President Akufo-Addo with Former President Jerry John Rawlings and his staff at the Flagstaff House in Accra
The evening after launching the Free Senior High School programme, President Akufo-Addo received a surprise visit from some young female Ghanaian students who had made the country proud in far away Ukraine.
They were students from the Mamfe Methodist Girls Senior High School in the Eastern Region, who were raising the flag of Ghana high on the world stage. They were accompanied by former President Jerry John Rawlings.
The students – Eunice Hinson, Belinda Addy and Abena Frimpomaa Ewusi – who represented Ghana in the just-ended Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) world cup competition, had the opportunity to participate in the event after emerging winners in the national contest in Ghana.
Out of the 30 countries spread across the world that participated in the competition in Ukraine, the Ghanaian girls placed 5th.
It was for this reason that their sponsors – former President Jerry John Rawlings and the headmistress of the Mamfe Girls’ SHS, Sylvia Isabella Laryea – decided to accompany them to the Flagstaff House to present some of their products to President Akufo-Addo.
Rawlings said the day belonged to the girls and so he was not ready to share the spot with them or take the shine away from them.
The students came up with new ways of waste management since they realized that there is an issue of poor waste management in Ghana.
They talked about devising ways to turn old or used vehicle tires into comfortable chairs, plastic bottles into pencil cases, pieces of fabrics they collected from tailoring shops into fashion products and sachets of fibers into linens for fashion products to make them water-proof.
This was what landed them in the SAGE programme.
An obviously elated President Akufo-Addo could not hide his joy upon meeting them.
“Today my cup is overflowed; it’s a big day in my life and it has ended on an excellent note and the excellent note is your visit to the presidency,” he said.
For him, “Your visit tells me that everything that I’m trying to do, building on the work that the former president and others have done, is taking shape; it’s making sense.”
That, he said, was because “today as you know, we launched the ‘Free Senior High’ programme…and it is to provide the opportunity for everybody to be able to get exposure, to get knowledge and education so that no longer does money become a bar to talent and to development.”
President Akufo-Addo underscored, “We’re trying to create a situation whereby young people can express themselves and bring their talents to the fore and that’s exactly what you represent.
“To have you doing what you are doing; bringing glory to our country; you go to a place as far as Ukraine and win one of the best competition award, that’s tremendous and we all have to thank you very much.”
President Akufo-Addo admitted, “You’ve lifted the image of our country. If Ghanaians get to hear that Ghana has young people like you, it’s good news for all of us. I want to congratulate you very warmly on the achievement.”
As the Co-Chair of the United Nations Group Of Eminent Persons, who are supposed to go around the world to promote the realization of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), he said, “…so you can see that the work you are doing also fits a 100 per cent of the work that I’m doing.”
He has since stressed the need for the managers of the National Entrepreneurship Innovation Programme (NEIP) – which has been established to identify and support young Ghanaian entrepreneurs – to study the students’ work and support them accordingly.
“You have achieved on your own this level of development and ingenuity and innovation; I think you are natural targets for a group like the NEIP,” he noted.
He expressed the hope that other young Ghanaian students would emulate the example they had set.
For far too long, former President Rawlings said, the girl-child had been discriminated against; but was happy they did what they could to bring out the best in them.
“I’m so glad that it’s been sustained, that it’s found expression of this kind,” he remarked.
SAGE, which has its headquarters in the California State University in the United States, trains senior high school students and teenagers in entrepreneurial skills.
The Mamfe Methodist Girls’ SHS did not only place 5th in the finals for their innovation in the area of Social Responsibility Business (SRB), but also won a gold medal for their innovation towards the achievement of the United Nations (UN) SDG 8, which talks about promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
They have since formed a company and named it ‘Grandeur.’
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent