Former Westminster teacher aiding education of West African village

Alice Azumi Iddi-Gubbels ” a native of northeastern Ghana, but more recently a teacher at Westminster School in Oklahoma City ” has established Pambe Ghana, a new nonprofit charged with changing education in her native northeastern Ghana.

Today, a half-century after British rule ended in the West African country, the effects of colonialism are still evident in the “idea that if the child knows how to speak English, it is a good education,” she said. But, while English is taught in schools, according to Iddi-Gubbels, fewer than 1 percent of people in the northeast are literate in their native language, Mampruli.

The area is one of the poorest in her homeland, where children sense that learning English “has nothing to do with my language, my culture, when I go back home to my community,” she said. A lack of relevance leads many to drop out.

Although the national government officially sanctions teaching in native languages through third grade, that doesn’t happen, Iddi-Gubbels said. Often, there are no school materials in the native language.

It’s a common problem in developing countries, according to Ravi Sheorey, who teaches master’s classes on English as a second language at Oklahoma State University.

“Given the rapid spread of English as a global language of communication and the desire in many countries to adapt Western ideals of democracy and a free-market economy “¦ a number of countries are pushing English to the detriment of local languages,” he said.

Pambe Ghana’s goal is to provide elementary school education in both English and Mampruli. The organization plans to open a school there in the fall, aiming to have students able to speak and write both languages by sixth grade.

For more information, visit their site. “Emily Jerman

Emily Jerman

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