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.
We often wish that we could take you each to the savannah land of northern Ghana, and to show the effect of the work that you are supporting.
It can be seen in the bright blue buildings that you can see scattered through the countryside – Christian schools now spreading hope across ten different villages. It can be traced out through the statistics: several thousand pupils enjoying an education across hundreds of square miles; several hundred teachers benefiting from employment; several dozen individuals currently undertaking teacher training with the help of our scholarships.
Above all, no doubt, you would see the impact of Savannah through the individual lives touched, and the individual lives changed. And so over the years – unable to transport you to this remote part of Africa – we have tried each Christmas letter to relate the story of one individual.
It is hard to believe that this is our 18th such letter. On a recent visit to Ghana, we met two of the children who have featured across the years. We thought that you might find their stories encouraging.
The first meeting was unexpected. We happened to be in Ghana for the sitting of the national examinations (equivalent of British GCSEs) in October. In the market town of Lawra, hundreds of children from schools across the area congregated outside exam halls. Among the many nervous pupils, we found it strangely moving to catch glimpses of “our” children – all smartly dressed in bright blue. And there, among them, was a familiar face. Pedalling up the dirt track was Beri Banguu. He parked his wheelchair bike outside the exam room, and was able to clamber up the few steps to sit his papers. It was the happiest of reunions, and as he later set off to cycle back to his village, he told us that the exam seemed to go well.
Beri’s story is told in a short video on our website. He lives in Gberi village and has been severely disabled from birth. Once he spent his days crawling in the dirt — with little hope for the future. Then one day some Savannah workers came to his house. Beri had seen a blue school being built, just close to his house. But he had not dared to hope that the school was for him, as well as for all of the other children.
Now, with the help of the Christian education provided by our school in Gberi – and with an adapted wheelchair provided by Savannah – his live is very different. He is independent, travelling on his own from his village to Lawra. And he is able to join the other children in taking his school exams.
Daafah Pagyel is older than Beri. He is from Bagri and was part of that first generation of children thrilled to witness the opening of the blue Christian school in 2006: our very first village school. At first glance, unlike Beri, he seems just like every other child. But his world is entirely silent; indeed he has known nothing but silence as he was born profoundly deaf. To make his early life even more difficult, his father died when he was a toddler.
It is hard to describe the thrill of that first ever generation to attend school. Yet it was less thrilling for Daafah, and it soon became clear that he would need further help. Through support from Savannah he was able to attend a specialist school in the regional capital, Wa (staying with a Baptist deacon and his family while away from home).
It is strange to think that children like Daafah, who we met on our first visits and who helped to inspire the work of Savannah, are no longer toddlers but are in their 20s. Daafah, having successfully completed his education and some vocational training, is now working as a mason – helping with construction projects across the area. Indeed he has teamed up with a number of his fellow pupils to form a band of deaf masons who travel around following the work together.
It has been another busy year for the charity. As we look to the future, we think about those many children, following after Beri and Daafah, who continue to be helped by Savannah – and those who have not yet known this benefit. We are ever more dependent on your support as the work expands. We are also ever more dependent on prayer that the Lord would continue to bless the work for both the physical and spiritual benefit of these remote communities.
Beri and Daafah are not able to thank you personally. We count it an immense privilege to do so on their behalf. We are thankful and excited by all that has happened. It is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes (Psalm 118). Please be assured that your support is greatly valued and is going directly to help another generation of children like Beri and Daafah.
We join with all of our friends in Ghana in wishing you a very happy Christmas and God’s blessing during 2023.
The Savannah Education Trust is a charity set up to provide an education for some of the poorest children in West Africa. We now have nine Christian schools in northern Ghana in the villages of Bagri, Gberi, Korh, Pavuu, Mettoh, Tungan- Zagkpee, Boo, Baapari and Danko-Burree. The charity also ensures every schoolchild receives a meal each day and funds a number of teacher training scholarships to attract teachers to this remote and poor area.
We would like to introduce you to Comfort Bun-ire.
Comfort is a housewife and subsistence farmer. She lives and works in the remote village of Lyssah, in northwest Ghana – not far from the border with Burkina Faso. She is 34 years-old and lives with her husband, two sons, three daughters and her mother-in-law. Their lives rise and fall with variations in the crops and the weather. By every measure she is poor. Comfort knows scarcity, which can make ‘enough’ seem like plenty.
Home is a small collection of ochre huts arranged around a central courtyard. The air is heavy with heat, the din of cicadas, and the odour of smouldering charcoal. A gnarled acacia tree provides some shade from the midday sun: a scrawny dog scratches and yawns, chickens scrape in the dirt, a couple of piglets doze in the corner – tails flicking flies. A large pot simmers over a wood fire – charcoal black stains on a nearby wall evidence of this daily ritual. Simple steps carved into a log leaning against a wall gains access to the roof, where maize dries in the sun. Scattered around the compound are signs of Comfort’s tough subsistence lifestyle – fishing nets hanging from the tree, a wooden hoe, a rake.
Beneath the compound, a graveyard – the burial place of the ancestors. Their presence, marked by a mud memorial, a daily reminder of the brevity of life.
Her day begins at first light. She is busy all day with housework, pounding millet, collecting firewood, and labouring in the field. Like everyone else in the village, Comfort does not have access to tap water. She is the main person responsible for fetching water for the family. The round trip to the borehole takes about an hour, morning and evening. When she is too busy tending the crops or making TZ (Tuo Zaafi – the staple food , a sticky porridge made from millet flour), she has to send her children to collect water.
Despite owning a small parcel of land her family is not making any income from their fields. Occasionally surplus crops can be sold in the weekly market in Lawra – but it can often be a battle for survival. During this year’s rainy season, exceptionally heavy and prolonged rains flooded the area, destroying Comfort’s fledgling crops and making the food supply for next year uncertain. This has been exacerbated by the rising cost of food in the area, a result of supply issues caused by the pandemic. The current plan is for her husband and oldest child to migrate south to Kumasi in search of work until next harvest, hoping that the weather conditions will be more favourable next year. This is the harsh reality of subsistence farming – what it means to be trapped in the arduous cycle of poverty with little hope for the future.
Although Christmas means little to Comfort, this year she has received a wonderful gift! A new borehole has been drilled in her village and, close by, she watches the walls of a school building starting to rise. Comfort never had any schooling herself but, at the local market, she has heard all about the blue schools. She is overjoyed that a Christian school is being built in her village. Quite apart from the improved prospects that an education will give to her children, Comfort’s overwhelming emotion is relief. Easy access to clean drinking water and the daily provision of food for her children removes an enormous physical and emotional pressure. Real hope has arrived for Comfort and her five children. She is not able to thank you personally. But we count it our greatest privilege to do so on her behalf. There is a spiritual dimension to the work of Savannah, and our prayer is that, in due time, Comfort, her family, and many in the village will come to know another gift: what Paul calls the ‘unspeakable gift’ of the Lord Jesus.
Comfort’s children will join almost 3,000 children now attending our Christian schools in this region. During this year, pupils started attending the newest school in the village of Danko-Buree – the ninth village in which we are working (Comfort’s village of Lyssah is the tenth). None of this could be contemplated without our kind and generous supporters.
We are thankful for all the work that has happened this year, but as the responsibilities and ongoing costs increase, it is without doubt daunting too. We are ever more dependent on your prayers and your generosity.
We join with all our friends in Ghana in wishing you a very happy Christmas and God’s blessing during 2022.
The Savannah Education Trust is a charity set up to provide an education for some of the poorest children in West Africa. We now have nine Christian schools in northern Ghana in the villages of Bagri, Gberi, Korh, Pavuu, Mettoh, Tungan- Zagkpee, Boo, Baapari and Danko-Burree. The charity also ensures every schoolchild receives a meal each day and funds a number of teacher training scholarships to attract teachers to this remote and poor area. In this newsletter:
It has been a strange and difficult year for Amos.
You may remember him. He is a teacher at our school in Bagri, the first school that Savannah built in this impoverished area of northern Ghana. We have written about him in previous newsletters (and a very short film about his life is on our website).
In March, the Ghanaian government made the sad decision to temporarily close all schools in Ghana due to Covid-19. This of course included the school at which Amos teaches. The restrictions also meant that food prices soon began to rise, and Amos and his young family immediately felt significant financial pressures that have continued throughout the year.
When the government allowed schools to reopen for the older children, Amos was among the returning teachers. He has had to adapt to a somewhat strange world, much of it of course recognisable now to all of us: locally produced face masks, liquid soap, hand sanitisers and – a Ghanaian twist – specialist ‘Veronica’ buckets (dustbins with a tap to allow for hand-washing). All have been funded by Savannah.
Through the dedication of teachers like Amos – and despite the challenging backdrop – our schools again entered pupils for the national exams in the summer. Again, our pupils did exceptionally well. But, even more important even than sitting exams, the blue schools are continuing to offer hope during these difficult days. For the desperately poor children of this area, once the schools are fully reopened they will again provide a Christian education and a meal each day – never more important than in economic recession.
For the children of the linked villages of Danko-Buree there has been a particular excitement during the virus period as they have watched their beautiful new school being built. Building has now reached roof level and, God willing, the school will be Savannah’s ninth in this area. So for these village children there is a thrill in anticipating the wonder of receiving an education for the very first time.
While life is not without problems for Amos himself, they would be worse without his teaching job – which has come to him through the support given by Savannah. As part of our teaching training programme, he received help to obtain his training qualification and has now been teaching in our schools for over a decade. For Amos and his fellow teachers there is something else to look forward to in 2021 when God willing Savannah’s new teacher training centre will open. This centre in the local market town will give much needed support to teachers across our schools providing training, collaboration and resources.
So, notwithstanding the dark days of 2020, there is much cause for hope as these villages look to the new year of 2021. And for Amos, there is something greater even than these things. It is the message that he shares in school assemblies and that he takes as an itinerant preacher to remote villages Sunday by Sunday: the message of true hope only contained in the gospel. The teacher training centre will therefore not only support day to day teaching, but also will provide Christian instruction to help individuals like Amos.
As we reflect on all that has happened this year, we can honestly say that it has been a year like no other in our history. It means that we cherish your prayer and your generous support more than ever. We certainly need it. Amos is not able to thank you personally. It is a great privilege to do so on his behalf, and on behalf of each of our pupils and staff in Ghana.
We do not know what 2021 holds, but we join with all of our friends in Ghana in wishing you a happy Christmas and God’s blessing for the new year.
The Savannah Education Trust is a charity set up to provide an education for some of the poorest children in West Africa. We now have eight Christian schools in northern Ghana in the villages of Bagri, Gberi, Korh, Pavuu, Mettoh, Tungan- Zagkpee, Boo and (completed since the last newsletter) Baapari. The charity also ensures every schoolchild receives a meal each day and funds a number of teacher training scholarships to attract teachers to this remote and poor area. In this newsletter:
It has been our privilege over the years to keep in regular contact and provide updates on the work of Savannah Education Trust. We are thankful, as the work has expanded, to be able to report exciting developments: new schools, more pupils being supported and fed every day, and the wonderful impact of a Christian education in the remote communities of northern Ghana.
But we have now come to a more difficult moment in Savannah’s history. Like the rest of the world, Ghana has been affected by Covid-19. We are thankful that the virus, so far, has not made significant inroads into the Ghanaian population. Nonetheless, the government has felt it prudent to take cautionary measures, including the closure of all schools. This obviously includes all of the schools across the eight villages in which we work.
For our pupils that is particularly challenging. Their families have come to very much appreciate both the education and the meal being provided each day. We are just approaching what is known locally as the ‘hungry’ season – the months leading up to harvest in early autumn. The effect of a short-term lockdown has also meant that food prices have risen, at least temporarily.
In response to the increasing living costs, we have increased our allowance to all staff. There is much fear in the local area, and very little provision for combatting the virus. We have, therefore, also made a contribution toward supporting local health workers with some basic facilities including specialist buckets (holding water to allow for hand-washing), locally produced face masks, liquid soap and hand sanitisers. Although this, of course, has meant an increased cost at a difficult moment we felt as trustees that it was the right thing to do. We feel a great responsibility and affection for both our staff team and the communities that they serve.
On a more positive note, we are able to continue with much of our existing building work, including the long planned senior school in the village of Korh and our new Teacher and Learning Resource Centre.
We need your support and prayers more than ever in these uncertain days.
With very best wishes, and on behalf to the trustees,