Thomas Awiapo, senior staff member of Catholic Relief Services in Ghana, discussed African educational development during the live video forum with students at Seattle University, Villanova University and Cabrini College on Thursday, Feb. 28.
“Education is a key factor if you have to end poverty and diseases,” Awiapo said. “We are in these communities trying to change the attitudes of parents, sell the idea of the value of education and the profit parents can have by sending their children to school.”
Awiapo, like many Catholic Relief Service staff members in developing countries, has to convince parents to send their children to school rather than keeping them home to harvest crops or tend the family’s animals.
Agriculture accounts for 55 percent of Ghana’s formal employment. Despite this percentage, there is still an overwhelming amount of poverty among the rural communities within the nation.
Awiapo finds even greater hope in the newly proposed U.S. Farm Bill just as long as it doesn’t interfere with the “agricultural industry of that country.”
“You have to make sure that sending food there is not going to flood the markets and kill local agricultural economy,” Awiapo said. He added that it is crucial to “find out the farming industry’s strength of that community.”
It is more important to “encourage farmers to produce, consume and sell their own goods,” by first improving agricultural knowledge within the developing nation.
More than 265 students benefited from Awiapo’s presentations.
“We will not think of Ghana just as this place on a map or some place in Africa, but now we will be able to have a real person connected to that and personal stories,” Kevin Kostic, CRS university programming staff member, said.