Tech Girls find their voice online in Ghana
By Madeleine Logan
PONG TAMALE, Ghana, 9 October 2013 - Adamu Alhassan stands up out of her seat and declares “If you educate a girl you educate a nation. If you educate a boy you educate nothing!”
Her friend Erica Abugri pulls at her arm, laughing and wide eyed at the bold declaration.
“No Adamu! If you educate a boy you educate an individual, if you educate a girl, you educate a family,” she corrected.
The girls were quoting Ghanaian intellectual Kwegyir Aggrey – who in 1920 advocated for educating girls during a famous speech in which he said “The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and neglect the women.”
Mr Aggrey would no doubt be impressed by the group of ‘Tech Girls’ sitting in the computer lab of Pong Tamale Primary School in Northern Ghana. They have gathered to talk about the upcoming International Day of the Girl Child which this year focusses on innovation for girl’s education.
They discuss the struggles they face going to school, in a region of Ghana where girls from the poorest households are nearly three times more likely to be out of school compared with the national average. Out of the nine girls gathered, only one of them has a mother who can read or write (the rest are relied upon to translate letters, text messages and dial phone numbers). Many said their mothers had to fight for them to be enrolled in school, and that they all fit in classes around fetching water, cooking, cleaning their compounds and taking care of younger siblings.
The conversation moves to what keeps them excited about school: “Tech Girls!” the UNICEF-supported club which teaches them to use the internet and digital cameras to become young reporters in their communities.
“Even if I’m sick, I will come to school if it’s the day for Tech Girls,” said Memuna Seidu, smiling.
Technology promotes school participation
You can see a field of maize from the open window of Pong Tamale Primary School’s computer lab. The monitors are covered to protect them from the dust blown up from the dirt road leading to the school. This is where the girls gather every week for classes on online storytelling, interviewing, and photography – the tools needed to amplify their voices and advocate for change.
Savanna Signatures executive director Stephen Agbenyo said that before the NGO provided a computer lab to the school, “ICT was purely theoretical”.
“The teacher would draw the mouse and the keyboard on the board, and try to explain the key concepts. Now they have the lab, the students have gone from theory to practice,” he said.
There are 100 Tech Girls in schools across the Northern Region. For the past year they met outside of class time for sessions in ICT. The girls had never touched a computer before so the lessons started with the basics – logging in, typing, and creating and saving files. UNICEF came on board in July this year to expand the focus of the Tech Girls clubs and equip members to tell their own stories and become young reporters.