Archives For Education

Vita shares what her group said in response to “Why is education important?”

Last week, a group of students at Friends International Academy joined us for the Child Rights Camp (CRC). In 2003 Challenging Heights began as a Child Rights Club, a place where children were free to develop, form friendships, and learn about their rights. One goal of the organisation is to bring the clubs back to the youth of Winneba to further community engagement and rights education. The week’s programme was the first step to reinstating the clubs, and our main project as summer interns with Challenging Heights.
Each camp day began with our mission and song as a warm up to our discussions and activities centred on child rights. Our song, to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, resonated with each student and filled the classroom with spirited anticipation. Our daily themes changed, from education and corporal punishment to child marriage and sexual health, but the students’ engagement and enthusiasm for honest discussion did not.


Some team-building activities included creating letters using their bodies, but without talking.

Students answered multiple questions such as: What are children’s rights? How does child marriage relate? Why is the right to education important? What is consent? These conversations were facilitated in small groups so every student had the opportunity to be heard by their peers. To add another element of fun, the students participated in team-building activities which provided them with the opportunity to practice leadership and build positive group relationships. These are crucial to the continuation of student-run Child Rights Clubs.
It was clear that the parts of the CRC’s mission the students valued most were spreading this knowledge in their communities and protecting one another from injustice. When asked what would make CRC better, one student suggested that “the CRC go for excursions to places or areas that people or children are being abused, in order to help them know their rights.” These students are passionate about being leaders in their school and hope that more teachers will help them incorporate all of Friends International Academy in this pursuit.


This post was written by Challenging Heights interns Nicole Ballou and Erin Moore. Challenging Heights is grateful for their help and participation this summer.

At Challenging Heights, we believe in and support the protection of children’s rights, particularly their right to an education. We’ve seen that children who are in school are less likely to be trafficked, or even re-trafficked. By ensuring children’s access to education, whether it was through advocating for the elimination of school fees more than 10 years ago or our current focus of addressing corporal punishment in schools, we have been working at a very broad level to protect this right for children.

Our national and municipal level policy advocacy does not preclude support on an individual level either. A big part of the rehabilitation and reintegration of the children that we rescue from modern slavery is education. While at the shelter, the children all attend school in the on-site classrooms. There they learn basic literacy and numeracy skills. In many of the exit interviews that we conduct upon the children’s reintegration, many of them say that their biggest change was in their ability to write their name and other academic achievements.

However, our support for their education doesn’t end upon their reintegration. Often, the children return home on a Thursday or Friday, allowing them a weekend with their families to relax and enjoy. Then, on Monday morning, our reintegration officers set off to help enrol the children in their nearest school. We talk with the headmaster and the teacher, to help them understand the child and some of the challenges they may face, since for many it is their first time going to school. We then find out from the school what school supplies are required. Later in the week, we return with all of the necessary school supplies and a seamstress to take measurements to make their new school uniforms.

This support for our reintegrated children, keeping them in school, significantly lowers their risk of being re-trafficked. Not only that, but with this level of support, the majority of families are also then able to ensure that all of their other children are enrolled in school as well. This goes a long way in promoting change among the community and helping to foster a value of education, which in turn can help to prevent trafficking.

Earlier this year, the students of Castle View High School in Castle View, Colorado choose Challenging Heights as the recipient of their annual Make a Difference Week fundraising campaign. In just a short week, these committed student were able to raise more than $30,000 for Challenging Heights.

We were able to use those funds to build three new classrooms at what is now Friends International Academy, the school that Challenging Heights founded 10 years ago. As the reputation of the school and the high levels of the students’ performance has spread throughout Winneba, enrolment has steadily increased. The growing student body has triggered a need for more classrooms, which we were able to make a reality with the help of Castle View High School.

This strong connection between Castle View High School and Challenging Heights prompted some of the teachers at CVHS to consider a fundraising and service learning trip to Ghana with Challenging Heights. Once again, the generosity of the students was great, and 16 students were able to raise more than $8,000 for Challenging Heights to combat child trafficking and modern slavery.

During their week spent with us, they tackled a new paint job for the Hovde House shelter, reading with the students at Friends International Academy, helping out at the Hand in Hand for Literacy Library and assisting with the distribution of TOMS shoes to children in need in Winneba. They also spent time at the beach, visiting tourist sites and walking in the canopy of Kakum National Park.

The students and chaperones came away with a greater understanding of the problem of modern slavery in Ghana and globally and a sense of commitment to wanting to continue a partnership with CH in the years to come. We at CH are delighted to have gained more than 20 new advocates and ambassadors for our mission and look forward to a lasting friendship.

Challenging Heights School is now Friends International Academy! We are building on our success and responding to the needs of our community by broadening the scope of our commitment to children’s rights to education. The success of Challenging Heights School over the last ten years has set it apart as a leader in education in Winneba and allows it to stand on its own. As our community’s needs change and develop, we will continue to adapt with quality and innovative responses.

_dsc9224We’re turning our attention to supporting children’s education throughout Winneba and beyond, particularly by spreading the message that corporal punishment has no place in schools and working with teachers so that they can learn alternative discipline methods. Last week, in preparation for the new school year, our Advocacy Officer Akua Boatemaa Duah convened the teachers of Friends International Academy for a facilitated discussion about the use of corporal punishment in schools.

Many of the teachers, while having taught at Challenging Heights School which has a prohibition on using corporal punishment, were not totally convinced that giving up caning is the best avenue for teachers. Some teachers were hoping to find exceptions to the rule and felt that teachers are powerless against behavioural issues without a cane.

_dsc9227To begin the workshop, these teachers discussed their memories of school and how so often it was the actions of a teacher that determined whether it was a good memory or a bad memory. They discussed what makes a school safe and secure for children and came to the realisation that it is more than just the facilities that a school has that makes a school safe environment for children.

On the second day of the workshop, the participants discussed the differences between punishment and discipline and where corporal punishment falls in those categories. After examining the development traits and stages of children, they brainstormed appropriate discipline techniques for each age group.

The teachers came away feeling empowered to employ different discipline techniques, rather than feeling restricted by an anti-corporal punishment policy. They came to the conclusion through the discussions that caning doesn’t change the children and that it’s not the only solution for teachers to employ.

As we broaden our focus of the educational rights of children throughout Winneba and beyond, we’ll be bringing this training to other teachers in the area. Children have a right to feel safe and secure in their schools and we look forward to working with other teachers to make this a reality for the children of our community.

For the past several weeks, our Partners in Development Officer, Rosemary, has been out in the field in Senya. Multiple times a week, she calls together a group of school children, ranging in age from 12 to 17, have been learning how to run their own savings programme and this last week they learned about first aid.

_DSC7904 (2)Nurse George joined us from the local hospital to explain what to do if someone is bleeding, either from a wound or from their nose, has a fever, and if someone breaks a bone. With children volunteering to act as victims, George talked through the steps to take when someone is bleeding from a wound, such as wearing sterile, disposable gloves, cleaning the area with running water and applying pressure. When it came to practising care for fractures, Regina ended up with a splint and a make-shift sling, so that the children could see exactly how to help. George also explained the use for all of the products that went into two different first aid boxes that will be placed in the community, so that these youth leaders can assist when they see someone needing help.

All of these meetings and classes inspired the children to take action on their own. With a local festival happening to honour deceased family members, many people who be coming from out of town. The children saw this as an opportunity to show off their pride in their community and some of their new-found knowledge. The children approached Rosemary to help support a community clean-up and malaria sensitisations of community members.

_DSC8138 (2)Many community members know that malaria is a disease, but they don’t know the specific causes or symptoms of the disease. During the clean-up, when the children saw groups of community members, they stopped and explained that malaria is caught from mosquitoes and the symptoms that a person experiences when they have the disease. Once the children finished sharing their knowledge about malaria, they picked their brooms and rakes back up and set about the task of sweeping the streets and cleaning the gutters.

We know what can happen when children feel empowered in their lives and last week in Senya, we saw the results of that.

For the past few weeks, our field team has been visiting schools around Winneba and the Central Region to distribute 40,000 pairs of shoes to school children in need. Thanks to the generous donation of TOMS Shoes for education, we have been able to provide shoes no only to our children at the Hovde House shelter, where survivors of child slavery are rehabilitated before being reintegrated, but also to thousands of school children who are at risk of being trafficked, dropping out of school or are living in poverty.

We began our distribution focus on schools that have welcomed and supported our reintegrated children in their process and will focus on schools most in need next. We hope that the shoes will inspire pride in the children for attending school, thus encouraging attendance, as well as provide a measure of improved health and safety.

This is the second year in a row that we have partnered with TOMS Shoes for Education, and we hope that it is a lasting partnership for the years to come.

A library is an important part of any community that values education. But in a place that has low literacy rates and no culture of reading, it takes some work to make the library an integral part of the community.

Library Workshop 02At the Hand in Hand for Literacy Community Library we recognize the work that it can take to build a culture of reading. In the past, we’ve held spelling bees, poetry readings and quiz competitions. One of our long-time volunteers and supporters, who spends time each year volunteering in the library, saw a need for teachers to learn new skills for teaching reading and ways to engage their students with the library.

With the help of St. Thomas Aquinas Church through Friends of Challenging Heights, the library staff held a workshop for teachers from 20 local schools about different techniques to use to teach reading. Skills covered included extensive versus intensive reading, ways to increase motivation to read for pleasure, theories of pedagogy and ideas for student-centered activities. The teachers, of English and Fante, engaged in lively discussions about the various topics and were excited to take the skills back to their own classrooms.

Library Workshop 01The workshop also continued beyond just teaching skills and included an introduction to the community library and ways for the participants and their students to engage with the library. We hope that transferring the skills needed to make the library a fun and enjoyable place to be to the teachers, that they will also be able to instil these habits and values in their students.

We’re proud of the library’s growth and the place that it holds in Winneba’s community and we hope that it’s role will only continue to expand as more children learn the joys of reading.


16 year old, Georgina, is a powerhouse student at Challenging Heights School. Georgina is currently in JHS 3 and in her seventh year at CHS. She began schooling at Challenging Heights when she was in class 2. She was excited when CHS was built in the Sankor area because her previous school was too far away and in the bush. CHS was the only school in the area and it made accessing education easier for Georgina. Georgina has always excelled in school, even skipping class 4 due to her academic level. Every year she continues to come out on top of her class.

Not only is Georgiana active in academics but she has participated in a number of CHS clubs including choir, cadets, culture, the CDK and female child right’s empowerment.

Georgina is a strong girls and women’s empowerment advocate. She wishes the world would stop discriminating between boys and girls and listen to more decisions women and girls make. She simply says “there should be a woman president.”

Georgina not only is an activist for gender equality but actively breaks gender stereotypes as she wishes to become an army officer and a pilot once she completes her education because she wants to help create peace and stability in her country.

Outside of the classroom Georgina likes to eat her favorite food, banku and okro stew, play volleyball, watch movies, read books…preferably story books and folk tales. Currently her favorite book remains Oliver Twist but she is busy going through the books in the library and may get a new favorite soon.

Georgina is intelligent, confident, kind, and a role model to her peers. She advises her fellow students to always learn, respect their elders and have self-discipline.

Maybe one day we will see Georgina in the presidential race…she would surely get our vote!

Challenging Heights School (CHS) students are staying busy as many participate in various CHS after school programmes.

Culture Group Peformance


At CHS students have the opportunity to be a part of activist, social, academic, discipline, and arts programmes. Such clubs include Girls Learn International, Culture Group, School Choir, Children’s Development Khazana, Drama Club, Fante Club, Cadets, Child Rights Group, and various other programmes. Many students chose to join multiple groups to stay engaged after school.


We often see these groups create confidence and leadership in the students. For some what get’s them excited is discussing the rights of children and learning about other places around the world, others love the discipline learned and practiced in groups like cadets, and yet others love to participate in clubs that let them perform for crowds.

CHS choir

Joining clubs help students discover their likes, dislikes and talents. Students may join several clubs but realize they found their passion in one particular club based on natural skill and personal interest. For several students this has really benefitted them in school, community, and personally. One young girl has been very actively involved in football club and through her passion, talent, coaching, and practice she was chosen to play for the Girls National Team (young girls still in school)

When students choose to stay after school and participate in these various clubs they are showing their dedication towards self-growth that their parents also see. Families then often support decisions the children are making and in some ways it has to steer them away from the idea of trafficking their child.

CHS Cadets

CHS clubs provide a safe environment for children to be in after-school hours, it allows students to be involved in various things that interest them, pursue their passions and talents and stay on a positive life track. We hope to see many of these students continue their passions after they complete their school at Challenging Heights and that in some ways these clubs help guide them

Ema singing at CHS event

Emmanuel, or more commonly known as Ema, is a scholar, leader, singer and friend. He is 16-years-old with a bright future ahead of him. Ema carries happiness with him wherever he goes as he laughs and goofs around with his friends. He loves action movies, the color black, cooking, eating rice and kontombre stew, learning and attending school and singing at his local church. He is an outgoing and determined young man who exudes kindness, confidence, and leadership.

He has been enrolled at Challenging Heights since 2009 in which he was placed in KG2 but within the same year was moved up to class 3 due to his academic advancements. His favorite subjects in school include Social Studies, Science, and ICT. Ema is a very serious and bright student-finishing top of his class upon his completion of JHS 1. You will often find Ema carrying a new book, reading a dictionary and quoting statistics from the UN or World Aid. He is never shy to talk in class, answer a question, or give his opinion.

Not only does Ema excel in school but he also participates in a number of extra-curricular activities. Ema is an avid member of the Children’s Development Khazana and school choir. The CDK teaches financial literacy skills to children relating to savings, credit, banking, and democratic principles of cooperatives. Recently Ema has been elected secretary, which he explains that he is responsible for “taking notes during the meeting and notify the director if there are any problems that come up.” By using the CDK to help him save money he hopes to save enough to deposit in a local bank by the time he graduates from Challenging Heights.

Above all Ema loves to sing and feels he has an obligation in doing so. He is actively involved in the choir, sings at school functions, and in his church choir.

We are excited to see where the future takes this young man as he continues to excel in school, take on leadership positions, and pursue a career in singing. We know he will do great things and be a social agent of change wherever his dreams take him!

You can help support Ema and other children at Challenging Heights and make a donation through Friends of Challenging Heights-giving a holiday gift of education and freedom! $1 a day supports 1 day of school for a child and helps protect them from forced child labour. Thank you for supporting Challenging Heights this holiday season!