Director David Lunan reflecting on EDP's Progress
Where did it all start?
It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly seven years since Martin Moore and I staggered through the over-grown bush just outside the sprawling community of Awutu in Southern Ghana to be confronted with the half-finished breeze-block edifice that –and little did we realise at the time! – was destined to be The Awutu-Winton Senior High School! ( AWSHS). The fact that the building had even got to that stage was a tribute to the determination of Peter Donkor, the Founder of the school and the inspiration behind the whole project in the first place . Furthermore it is a testament to Peter’s vision that we now have a fully functioning school , with nearly 400 pupils and over 40 staff , firmly established on the academic landscape of West Africa.
From that moment, as many of you are now aware, accompanied by local elders who informed us that there was no real need of constructing yet another primary school in this region, 50 km west of the capital, Accra -which had been our intention at that stage , we realised what was REALLY needed was a Senior High School. Ie one which could help the students get to the WASSCE , (roughly the equivalent of UK ‘A’ levels) and allow them to pursue tertiary education and job/career opportunities , as there were no SHS’s in the area .
Infrastructure at AWSHS
Fast forwarding from that week in January 2009, the same one that saw the inauguration of Barack Obama as USA President, whose watchword many of you will recall was “yes we can“, we decided to go for a 6-7 year roll-out to develop the school.
Following Martin’s plans closely (drawn up by him, a recently retired, and highly experienced, Consultant Structural Engineer, ably assisted by his Architect pal, John Burrell), we have set up a UK based charity ( EDP Trust) and, step-by-step, we have raised the funds and supervised the construction of four different phases of buildings – thanks to the on-the-ground diligence of our committed EDP team, whose Project Managers in that time have included James Riggs, Rachel Schmieder, Marcus Hagberg, and Niranjana Singaperumal, ably assisted by many volunteers over the period, in particular George Godson, Drew Steuer, and Rajib Manandar.
Phase One was finished in 2010, consisting of three classrooms, IT lab and Library and Head and Staff room, and the first classes started in September that year, with phase Two with three more classrooms and science lab and an office for EDP, a year later. Then , thanks to generous donations from the Robertson family, we were able to complete the Valerie Dix Assembly Hall and now the final phase, a two storey classroom, Library and Canteen edifice, aptly named the Robertson Building, which will enable us to increase our student intake to the fully planned level of 420 students.
Our motivation was always to try and make this a free education establishment , but one that co-operated closely with the government and which followed the Ghana Education System ( GES) curriculum. Normally pupils at SHS’s have to pay fees for their education. This excludes more than half of the population of the region, and our aim at the outset was to raise sufficient funding to allow AWSHS to be a ‘fee-free’ establishment. That has continued to the present day, and students only pay for their uniforms, exercise (not text) books, and the final WASSCE exam fee in their three years at the school.
This sets AWSHS apart from many other Senior High and Secondary schools in Ghana - and much of West Africa - and the aim of the Trustees and Board of Directors of EDP ( Education Development Projects) Trust, the UK, and Ghana registered Charity which runs the AWSHS, is to maintain the principle of a school that is : “of high education quality, free of fees , equal in its admissions policy, secular in its outlook, and ambitious for its future and for its pupils !”
The Graduation Day ceremony - our third now for AWSHS - was a great success, and a memorable day for graduates, parents and pupils alike with a riot of colour, noise (much drumming , singing and dancing!) and speeches. The image of the school is so important to us all, and the hard work that our long-standing Headmaster Seth Rockson puts in on the surrounding landscape has a big impact on all who visit the school and are struck by it verdant shrubs, trees and flowers - and overall cleanliness!
Raising the funding for this charitable school has depended on the generosity of EDP supporters, and going forward it is still our aim to try and raise at least part of our income through those supporters who may wish to donate lump sums, or better still, help with an on-going sponsorship of a pupil (which is set at £300/$500 a year).
Our aim is to try and get 50% of the students sponsored this way ultimately as this money, amounting to some £60,000 pa, would be enough to run most of the school’s maintenance, equipment and infrastructure programme, whilst the Government continue to give their support by employing the teaching staff.
So, as 2015 draws to a close, I would like to thank all who are part of AWSHS : Students, staff and supporters alike . It is you who are helping to make the school grow in all its different ways, and we are looking forward to the New Year with great enthusiasm.
Now that the main infrastructure is completed we are turning our attention to fitting out both science labs , the canteen and the new expanded Library, as well as moving the Headmaster into a larger, better appointed office, creating a nurse’s area and sick bay and a welfare and careers advice office, so that the pressing needs of so many of our students can be better attended.
We are also focusing on improving teaching aids and support, and are in the process of fitting out the classrooms with overhead projectors , a rare asset for sure! In addition we are organising teacher training programmes and our new Project Manager, Tom Cronin, who has already done a sustained training spell at the school, will be taking over from Niranjana next month with the aim of keeping the momentum going.
Once all of this is complete over the next few months, our intention is to finish off the sports facilities so that by the start of next academic year we will have a fully functioning football and volley ball pitch as well as sprint tracks, and of course an operational swimming pool, thanks to the support of the Princess of Monaco Foundation.
Like every school there is always a lot going on . However at our latest visit Inez and I were struck by the unbounded enthusiasm that is evident everywhere, from the commitment of teachers, to the students themselves and the support staff, such as “Auntie Aggie“ in the soon to be expanded canteen, through to the cadet team, keen to show off their uniforms and prowess at Graduation Day, as well as the many barefooted runners in the grandly named, but increasingly popular, Great Ghana Run!