The Street Academy was established to provide educational assistance for school drop-outs and other young people who did not get to go to school.
Teacher Peninah Osei Poku says the academy caters to the needs of poor urban children who cannot go to school for financial reasons. She says most of the children come from poor neighborhoods like Chorkor, Bukom, James Town and Osu in Accra.
“We have some orphans and children with sick parents but no fixed addressess. The children therefore go to the streets to sell and fend for themselves,” she explains.
Street Academy children
Osei Poku says teachers go around the community and find children who are not in school and offer them admission to the academy.
The coordinator of Street Academy, Joana Agyei Manu, says meals are also provided.
"The children are just like street children," she says, "They sell on the street and take care of themselves." "But," she adds, "Because of the extended family system in Ghana, they have maybe an old grandmother they go home to”
One of the current pupils is ten-year-old George Quartey. At 11 in the morning, he is busily punching a bag at a private gym made available to the school.
“I want to be boxer. Coach teaches me. I like it. It is very, very good for me,” Quartey says.
In the future, Quartey hopes to be like one of the professional boxers whose pictures are prominently displayed on the walls of the gym.
Coach Gabriel Aidan, who is in charge of the gym, says the pictures are there for a reason.
“You can see [boxer Evander] Holyfield. You can see Mike Tyson and Azuma Nelson. It inspires them to be world champions,” he says.
A few months ago, Quartey was not in school. He was earning money as a street vendor and dish washer at a local restaurant. Helping turn his fortunes around is a Denmark-based non-profit, International Children’s Solidarity [IBS], and the Danish International Development Agency, DANIDA. They help fund the academy.
Quartey, along with others like him, is being given a chance to learn.
Like many of the children, Quartey was initially reluctant to come because he wanted to keep earning money on the street. But teachers say the kids, including Quartey, can be convinced by offers of special sports training.
Quartey was at the gym because he had chosen the Street Academy’s Sports and Spare Time Program. It helps develop a child’s athletic skills, but only after two hours of reading and writing. So far, 40 out of 90 children enrolled in the academy have been placed in the program.
The Street Academy also runs a skills program for young mothers without jobs. They are trained in fashion design and making batik tie-and-dye fabric.
Helping with skills development are young female professionals who serve as role models and challenge the students to aim high.
After completing the program, the students are given the basic materials to help them establish their own businesses.
The academy also runs an education program, which includes school drop-outs and others without previous schooling. They focus on reading and writing skills and are then placed in the public school system. Their progress is followed to make sure they continue their education.
With any luck, students can make it to the top, like four who began their studies at the Street Academy but are now pursuing programs at the university.