15 March 2019

Millenium Fellow Davy Atanga: Mentors Network initiative unleashes the potential of Ghanaian students

UNAI and the Millennium Campus Network’s Millennium Fellowship helps students design and implement community-level initiatives to promote sustainability and help others in need.

15 March 2019 - In this week’s article, UNAI is highlighting the work of the 2018 Class of Millennium Fellows Davy Ayuune Atanga, Elona Boateng, Susan Dacosta, and Ayebilla Avoka for their work in the Mentors Network initiative in Ghana.

Their program furthers Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education by improving learning outcomes and increasing the potential of students through mentorship, tutoring, and educational and recreational events. Read Millenium Fellow Davy Ayunne Atanga's message below:

Mentors Network is a high school mentoring program that is run by student volunteers from Ashesi University in Ghana. In 2015, the project was started by two Ashesi University students to improve the education of lower, secondary, and high school students living in inhibiting circumstances and attending poorly equipped schools in Ghana. Our comprehensive mentorship program provides free personalized supplementary tutoring, general guidance, and the inspiration our students need to make active and informed decisions that will help them realize their full potential in education and in life, regardless of the challenges they may be facing.

The students we target mainly live and attend school in parts of the country where the very nature of their environments—underdeveloped social amenities, limited access to information, remoteness and little exposure, etc.— limits their understanding of what they can achieve in life. These students attend schools that lack textbooks, are poorly staffed and not well supervised. Our amazing team of volunteers spend approximately two hours of valuable time with their mentees every weekend, helping them revise topics not well understood in class and engaging them in personal development sessions. We also organize educational seminars, exposure trips, and recreational events that are all geared toward creating an environment for holistic learning and growth.

Over the lifetime of Mentors Network, we have donated several textbooks to our partner schools, which went a long way to facilitate teaching and learning. Our activities have also resulted in significant improvements in school attendance and reduced dropout rates in the schools we work with. The culmination of our junior high school mentorship program was that students in our program received a higher pass rate on the Basic School Certificate Examination, the exam that students must pass to enter senior high school. Furthermore, our high school seminars have not only inspired our students to dream bigger but have also introduced them to some key opportunities such as financial aid and scholarship openings.

Like most initiatives, Mentors Network has its own challenges. The first and most crucial, as explained by founding member, Prince Kwarase, was finding the courage to turn an idea into action. Also, finding the right people to work with us on our initiative was just as difficult. When the project took off in 2015, volunteers funded their activities themselves and it was hard to find individuals who were willing to make a sacrifice to that level. Four years down the line, funding is still a big challenge. Transporting mentors to and fro, the costs of organizing seminars, etc. are among our basic costs. Unforthcoming funding has been a bottleneck in our efforts to support our partner schools with relevant materials and tools to enhance teaching and learning.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, we are currently able to finance most of our basic needs. However, we still lack funds to implement some of our most ambitious plans such as providing our beneficiary schools with basic ICT facilities to promote STEM education. Another important challenge has been balancing schoolwork with the project’s activities. As college students, time is a priceless resource that sometimes is hard to come by.

Despite the challenges, the hard work of our committed volunteers ensures that the project is always on track and achieving its goals. Our best motivation is the positive impact we make in the lives of our students and their communities through our efforts. For me, this work is particularly close to my heart because of my own life story. Having gone through similar challenges as our students are going through, I draw incredible satisfaction from being able to guide and inspire others, something I needed myself but did not receive. To other students who wish to make a change in their own communities, I would say that your idea, no matter how excellent it is, will have to face the impediments of discouragement from other people and your own doubting mind. So just begin it!

The final touches to your idea will come with feedback after you have implemented it. However, before you begin, do take the time to find partners who believe so much in your idea that they can act on it as though it were their own. You will always need a team, and your team, to a large extent, will determine what becomes of your idea. With a great idea, courage and the right team, you are ready to change the world! But before we go, please remember what Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change that you wish to see in the world”!

If you are interested in becoming a 2019 Millennium Fellow, apply to the fellowship here. First round applications are evaluated on a rolling basis.