Scholar Spotlight: an update on two of our original students

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When Exponential Education expanded to the Ashanti Region in the fall of 2012 two of our first SHS tutor participants were Priscilla Adu Poku and Florence Appiah. From a tiny village outside of Kumasi these girls were bright, thirsty for knowledge and natural leaders among their friends but like many of their peers, not in a good position financially. Despite many of the cards being stacked against them they were working hard and not taking “no” for an answer. When their families didn’t have money for school fees they went out and worked to pay their own ways, when they had extra chores to do in the morning that typically made their female colleagues late, they got up even earlier so that they could arrive on time, and when the lights were off they would study by candle light until their eyes refused to cooperate any longer. Honestly the best word I have to describe these two girls is “fierce.”

When their school unfortunately closed down due to circumstances out of their control upon completion of their first year they were forced to seek transfer admission elsewhere. Being such bright and unique students I suggested that they try to enter one of the top private high schools in their area. One afternoon just after the start of the term, the three of us traveled together the Church of Christ Senior Secondary School in their area to meet with the headmaster. All fingers were crossed.

After a few preliminary questions, which the girls both answered exceptionally well, the headmaster declared that they could not in fact come to his school because they were from the village and were girls and were surely not be able to keep up with the high academic standards of his school. Not taking “no” for an answer, the three of us argued and begged until we had convinced him to give them a chance. They were to be admitted for 1 term, at the end of which if they didn’t perform they would be expelled. Any wrong step on their part in any way would lead to immediate termination of their place in the school.

Despite this less than warm reception the girls and I were thrilled! They went out and got their books and uniforms and were ready for class the following Monday. Being the fighters that I knew them to be I had no doubt that they would not only perform up to the average standard but excel. And that they did! After only a single term, in which they started late, they were the second and third ranked students in their class. After another term they were ranked one and two. And this week they start their final year of SHS and register for their WASSCE, the high school exit exam, which they will take in June. Remembering where these two girls have come from and knowing all of the challenges that they’ve faced along the way I can’t help but overflow with pride and admiration when I think of them. Knowing that these are the types of students that Expo embraces only reinforces all of the good work that our team is doing across the region in my mind. I know each program associate in Ghana, past and present, has their own Florences and Prisciallas and that knowledge warms my heart more than anything else : )

Amber Shevin is a co-executive director of Exponential Education. This post is an update from a previous scholar spotlight that included Priscilla and Florence, which you can read here.

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