Archives For Education

In a country where 1.9 million children 5 to 17 years of age are engaged in some form of child labor, ensuring Ghanaian youth receive an adequate education can be challenging. Ghana easily reached their Education Millennium Development Goal and High School is now free throughout the country. Clearly, Ghana’s efforts in education are unparalleled in the African continent. Yet, more than 500,000 Ghanaian children are still not enrolled in primary school and despite tremendous progress, too many Ghanaian youth continue to be forced into child labor and denied the opportunity to attend school. With your support, Challenging Heights is helping many of these young children reach for a brighter future by giving them the care they need and placing education at the forefront of our fight against child trafficking in Ghana. The support Challenging Heights has received from countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, exemplifies the importance of our global network of generous donors in helping us to develop our impactful educational programs. For example, thanks to the help of a Dutch NGO, we have launched Youth Empowerment Programs which give our youth the ability to learn employable skills such as phone and satellite repair. We have also come to realize the significance of small class sizes at the shelter in order to ensure every student can receive valuable one-on-one time with their teachers. Our small class sizes create a comfortable environment for students to immerse themselves in the learning process, engage with their teachers and peers and ask important questions. In another instance, after hearing about the importance of education in the prevention of child trafficking, the organization Australian AID donated money to Challenging Heights to help us construct an up-to-date computer lab for our students. While we have much more work to do in fighting child trafficking in Ghana, we are certain that our impactful educational programs are making a big difference in the lives of each child here at Challenging Heights – we are empowering them to expand their horizons and set their sights on far greater heights. Written By Intern: Jack Payne

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.

In a partnership with Butterflies India, last week we signed up 80 students to participate in Child Development Khazanas (CDKs) as a way to foster our relationship with the community of Swedru and promote financial literacy and good money management skills among youth.

The day began at one school and the afternoon was spend at a second, where we met with the students’ parents to explain the purpose of the programme. Through the CDK, the students would be able to save and borrow money, learn how to balance their own passbook ledger and plan financially. Each student would be given their own passbook and some select students and teachers would receive training on the program to manage the deposits, withdrawals and loans. Younger children are able to take out loans for things to further or improve their education, while older students are able to take out loans to finance an economic enterprise.

Some parents were sceptical of their children’s responsibility in depositing the money and not purchasing sweets, but ultimately through detailed explanation, came to understand the importance of how this program can help with those issues and foster a sense of financial responsibility and growth. The students themselves were especially eager to participate in the program, and spent more than an hour waiting to get all of their forms filled out and their first deposit made.

Soon, the second part of the CDKs, a first aid and health care component will be implemented. Some students will be trained in administering first aid and first aid boxes will be placed around the school in strategic places. We are excited to see the growth of these programmes and how they foster independence and responsibility among the students who participate.

Sir Peter coaches our CHS primary school football team before their match.

Each school year in the middle of the second term, schools from across Winneba come together in friendly competition. Twelve different schools participated this year, in football (soccer), netball, volleyball and handball, over a three-day period.

Students had been practicing for weeks before the competition, developing teamwork and strategy. On the first day of the games, masses of children piled into Winneba United Park, some in school uniforms, but many in sport jerseys for their respective schools. There is also activity happening at two other school grounds nearby.

CHS primary school girls (in the green jerseys) face off in netball.

Challenging Heights students helped set up a tent that would provide for shade for some players and spectators; food vendors set up tables of waakye (rice and beans) and rice, and others sold snacks on their heads.

Older boys gathered with whistles and drums creating a beat for friends to sing and chant in support of their teams. Smaller children surrounded the noisemakers, dancing and moving along with the excitement.

Games run in tournament fashion, with winners playing winners, losers playing losers.

At Baptist Academy, girls face off in netball matches. It’s a game on a field with two poles with circles that resemble basketball goals. Players take up positions: goal attack, goal defender, wind attack, wind defender, center, goal shooter, and goal keeper. The ball is mostly passed through the air; double dribbles aren’t allowed. The ball shouldn’t touch the ground, or even the players’ legs. If the ball does hit someone’s leg, the ball is given to the opposing team.

The Interschool games allow church-friends like Naomi and Sarah to cheer on each other’s school teams together.

The players on Challenging Heights’ team say they don’t usually know the students from the other schools, so they don’t know who could be tough competition. The girls don’t seem to care though, Abigail says they know how to do the proper pivot to be able to play well and the other schools may not. Savannah agrees with confidence: “We are good!”

Spectators cheer like crazy for each sport, and while students usually sit with their own schools, sometimes they have friends from other schools, too. Challenging Heights JHS student, Naomi says she goes to church with her friend Sarah, who’s dressed in a Baptist Academy school uniform. Sarah says she’ll cheer for Naomi when she takes the field, even though they root for different teams.

CHS student athletes performed very well in the interschool games! 2nd and 3rd place overall are something for which to be proud.

In all, our students performed very well at the games. Our primary school students took the 2nd place overall champion, and JHS teams ranked 3rd place overall. We got 2nd place in girls primary volleyball, and 2nd place in boys primary volleyball. Our football (soccer) team took 1st place! And our JHS football team ranked 4thout of 12 schools.  We’re proud of our athletes, and we know they’re only getting better.