to Accra next year for a follow-up program that will reach more students and teachers, offer free software, and provide more extensive technology training programs in the Greater Accra area. Helping to provide an Accra-based support team, a large number of the Ghanaian volunteers from this pilot program have expressed interest in planning and logistics for next year's programs. Through partnerships with the Minister of Education, JoyFM, and local Ghanaian educators, Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group hopes to increase the size of the Accra program as well as expand the technology training program to other parts of Ghana.

"Both the good news and the bad news is that the only factor that limits our programs is funding," Sarah Gettings, Director of Fundraising for Camp Amelia shared. "We have virtually an unlimited number of educators and huge stores of knowledge to share with Ghanaian students. These resources combined with the incredible enthusiasm of the Camp Amelia team make this training program unique... Unfortunately, the reality of funding in these economic conditions is a harsh one."

The programme in Ghana this year was greatly enhanced by the generous support received from The Trust Bank, SISCO Ghana Limited, BusyInternet Ghana and JoyFM, but the Camp Amelia Group is constantly looking for new partners, so it can reach as mnay Ghanaian youth as possible.

With support from the Minister of Education, the Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group is seeking to establish a strong base of support for its programs.

"If we can show strong support for Camp Amelia from local Ghanaians and Ghanaians abroad, we will be more successful in securing substantial grants from corporate and private sources, both international and domestic."

Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group has already met several times to begin planning for next year, with fundraising topping the group's agenda. They hope that next year, Camp Amelia will be able to reach every student who wants to learn about technology.

"We never want to deny another student the opportunities of learning information technology,” said Clara Shih, a Master's student in Computer Science at Stanford and Camp Amelia's founder.

To learn more about the Camp Amelia pilot program and to find out how you can support Camp Amelia in Ghana initiatives, please view their website at www.campamelia.org.

Shirley Somuah Director of International Development(Africa) Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group Enquiries can be sent to [email protected]

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