Ghana native collects supplies to help students in her native country

Regina Garcia Cano

Sheila Denanyoh, junior interior design major, is helping gather school supplies to send back to her home country of Ghana for the less fortunate students there. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

When students in America see a pencil on the floor, they probably will leave it there.

When students in Ghana see a pencil on the floor, chances are, they will pick it up and treasure it.

“There are parts in Ghana where kids have nothing,” said Sheila Denanyoh, junior interior design major. “You’re lucky to have a notebook. You’re lucky to have a pencil to write with.”

After eight years of living in the United States, Denanyoh wants to help the children of her former community in Ghana. Concerned about the lack of resources available to students in Ghana, she is organizing a collection of school supplies that will be shipped to her home country.

“In our school system, sometimes there are no textbooks, so there’s a lot of note taking,” Denanyoh said. “If you don’t have these things (school supplies), you go to school and you pretty much sit there and try to absorb everything that the teacher is telling you.”

Denanyoh said she wants to give the school supplies to children who attend kindergarten or primary school.

She said Ghana is known to have a good level of education, but there are certain communities that are less fortunate within the country.

“Basically, money determines the quality of education a child in Ghana gets,” she said.

But Denanyoh said not all private schools are well-equipped and not all public schools are impoverished.

Denanyoh said she thinks Americans do not value their education – and she is not the only one who feels this way.

“I think they (Americans) take (education) for granted,” said Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor of Pan-African studies. “They don’t appreciate it.”

Okantah said the reason some African countries struggle with education is a result of the colonial legacy.


&bull Denanyoh said students willing to donate school supplies should leave them in Oscar Ritchie Hall, Room 333.The collection will last until Oct. 3.

&bull She said she will also accept monetary donations to help her pay the cost of the shipment.

“African nations have only been independent for about 40 years,” Okantah said. “They were colonized for more than a century; they suffered the ravages of having lost population to slave trade.

“Various European powers exploited African resources for several centuries, so as a result, African nations cannot afford basic services.”

Okantah considers the lack of resources to be a bigger problem for the African educational systems rather than the quality of the education itself.

“I get letters from African students asking me to send them books,” Okantah said. “I helped a couple of students in Nigeria write their theses by sending them books, so that they could do what they had to do.”

Okantah said he was surprised when he visited a school in Nigeria.

“I saw some of the most disciplined, well-behaved, serious students I’ve ever encountered,” Okantah said. “In spite of the poverty, the deprivation and all of these things, they were in school. Some may have shoes, some may not, but they were serious about their education.”

Instead, Okantah said he believes Americans have been “seduced by technology.”

“Here, (there) are students that got Blackberrys . They got the Internet, they got a Palm, and they ask me if spelling counts,” Okantah said. “I’m always amazed.”

Contact minority affairs reporter at [email protected].