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,
Some days in life linger long in the memory. For us that includes 18 October 2006. This was the date when our first school was opened in the village of Bagri, northern Ghana.
Among the large crowds gathered for the occasion was a four year old boy called Meshach. He only has the haziest of memories of that day. His parents, desperately poor farmers, grew just enough corn, millet and ground nuts to feed themselves and their four children. Without the opening of a school, that little boy faced an extremely difficult future.
You may remember Meshach from our Christmas letter written three years ago. That year, a decade after the grand opening, he had taken the national examinations (the equivalent of British GCSES). He had received the highest grade. Noticing his ability, one of the teachers at our school in Bagri helped him with extra tuition and mentoring. In the evenings, by the light of an old torch provided by the charity, he read back over the notes made at school. We described in our letter how we were funding him to continue his studies – and added that Meshach had the ambition to become a doctor when he finished school. “That”, we noted, “is a challenge – but it is no longer an impossibility.”
This year, Meshach completed his secondary studies and we recently heard that he has just been accepted to study medicine. It fills us with great emotion to think that the little boy who aged four had literally nothing will now study to be a doctor. We are hoping that Savannah will be able to help fund this too, and that he will return after training to this remote area to help his own people. Meshach is not just a clever pupil, he is also a useful member of the Baptist church in Bagri – and teaches in the Sunday School.
We now have nearly 2,000 children attending our Christian schools and, during this year, pupils started attending the newest school in the village of Baapari – the eighth village in which we are working. Not all of those children will achieve the wonderful success of Meshach. Nor was that our aim. We have always sought to provide a decent quality education that, alongside a Christian influence, will help improve the quality of live in challenging circumstances.
Child by child, and family by family, these village communities are being transformed. At this time of the year, our thoughts perhaps naturally turn to children in our own country, and all of the presents and luxuries that they enjoy. The contrast with children in northern Ghana – particularly those without a school – is sobering.
It has been the busiest of years for the charity, and also a year when there has been pressure on our finances. As we look to the future, we think about those children who still do not enjoy the benefits of one of our Christian schools and have the desire to start work in more villages. We are also planning, if the Lord will in the immediate future, to build a new Training and Resource Centre (with associated office) to provide practical support to our existing schools and the surrounding area. None of this could be contemplated without our kind and generous supporters.
Meshach is not able to thank you personally. We count it our greatest privilege to do so on his behalf. We are thankful and excited by all that has happened but, as our 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 of our friends in Ghana in wishing you a very happy Christmas and God’s blessing during 2020.
On behalf of the trustees,
Saturday 25 January 2020 at 2.30pm at Wivelsfield Village Hall, Eastern Road, Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex RH17 7QH
Saturday 14 March 2020 at 2.30 pm at Toddington Village Hall, Leighton Road, Toddington, Dunstable LU5 6AN
Last Christmas we wrote about a new school in the twinned villages of Tungan and Zagkpee. This summer, some of the trustees had the wonderful experience of visiting the completed school. To see the impact of this Christian school in a place where there have been generations of poverty and darkness is a privilege indeed.