Our CEO Susan Place Everhart reflects on her time in Ghana.
I recently returned to London after a truly inspirational visit to Ghana, my first as Sabre’s CEO. I joined Sabre back in the summer of 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result had been unable to visit Ghana nor witness first-hand the incredible contributions to early education that Sabre has achieved. So it was with delight that I was finally able to travel to Ghana in September this year to meet the Sabre team in person, visit the wonderful kindergarten schools we have built with partners over the years, speak with children and teachers in the classrooms, and witness our play-based teacher training programme in action. After such a long wait, the trip fully met my expectations.
I had a very busy two weeks traveling with our Executive Director, Tony Dogbe, to see Sabre’s work, then coming back to Accra to meet with important partners in government and in the international development community and finally sitting down with the Sabre team in person after meeting with them hundreds of times over Zoom over the course of the past year!
My schedule started in the Western Region where Tony and I were able to visit several schools implementing the play based approach, to observe the learning going on in the classrooms and to meet with teachers and head teachers. Spending time in the classrooms with the kindergarten children really brought to life the play based learning for me in the Ghanaian context. To see the teachers putting into practice the knowledge and skills they had learned in Sabre’s teacher training programmes, and to witness the joy and engagement of the young children was truly inspiring.
At Central Preparatory School in Takoradi, I had the pleasure of meeting Joana Gyanwah Eyimpong who had recently been named Best Kindergarten Teacher out of her group of 14 schools. Her enthusiasm for play based learning was infectious! When schools were closed in Ghana during COVID, Joana volunteered to participate in Sabre’s early education radio broadcasts, supporting the parent engagement sessions. Joana shared just how helpful the radio programme had been at that challenging time, ensuring that children could still learn at home during the many months that schools were closed.
We also had the opportunity to visit our two most recently built kindergarten schools, generous funded by Tullow Ghana, one of Sabre’s valued, long term partners. Together, over a number of years, we have built 12 exceptional kindergarten school buildings. It was fantastic to meet with Tullow representatives in person and to tour the newest community school in Nkontompo together. Built to a playful design with spacious outside play areas conducive to developing gross motor skills, and cool and airy indoor classrooms with plenty of natural light for learning, these schools are exceptional centres of play based learning. The ingenious and environmentally friendly design of the schools, first developed by Arup, requires no electricity and uses a rainwater catchment system for handwashing and toilets.
Tony and I then travelled to the Eastern Region, where Sabre’s training team was delivering a two-day workshop on play based kindergarten instruction together with the Ghana Education Service (GES). The audience included teachers, head teachers and GES officers in the New Juaben South district. This was the final session that was part of a year of training for all teachers across six districts that began pre-COVID. Tony and I were able to join in the workshop activities and really immerse ourselves in the play-based instruction. Witnessing Sabre’s engaging and interactive training style was fun and inspiring, and the team of Sabre-trained facilitators really brought the session to life. We also had the opportunity to listen to the teachers share impactful stories of having implemented this very new method of instruction with children in their classrooms over this past year – what a difference this curriculum makes!
I also spent a day at Sabre’s partner institution, the University of Education, Winneba, together with Tony Dogbe and our Director of Programmes James Ayando. Sabre is working collaboratively with the University to promote best practice and thought leadership in early childhood education in Ghana. Although a national holiday on the day of our visit, Dr. Yayra Dzakadzie, the Early Childhood Education Department Head and a number of the other Early Childhood Education faculty members joined us for discussions and a tour of the campus. It was inspirational to finally meet the faculty team in person and learn more about their recent Early Childhood Education initiatives, given the leadership role the University plays in the early education sector in Ghana. We were also able to visit the University’s Early Education Centre (kindergarten school) that Sabre recently supported with new furniture and an outdoor play area, generously sponsored by Oil Spill Response Ghana Ltd. This school is a key resource for the university’s student teachers during their classroom practicum placements, as well as for the local community’s children.
The second half of my visit in Ghana was spent in and around Accra where Tony and I, along with other members of the Sabre team, met with our many partners across Ghana Education Service departments and also at the Government’s Funds and Procurement Management Unit (FPMU) with which Sabre will soon be designing a new national template for the construction of kindergarten schools. We also enjoyed engaging conversations with other key partners in the Early Childhood Education sector including UNICEF, Innovations for Poverty Action, Right to Play, IDP Foundation, Lively Minds and T-TEL Ghana. Together, we continue to work towards the national implementation and roll-out of quality early years education across Ghana for all children.
To cap off my visit, it was an honour to spend time with some key champions of early childhood education in Ghana, including the honourable Dr. Prince Armah, Member of Parliament, a long-time promoter of Early Childhood Education reform, as well as with the esteemed Dr. Eric Ananga, early childhood expert and Sabre’s long-time advisor and friend. I also had the special opportunity to meet in person with two of Sabre’s newest Trustees, Akwasi Addae-Boahene and Karen Shormeh Sai who bring a wealth of strategic experience to the Sabre Boards.
I would like to thank the entire Sabre team and our many wonderful partners for their warm welcome during this special visit to Ghana. I believe Sabre is in a stronger position than ever before to deliver quality early years education across Ghana and you are all integral to achieving this mission over the coming years.