I am Tasia, but here in Ghana I go by Abena (Tuesday-born). I am the new Site Manager in Kumasi. The story of how I arrived in Ghana begins far away in a rural, mountainous region of Northern Nicaragua. When I was 17, I participated in a 5-week service delegation to Jalapa, Nicaragua, a sister city of my hometown. Through this experience, I came to direct a small scholarship program that helps kids stay in school by connecting them with sponsors in the United States. I have directed this program for four years, and though I have watched with pride as the students overcome each hurdle before them, I have also been humbled by the complexity of the challenges they face. In reality, there are a host of problems in the Nicaraguan education system that goes far beyond financial barriers.
I continued to direct this program from afar when I studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal my junior year of college. There I discovered a fascination for the languages, music, culture and history of West Africa. Once again, I found myself working in the context of a struggling education system, this time as a volunteer English teacher. Although my assigned school compared favorably to most public schools in Senegal, there were obvious structural problems including teacher absenteeism, lack of learning resources and overcrowded schoolrooms.
When I discovered the opportunity to work with Exponential Education, it appealed to me because it focuses on improving quality of education, not just access. The model is incredibly simple, but the magic is in the details. First of all, the programs are self-selecting. No students are forced to participate, so those that show up are motivated and attentive. The incentive of a scholarship for the best tutor in each program promotes excellence and has the potential to change the lives of the most talented but needy high school students.
My work focuses specifically on Exponential Tutoring Services, the sustainable branch of the organization. We offer SAT classes and college advising to top-notch high school students who want to study in the United States, with all proceeds funneled directly to the nonprofit. Therefore, the Exponential Education model has the potential to be not only effective and replicable, but also sustainable. I am excited about the chance to learn with this organization as it grows. I hope one day to incorporate elements of the Exponential model into my work in Nicaragua. A set of programs that get at the root of challenges in a broken education system can pave the way for vast changes in the way we support children’s learning all over the world.