Welcome to our December 2023 newsletter

Savannah Education Trust is a charity providing an education for some of the poorest children in West Africa. We now have ten Christian schools in northern Ghana in the villages of Bagri, Gberi, Korh, Pavuu, Mettoh, Tungan-Zagkpee, Boo, Baapari, Danko-Buree and Lyssah. The charity also ensures every schoolchild receives a meal each day and has a programme to support teachers in this remote and poor area.

A time of change

Let us take you back two decades. If you were travelling along the dusty tracks around the market town of Lawra in northern Ghana you would see no Savannah schools. But you might encounter a man on a battered blue motorbike bouncing towards you. The clue to both the man and his mission is revealed by a closer look – because under his left arm, as he drives, is an equally battered book: a Bible.

The man was Charles Karbo. Under the Lord’s leading, he had a great concern for the remote rural villages in this area of northern Ghana. And, as he travelled on his bike to preach in the remote villages, he also had a concern that the children of the villages might have an education.

The Lord answered that prayer through Savannah Education Trust. “Pastor Charles” (as he is universally known) became a pastor of one of the village churches in Bagri and also the Country Manager for Savannah. “Country Manager”, of course, would have sounded rather grand in the early days – but by 2023 we are working across ten villages, with over 150 teaching staff and several thousand pupils.

Pastor Charles will retire from his work at Savannah at the end of the year. He will continue to support the work in an honorary role. We acknowledge all that he has done, and no doubt our supporters echo this thanks.

In September, trustees joined staff in Lawra to honour and thank Pastor Charles. Among other gifts, he was presented with an illuminated address reading:

On the occasion of your retirement and with immense gratitude for all that you have contributed to the work of Savannah Education Trust. You have been involved with the work from the earliest days and have led and shaped it with great skill and dedication. “Your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Your friends and colleagues join to thank you and to wish you the Lord’s blessing. We stand amazed at all that has happened with a network of Christian schools across Lawra Municipality and many hundreds of pupils. We join with you in saying, “To God be the glory – great things He has done.”

What next?

Alfred Sogsuo with his sons. In age order Alan, Alvin and Albin.

Throughout the year, the trustees have been prayerfully considering the way forward. An open recruitment process was held, allowing for any candidate to submit an application. We are thankful to announce the appointment of Alfred Sogsuo as Country Manager (in the first instance for a three year period). Alfred is a native of Bagri, and has been with us since the earliest days. He has trained as an accountant whilst working for Savannah and is currently Assistant Country Manager & Accountant. A man of great energy and entrepreneurial spirit, he has many outside roles including board member of a vocational institute in nearby Nandom and vice chair of the Inter Party Dialogue Committee for the area. Most importantly, he is a leader in the local Baptist church and a man of prayer.

He says, “I am very grateful to God for entrusting the leadership into my hand. I promise that I will do my best in the Savannah operation with your prayerful support.”

Alfred takes up his new role at the start of January. We know that both Alfred and Charles would appreciate your prayer at this moment of transition.

Technical High School

Pastor James Kori and Alfred Sogsuo on the proposed site for the Technical High School

Across nearly 20 years of public presentations, probably the most regular question we have been asked is ‘what happens to children when they finish school?’ The answer that we have given has remained consistent: that an education in these villages is not primarily about job opportunities – but improvement to the quality of life: from farming improvements to learning simple hygiene lessons. We can point, for example, to the evidence that education produces an improvement in farming and a reduction in children dying. And we can also speak of the moral and spiritual value of a Christian education.

Nonetheless, many of the children in our rural schools have gone on to further education and training (often with the help of Savannah). For a long time, the team in Ghana have felt that there is a real need for vocational training – to help children who leave school at 14 who wish to develop a skill or craft, and perhaps eventually set up a small business.

We are therefore hoping, if the Lord will, to build what is known as a ‘Technical High School’ and have identified a plot of land just north of the market town of Lawra. The intention is to start relatively small with practical skills such as construction, carpentry and electrical skills. The local government are supportive of the venture. We are thankful to have received a kind donation to start the project. We are grateful for your prayers as we start on what is a major new initiative for us.

Painting, all year round…

In our newsletters we often show photographs of the new schools that have just been built. They always look pristine, glowing with fresh paint in the Savannah two-tone blue.

During recent visits we were reminded that, in reality, it doesn’t take many years before the harsh African climate takes its toll on the appearance of any Savannah school.

The constant heat, the intensely heavy rains, and the very strong winds mean that the team in Ghana have had to institute a programme of painting to keep the schools looking good, and to ensure they have the layer of protection that the paint provides.

The Ghana team are currently testing out a new batch of paint which they hope will last much longer than the paint previously used. Prior to painting, the school is reviewed to ensure that any other building maintenance – such as re-plastering – is carried out. With schools now in ten villages, there is a constant cycle of painting, so that as soon as one school is finished the painters move on to the next.

The new gate design

To illustrate the extremes of the climate, we could point towards the school entrance gates. For the first few Savannah schools we purchased attractive solid metal gates, but within a few years these had all been destroyed – twisted and blown off their hinges by the strong winds.

Now we use an open gate design which the wind can pass through, whilst still keeping the schools secure. So far these have survived unscathed …

As more schools are built an ever-increasing proportion of our funds is required for the ongoing but essential maintenance of the school buildings. We are very thankful for the provision of the funds to make this possible.

Trees at Mettoh

At Mettoh school numerous trees – including mango, acacia, teak and mahogany, have been planted around the school. Each child has been given a tree and it is their responsibility to nurture it – building a protective frame around it and watering it during the dry season. Some pupils even come back in the holidays to care for their tree.

Zoom meeting

If the Lord will, we hope to hold a webinar to provide an update on the work on Saturday 27 January 2024 at 7.30pm. We hope that as many of our supporters as possible will join the meeting. Zoom details will be circulated by email (please sign up for email updates if you have not already) and will also be available on our website.

Thank you

There is so much happening across the Savannah schools. This newsletter can only reflect on a few of the activities. Despite the sheer scale of the work in Ghana, we have managed up until now with no paid staff in the UK and no formal ‘fundraising’.

Nothing would be possible without the generous donations of our kind supporters and, as we come to the end of the year, we want to thank you for your ongoing direct debits, one-off contributions and legacies. This is particularly important at a time when our costs in Ghana continue to rise.

We join our friends in Ghana in thanking you for your support, and wishing you God’s blessing for the new year. At this time of change, we are grateful for your loyalty and need your support more than ever.