I've have been able to learn so much this week.
I've been interviewing students one on one, asking about their future plans and getting suggestions on how to develop entrepreneurial skills, among other things. Some students have absolutely blown me away.
Some students offered valuable insights into how students learn best, and on how to develop the best program to teach entrepreneurial skills. Others shared with me their exciting ambitions for the future, and still others provided concrete examples of youth entrepreneurship. Ibrahim, for example, explained how he had purchased one young bull and fattened it and then sold it, in order to get enough money to buy an older bull. This he fattened as well in order to make enough to buy two bulls. He continued doing this until he had four bulls, which he sold so that he could afford to write the exams and come to Pong-Tamale Vet College at the age of 30.
Abdul in particular, age 25, amazed me with his story of perseverance and determination. We sat down on a bench just outside the male dormitories as the sun was retreating behind the trees on the horizon. The bench was uncomfortable and I struggled to keep all my papers in place as the breeze flicked them around. This was soon forgotten as Abdul explained that, "Yes." he did have experience in entrepreneurship. As a result of his father's death, which happened while Abdul, an only child, was still in second grade, he had to find money on his won to cover his school fees while in junior high. To do this, he learned how to repair shoes, purchased a small show repair kit, and and visited homes in his community, fixing shoes for a small price. Then, before completing junior high, Abdul's mother died. Abdul was completely on his own and started a small field of corn, which he sold so that he could go to high school. Abdul was actually the only person in his community to have completed primary school, let alone pass high school and be accepted into a college.
As Abdul continued his narrative, I could only nod slowly as I felt the faint stirrings of tears in the corners of my eyes, which I fought back in order to avoid embarrassing Abdul, who was stoically sharing the facts of his life. He explained, "In Ghana, to save money, you must starve." Illustrating how he had been forced to cut back significantly on his diet in order to save enough money to start another small corn field, which was supporting him while he was at college. He wished to counter the view that massive amounts of capital are required to start up small businesses, he explained that you simply had to save and start very small. And he explained the most important thing was to be independent and passionate about reaching your goals. He then told me that he simply wanted to establish his own commercial livestock farm after graduation. He also wanted to return to his community to encourage young people to finish school. He thought that he could serve as an example that the only thing required to succeed was determination and a refusal to quit.
When he had finished, I was stricken and could barely bring myself to continue on to the remaining questions. As the strength of the sun was dying, I jotted down his thoughts on youth groups and developing entrepreneurial skills in students. Then when he asked for my number in Canada so that we could stay in contact, I could hardly refuse, he had fascinated me and blown me away with his strength of character. I would be honoured to be able to share as we both continued on our own journeys.