Thursday, October 22, 2009

Illegal Chocolate?

Not many people ask themselves when they sink their teeth into a delicious, creamy piece of chocolate: "I wonder if the workers who helped to produce this treat were properly treated?". Recent reports by the Department of Labor have highlighted the gruelling conditions that workers face on the cocoa plantations in West Africa. "Illegal", "slavery" and "human trafficking" are among many words used to describe the setting. Ghana supplies nearly 60% of the world's chocolate, many workers being between the ages of 11 and 16. Although many exporters claim to have been unaware of the 12-hour long days, inhumane conditions with no pay and no education given to workers, not much has been done to improve the situation. Measures have been taken to ameliorate the conditions, however the upcoming reports have skeptics telling you "I told you so" when you read an article about a five-year old boy from Ghana who is among the staff.

I highly recommend the article "Blood and Chocolate" found at for your review. Please share with friends, family and coworkers to help enforce (child) labor laws and secure basic human rights. Until this becomes a legal work situation, chocolate won't taste so good anymore... Please help take action!

New Placement System Becomes Controversy

Recently, a new system for student placement into schools was initiated. This new system focuses solely on raw exam scores, throwing away an older system that relied heavily on students' grades. Complaints arose when students gained high marks but low raw scores and were thusly not accepted into schools. Now, grades don't matter! Before, grades alone would get a student accepted into a school.

The emphasis on testing/raw scores above grades became a deciding factor for Ghana, and little discussion took place on behalf of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to inform parents of their decision. Controvery emerged most recently when many kids were still not placed into schools due to low raw scores, and school is starting very very soon...!

To read more about this topic, please read the article "Ghana: Addressing Computer Placement Challenges" at

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

TBF Award Grant

For the second year in a row TBF has been awarded a grant from The Nathan Cummings Foundation. The Nathan Cummings Foundation is rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity, and community. The Foundation seeks to build a socially and economically just society that values nature and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care; and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities. The Building Fund is appreciates the continued support of The Nathan Cummings Foundation!

For more about the Nathan Cummings Foundation please click here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On the Ground at YAIS

While construction of a permanent library has yet to begin, due to the timely need of a library in the community YAIS has taken many steps towards providing resources to its community. With community support for the library established a library committee was formed to guide the process of building and sustain the library. The five-member committee includes a professional librarian, the headmaster of YAIS, a teacher in charge of library studies, a parent representative, and a local community representative. The committee, in addition to guiding the overall plan for construction and management of the library, has been charged with the responsibility of networking with community members and key stakeholders.

With the committee in place the community is moving forward with a plan to open a temporary library at YAIS in an effort to engage the community in the use of the future library and test library systems on a smaller scale before opening the permanent library. The temporary library will be housed in two currently unused classrooms at YAIS and will present a selection of the nearly 25,000 books donated by Books for Africa. With the aid of a library intern YAIS students will spend two weeks sorting, labeling, and cataloguing books for use in the temporary library. An additional four weeks has been scheduled to organize the books in their temporary space to be made available for loan to students and the community.

Once the temporary library is open to the public YAIS will begin generating income for the construction of a permanent library to supplement funds being contributed by The Building Fund and other partner organizations.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Founder Featured in SCOPE Quarterly

Founder, Jessyca Dudley, was featured in the spring issuse of SCOPE Quarterly. The article, profiling the work of Skidmore alumni in Africa, features The Building Fund and Jessyca's current work in South Africa with the U.S. Peace Corps. To read the article, please click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

President Obama visits Ghana

Last week, President Obama visited Ghana for the first time since taking office. Highlighting Ghana's democratic achievements and the propserity of a recent election, President Obama chose a thriving country in sub-Saharan Africa that was not one with familial ties. Despite Ghana's comparable success within the region, however, the country's instability and examples of corruption could not be overlooked. Economic and political stability within the country continue to be an obstacle, as is the case within the entire continent. Obama's visit sparked intense debate over Africa's importance to the international community, including a critique of Kenya's recent turmoils and Gabon's economic strife due to a corrupt President. Ghana's transfer of power from a democratic election will ultimately decide a peaceful and stable politic. Will Ghana be the exception or the normal?

To read more about President Obama's visit, please see the New York Times article, "Ghana Visit Highlights Scarce Stability in Africa." (

Monday, May 18, 2009

Higher Education in Ghana?

Higher education should be made accessible and free to all. Sadly, higher education development in Ghana, unlike other sectors of development, has not kept pace with the ever increasing demand for higher education due to population growth. The increasing demand for higher education has created corruption in higher education admissions, examination malpractices, such as falsification of entry requirements, bribery of admissions officials for the limited spaces that are available.

To read more about the problem of access to higher education (defined as any education that is beyond secondary education) please see the article I located on a Ghana website from 24 April 2009:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Free School Lunches Increase School Attendance

Yesterday,the UN's IRIN News and Analysis published another article of interest. The UN World Food Programme has been offering free lunch to students in the Republic of the Congo, and the article claims that the promise of lunch has kept more children coming back to school. In the 1980s, the Republic of the Congo had one of the highest primary school attendance records in Africa, but the civil war destroyed half of all schools in the Congo, as well as displacing students and teachers, between 1998 and 2003. The program began in 2002, when about 32 percent of Congolese did not have enough food, and today the program feeds up to 39,000 students every day. Free school lunches, something the United States offers to its low-income students already, could prove to be a step towards both increasing school attendance and alleviating hunger in developing countries around the world.

To read the full story, visit:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Increased Primary School Enrollment Leads to Secondary School Shortage

The United Nations publication IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis recently published an article describing problems Mali's education system is facing as a result of increased primary school enrollment. Mali has been working towards the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015, and their success with increasing enrollment in primary schools has led to a shortage of teachers and classroom space in secondary schools. In 2008, about 17,000 students out of 80,000 who passed the admission exams for secondary schools could not attend due to lack of space.

The government of Mali is building more vocational schools in an attempt to give these students somewhere to go. This issue raises important questions about the best way to increase access to education internationally. Primary education is an important goal, and in that Mali has been successful: between 2002 and 2007, primary school enrollment has increased from 56% to 68% for girls and 78% to 88% for boys. However, even success stories come with their own challenges, and this is no exception.

To read the full story, visit:

Monday, February 9, 2009

A government's financial role in promoting education

I found an excellent article on the active role of government in Uganda in committing itself to pay for the pupils who failed last year's Primary Leaving Examinations. The article was rather controversial, suggesting that the Government's aid may be a waste of their resources in accomodating such pupils. Although a pupil's poor performance is often due to parental neglect in their children's education, does that not mean that the government should take an active role in promoting education? I'm curious to see if other African countries with similar educational structures, like Ghana and Nigeria, would be hesitant to involve their governments financially in aiding failing students...

Source:, 8 February 2009: "Uganda: Govt to Pay for P7 Failures to Repeat"

Delta State Government Approves Teacher Pay Raise

Yesterday, the Delta State government in Nigeria approved a 27.5% pay raise for primary school teachers. This move was in line with a resolution reached last August at the Nigeria Governors' Forum and the Nigeria Union of Teachers that all states should implement a Teachers' Salary Structure program in order to improve the quality of education and recruit more teachers. Delta State is the first state to begin implementing the program.

Like Ghana, where The Building Fund works, Nigeria offers free primary education, but the schools are often under-funded and face a shortage of qualified teachers. The quality of Nigeria's educational system declined in the nineties, as the population increased dramatically and the number of schools available did not keep up. This program, if it works as intended, will help children in Nigeria gain access to high-quality education.

To read the full story visit:

Other source:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

View the YAIS Community Center Plans

As The Building Fund moves forward in its project to build a community center at the Young Apostles International School we are excited to share with you the plans for the community center drawn by architects of the Architecture for Humanity Chicago Chapter.

In November, 22 architects from AFH's Chicago Chapter gathered to produce and document several design explorations in response to the programmatic needs of the school/community
center. Upon completion, a team leader (one from each of 3 design teams) was responsible for assembling all sketches, drawings, and diagrams into a consistent format. The end product is a
a printed booklet which will be sent to Ghana for implementation by a local architect and construction team. To view a digital version of the booklet please click here.

In exploring multiple design solutions, the hope was that architects in Ghana will be able to choose from several designs, and have the opportunity to implement select portions from each scheme. The plans feature innovative designs that take into consideration the many challenges facing the school including climate, water access, and various community specific needs. We hope that you will enjoy viewing the designs and will check back here for future updates on the project.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Meet Our Blog Team

The Building Fund is happy to introduce its new Blog Team contributors Kate Clabby and Lindsay Colbert. In addition to updates on the organization you can now visit the TBF Blog for the latest news on international education, profiles of organizations, and interviews with key leaders in the field brought to you by the Blog Team!

Kate Clabby
Kate Clabby is a sophomore at The University of Texas at Austin, double majoring in Humanities, with a concentration in Women in African Culture and Development, and English. She has interned with the literary journal Farfelu Magazine and Collaboration Theater Company, and she is a writing tutor for freshman honors students. She is also involved with the UT chapter of Oxfam America. Kate plans to continue to work for social justice throughout her life, and she is excited to be a part of The Building Fund's effort to help bring education to all children.

Lindsay Colbert
Lindsay Colbert graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Masters degree in International Development and French. She moved to Chicago to intern with Heartland International, a non-profit organization which designs, implements and manages political, economic and social development projects, as well as international education exchange programs. Previously working with other non-profit organizations in the Midwest, as well as abroad, Lindsay has gained experience in multi-cultural communications and international development projects. Appreciating the importance of education in child development, Lindsay is looking forward to volunteering with The Building Fund and encouraging others to help make a difference.

We look forward to having Kate and Lindsay join our team!!

Education in the Middle East: Improving Lives and Promoting Peace

Greg Mortenson, a former mountain climber, pledged to build his first school in Korphe, Pakistan when he stumbled into the rural village, sick and exhausted, after a failed attempt to summit the mountain K2. After receiving an endowment from the scientist Jean Hoerni, Mortenson founded the Central Asia Institute, which has successfully established 78 schools for children in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. The CAI makes it a priority to learn from the local people, and to help the communities help themselves. Every CAI project is initiated by people in the community, and they are asked to volunteer labor for building the school. Mortenson believes that this policy helps to empower the local people as well as keeping costs low.

Mortenson and the CAI build schools because they care about helping children. Because educating girls has the biggest impact on quality of life for the entire village, they focus on enrolling girls. However, in the aftermath of 9/11, the CAIs work has taken on a greater significance for Americans. In much of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only schools available are Islamic madrassas, which are often run by extremist Muslims who use them to advance anti-American agendas and recruit for the Taliban. Mortenson believes that if children are offered options for balanced, moderate education, support for terrorists will eventually evaporate. Therefore, the only sustainable way to fight terror is to improve access to education in the Middle East.

Since its inception, the CAI has expanded to provide women's centers and public health resources in addition to schools, teacher training, and teacher salaries. The New York Times #1 best seller Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time, coauthored by Mortenson and journalist David Oliver Relin, tells the CAI's story.

For more, visit

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Join Our Blog Team

The Building Fund is seeking volunteers to join its newly formed Blog Team.
The team will work to bring content and fresh ideas to the TBF Blog, while also increasing the visibility and viability of the Blog.

An ideal candidate for the Blog Team will have previous experience working with non-profits and an interest in international education. The position is unpaid, however, after successful tenure on the team individuals will have gained valuable skills and contacts, as well as a familiarity with the workings of a non-profit. TBF is also willing to write recommendations for future internships and jobs.

Responsibilities will include weekly postings that fully communicate current events and news in international education with a focus on Ghana and primary education.

You need:
• a strong interest in international education
• strong blog-style writing skills
• a reliable computer and internet connection
• strong internet research skills

Please submit:
• Your name
• Your contact information
• Your previous experience
• What you do full time
• 2 sample posts that you think should appear on The Building Fund Blog

Please email:
Please use subject line: Blog Team