Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A Proud Partner

Golden Star’s 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report had as its cover image the young men and women of Maintenance Sustainability Africa (MSA), Prestea’s first ever, volunteering youth non-governmental organization (NGO). 

MSA at the Prestea recreational park
An article in the Corporate Responsibility Report featured the group, explaining:

“Genuine volunteering is not only altruistic, but in many communities, brings an improved quality of life to those who are most vulnerable. In 2015 a new youth NGO was formed in Prestea, Maintenance Sustainability Africa (MSA), and the group immediately supported our initiatives for the conversion of a former refuse site to a community, recreational parkland. Since the completion of the capping of the site, the young men and women of MSA have made an immense contribution to the people of Prestea, by planting the site with grass, nurturing the seedlings, and maintaining the site.

"We are proud of MSA; together, we have become true partners in development by sharing responsibility for taking action for the betterment of society. Although the project is in its infancy, the actions of this group are a first for Prestea, and provide enormous symbolism to others.”

Partnerships for Sustainability

Sustainable Development Goal 17 recognizes the need to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. Golden Star and its host communities, including groups such as MSA, are working together in partnership to mobilise, redirect and unlock the transformative power of our combined resources to deliver our shared hopes for sustainable development. 

Agnes Fuakye Yeboah of MSA at the Prestea recreational park

Local Champions for Development

Despite some decriers that did not support volunteering, MSA persisted and are now widely respected as considered representatives of youth that continue to tackle some of the local community’s greatest development challenges.

MSA have pioneered an innovative pilot project, known as EDUPAY, to assist poor families in saving for school fees, which improves school enrollment and retention. Effectively a fee payment model, EDUPAY targets the low cost private school system to improve access and quality of education in communities where poverty is predominant. 

Emmanuel Turkson and the MSA EDUPAY 
team at a local community school

Godfred and Emmanuel Turkson, co-Founders of MSA, observed something about the educational system in the community which pushed MSA to develop this initiative:  

“In many Ghanaian rural areas, poor parents send their wards to low cost private schools to avoid the overburdened public school system. The twin challenges of accessibility and affordability remain and result in a cycle of poverty derived from poor education. Where fees are too high parents default on payment. This leads to appalling infrastructure management at the schools, directly affecting the delivery of quality of education, and students are expelled from school, affecting the ability of the parents to remain in work and sustain employment.”

The simple model works by providing parents with a school fees payment plan to spread fee payment over a reasonable period of time, in a traditional saving style. MSA deploys officers to collect fee contributions daily, with contributions banked for onward payment to the schools. 

A parallel aspect of the program is the pre-financing of fees payment to the school. With consistent revenue delivery, enhanced management of funds is achieved by schools, enabling planning for infrastructure and facility development. 

The model also incorporates an educational guarantee component and scholarships for brilliant but needy students.

MSA supporting schools in improved planning and growth

What Has Been The Impact?

EDUPAY now supports more than 700 parents, predominantly women, in saving for school fees payment. Cutting across two local private schools, the system has vast potential for expansion.

Let’s see what the participants in EDUPAY have to say about the impact:

Richard Intsiful, Proprietor, Fin Upgrade International School, Prestea
“EDUPAY has made a big impact on my school. I have been able to build new structures including toilets, backfill an area that used to flood and pay my teachers all arrears owed. I pray that EDUPAY grows, expands and is sustained to be able to help the community in terms of development and sustainability” 

George Atanga, Headmaster, Prestea 

“Our fears were dispelled by the pre-financing support, and the transparency and accountability the EDUPAY system brings. We are very happy as a school and grateful to MSA for this initiative because now parents can pay fees and our school can benefit from development projects. God bless MSA for turning lives around.” 

Belinda Gyasi, student 
“EDUPAY has helped our parents to be able to pay our school fees. At first they were having difficulty in paying our fees but with EDUPAY they can pay little by little. It has also helped my school because the school uses the school fees to make the environment better. I thank EDUPAY very much for their support.” 

Anthony Arthur, student 
“Sometimes my parents couldn’t get money to pay fees or they couldn’t look after us well during fees time, but with EDUPAY they pay in installments. It has also helped us to do school projects – soon we will have toilets! EDUPAY also gives scholarships and I want to learn well to win a scholarship.” 

Desire Mensah, student 
“EDUPAY helps my family pay fees bit by bit like ‘susu’ so they don’t feel it and before they realize they have paid the fees in excess and don’t have to pay much for the next term. I thank EDUPAY so much and I want it to continue so that our parents can pay our fees and we can stay in school.” 

Festus Kwesi Arthur, teacher 
“EDUPAY has helped me as a teacher because through them the school has been able to pay our salaries, which reduces stress so we can effectively teach. EDUPAY even have a representative in our school to assist with fees management. I really thank God for blessing MSA with this initiative because now we can focus on teaching.” 

Docas Aggrey, Kindergarten teacher
“EDUPAY has helped the teachers a lot because when the children are expelled due to lack of fee payment, they go roaming about in town which leads to concern in the community and tarnishes the image of the school. I thank EDUPAY very much for lifting us all up.”

Vida Mills, parent and petty trader  
“EDUPAY has really helped me a lot because the school fees are very expensive and I always find it difficult but with EDUPAY I can pay them little by little rather than in bulk. Now I don’t need to use all my income to pay school fees, so as well as helping me it has also stabilized my business. I thank MSA for the good job that they are doing.” 

International Recognition

The efforts of MSA and their EDUPAY program are clearly worth highlighting, for innovation, remarkable contribution to sustainable development, and the vast potential of the model to support other impoverished regions of the world. 
As a result, EDUPAY was nominated for Best Project in the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition conducted under the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development.

The award category recognizes that the project has gone beyond being an idea or a concept but has actually been successfully implemented for the benefit of sustainable development.

In a grueling four-stage assessment process that continued over several months, EDUPAY rose above thousands of competitor projects to be short-listed as just one of 10 of the 1,600 projects that passed screening. 

Students supported by EDUPAY
In the final stage a project video was produced and submitted for assessment by a world-class panel of judges including the Secretary General of the World Assembly of Youth as well as representatives from an array of international agencies including the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Commonwealth Youth Council. 

At Golden Star, we are proud of our relationship with MSA and are thrilled to announce that MSA won the Silver Medal for Best Project in the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development!

The Future

As to the future, Godfred Turkson, CEO of MSA, had this to say:

“The model is a pilot that we continue to evolve to strengthen its frameworks and the three major pillars:
Flexible payment scheme
Pre-financing fund
Project targeting infrastructure development.
In the future we expect to expand to include a maintenance team, a construction team and a project team to target infrastructure development. Our objective is that every school will have an ‘infrastructure development plan’ allowing educational staff to focus on improved academic performance with the support of EDUPAY in executing the school’s infrastructure development plan”.

Well done Maintenance Sustainability Africa! Golden Star looks forward to continuing to partner with you for sustainable development.

If you'd like to find out more about Golden Star and its approach to CSR, please visit www.gsr.com/responsibility.

For more information on Maintenance Sustainability Africa visit their website www.masuafrica.org or read about their EDUPAY Project at the UNESCO Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship site at https://www.entrepreneurship-campus.org/ideas/14/5639/

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