Samuel Avornyo, first-place winner of the 2010 Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Educators Forum (Community Category) in Cape Town, South Africa, wears many hats as a rural educator in Ghana: teacher, community leader and business advisor, to name a few. His project, “Promoting Rural Food Processing Industries with a touch of ICT,” sought to help rural food processing industries in and around his rural school environment to maximize profit through proper record-keeping and quality packaging using Internet and communications technology. Here, he shares how this work not only impacted his rural community, but ultimately got more kids into school, with more resources at their disposal.
What has changed in your school (or area of influence) as a result of your efforts?
The school administrators have now woken up to the need to invest more in ICT education. Teachers in the school have now realized that innovative teaching is not found in the abundance of resources at their disposal but in what they do with the few resources at their disposal. The school is now opened up to help local industries grow their businesses by patronizing some of their products. And, importantly, our enrollment has increased because the community now understands what we can accomplish.
How can other educators facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through this project?
They should look at areas of concern in their various communities and find ways to help improve the situation. They must not be part of the problem by throwing their hands in the air in despair and being pessimistic. Rather, they must be problem solvers no matter the size of the problem. They must dream big but start small.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
The greatest obstacle I had to overcome had to do with teaching Internet without Internet. Our school is without Internet connectivity and there is also a total ban on the use of mobile phones in the school. I had to use my own modem which costs a lot to use to help my students get access to information on the Internet.
What is your country doing right to support education?
Putting up school buildings, encouraging more children to attend school through the school feeding program (where some basic schools are given free meals), and footing parts of students’ fees through grants given to pupils in basic schools.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
Over politicization of educational policies and issues, walking the talk on decisions concerning education, and ensuring fairness in the distribution of educational needs to schools both in urban and rural areas.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Making education that is powered by technology more relevant to everyday life.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Step out of the “this is how it has always been done” to challenge the status quo. Innovation best comes when faced with the impossible. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Read widely and always know that A MEDICAL DOCTOR MAY AT WORST KILL A SOUL AT A TIME BUT A TEACHER HAS THE POWER TO DESTROY THOUSANDS OF SOULS AT A GO. Let the well-being of the kids you meet and teach everyday be your heartbeat.
What keeps you motivated?
From a humble beginning, I have grown to be the best that I could be and I’m still growing to higher heights in my chosen field of education. What keeps me going is my strong faith in God and my quest to challenge the status quo wherever I find myself. I am self-motivated and thrive better in challenging conditions. My best time is to see smiles in the faces of others – especially my students when I have helped them to find out something new for themselves in their learning.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be?
A laptop computer with Internet connectivity.
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About Samuel Avornyo
ICT Teacher at Mabang Senior High Technical School Mabang, Ashanti Region, Ghana
Birthplace: Assin Foso, Central Region, Ghana, W/A
Current residence: Mabang, Ashanti Region, Ghana, W/A
Education: Bachelor of Education (Primary Education)
Websites I check every day: www.pil-network.org; www.facebook.com
Person who inspires me most: Prof. Jophus Anamuah Mensah (Former Vice Chancellor, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana, W/A) and Director for Centre for Schools and Community Science and Technology (SACOST, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana, W/A). He is really a mentor.
Favorite childhood memory: I found it very difficult to pay my school fees during my senior high school days. Fortunately, I applied for a scholarship which required an interview to be selected. I had no pair of shorts which would be appropriate for the event, so I had to borrow one oversized pair of shorts from my elder brother and I was quite a spectacle to behold. I won the scholarship, though, and that really played a major part in
helping me complete my high school education.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I will be attending the ECOWAS
E-Schools Conference in Accra, Ghana to speak on the topic ‘Challenges facing the funding of ICT in Rural Schools’ in March. I may be attending the 2012 Microsoft MEA in
Morocco in July. To Tunisia to do a joint paper presentation at The XV IOSTE International Symposium on Science & Technology Education for Development, Citizenship and Social Justice in November.
Favorite book: Where the Children Play (forgotten the author): It was about a female teacher who was posted to a deprived rural school (like my school) and though many, including family members, friends, etc., discouraged her to go, she decided to go. She then teamed up with a medical doctor at the village, exposed a drug syndicate, and freed the
people from hard drug operators. The question she asked those who tried to discourage her from going was “are there children where I am going?” When they replied in the affirmative, she said, “then I want to be where the children play.”
Favorite music: My Life Is In Your Hands – Kirk Franklin.