The ongoing civil war between the Konkomba and Nanumba tribes in Northern Ghana has received very little international attention because other than the two main tribes involved it has been contained, although the devastation cannot be overlooked. The area in question covers about one hundred and fifty miles in the northern part of Ghana spreading towards the boarder of Togo where these two tribes have been at loggerheads for the past twenty years destroying houses, huts, livestock, displacing families, and creating refugees and many deaths in its path. The civil war has been ongoing since 1990. In all instances the conflict has been quelled only when the government orders the military to intervene after hundreds and even thousands of lives have been destroyed. On EVCO’s last trip to the region in October 2010 many villages were still under curfew and bigger towns such as Yendi and Saboba are patrolled by military vehicles and foot patrolled military.
A March 2009 Australia Refugee Review Tribunal Report (Research Response Number GHA34619) stated that–
“The Northern Region was engulfed in an inter-ethnic war of a size not previously witnessed in Independent Ghana. As the Nanumba, Dagomba and Gonja fought the Konkomba, 441 villages were destroyed and in excess of 178,000 people displaced (Inter-NGO Consortium, mimeo). At least 2,000 people lost their lives (NPI/Inter-NGO Consortium, mimeo), a particularly high death toll in a region with a population of only just over 1.8 million (Government of Ghana, 2002). As mentioned earlier, the question of paramountcy was a major factor precipitating the escalation of tensions leading up to the conflict.”
Children in this region have a double share of the devastation; they are robbed of their present as well as their future. They are less likely to attend school which when available in their village is either structurally damaged, has no books, chairs or desks. The remoteness of the region together with the ongoing conflict makes it very difficult to attract and keep teachers.
Unfortunately for children living in this part of the Northern Region of Ghana, this dream is set back each time the conflict flairs up. Most people under twenty years old living in this area were not born or babies when the civil war started, have been subjected to the horrors, and have willingly or unwillingly joined as soldiers. The worst culprit in this debacle is unfortunately young girls. In a male dominated culture of northern Ghana (predominantly Islamic), educating girls is not a priority. They are either given into marriages mostly arranged in a very early age and assume household and other responsibilities when they are children themselves.
The situation is not better for boys neither as a good percentage do not attend school. They work in farms as herders of cattle, sheep and goats. This situation prevents them from learning new things to develop their brains and understand life outside their tribal area. Not attending school also gives young boys and the youth free space on their calendars to take time out to participate in this conflict no matter how trivial the circumstance may be; after all they have all the time in the world to do nothing!
Although information is power, most people in this region have no access to it. There are no community centers and definitely no computers in schools. In fact, most people do not know what a computer is! The ability to break the daily monotony of both kids and adults by introducing computer technology will not only take minds off of this ongoing saga, but present an opportunity for people in schools and communities to use computer technology to open a new chapter in their lives. Information is power; it also empowers people. In an area where most parents are illiterate, infusing EVCO’s three-prong program of computer lab setup and donation, “Photos and Fun” and “Sowing a Seed of Patriotism” (motivational speeches) will do a great deal to change minds from destruction to development thereby bringing along sustainable development that this region badly needs.
Since 2005 EVCO has successfully donated computers and accessories to 21 village schools and communities in Ghana and Nigeria. A total of 161computers have been donated. Over thirty thousand students and adults have benefited from EVCO’s computer donation program and five thousand new students are able to see, touch and use computers for the first time due to EVCO’s benevolence. In addition to donating computers and setting up computer labs in poor and deprived villages, EVCO is also a movement that creates awareness for community and individual participation for growth and progress in poor communities.
Despite the danger and difficulties involved in intervening in this region, EVCO has introduced “Peace and Education Project (PEP).” We see this intervention as a way to save the lives and futures of many children by injecting education through technology in this region. The mission of PEP is to use our three-prong programs plus the RACHEL Server to improve education.
Peace and Education
The proper behavior of the youth has never been as important as it is now in the debacle of the Konkombas and the Nanumbas. The positive change coming from teens is enough to make the difference in bringing everlasting peace in this troubled region. As many researches has shown, most of the issues fuelling this conflict emanates either from frustration of the youth or parents’ fear of the uncertain future of their children. As their myopic vision only see as far as their immediate region, any attempt to encroach or share their space (land) becomes a threat to their future existence.
EVCO’s school computer labs and community learning centers focuses on teenagers and the youth with close consultation and participation of chiefs and local officials. Working with teenagers serves as a conduit between children and parents; using technology to teach both in and out of the classroom.
EVCO’s projects in this region includes symposia and workshops. The first of such workshops will be held at Yendi community center in the Northern Region of Ghana featuring topics such as ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ and ‘World Citizenship.’ This is aimed at opening the eyes of the youth to see the world in a different lens and show the world as an open field for everyone to play so far as technology is concerned. EVCO’s computer lab donation and setup makes such programs possible with the introduction of portals such as the RACHEL server and the many other programs installed on our donated computers.
The R.A.C.H.E.L. Server (Remote Access Computer Hotspot for Education and Learning)
This is a digital off-line library equivalent to 15,000 books put together to give students access to educational materials in every subject including audio and video tutorials in math and science, teachers’ course preparation programs, research, etc. In short, the RACHEL server gives students in remote villages the same materials available on the internet but without an internet connection. The real advantage is that these materials are ‘cleanly’ selected for educational purposes without the objectionable contents available on the internet such as profanity, violence, and pornography.
Developed by our friend and collaborator Norberto Mujica from World Possible, the goal of ‘RACHEL Server’, is; “To leverage the large volume of open and free educational courseware and libraries available online and make them accessible to Emerging Countries’ schools and communities with no internet access or very limited bandwidth. Empower these small communities by deploying a pre-packaged, self-contained, scalable and highly mobile Educational Server Solution that can be accessed by basic wireless laptops or wired PCs”.
RACHEL is customizable therefore every location can put as many interesting local subjects as possible into the program including videos to make it fun for students in a classroom or adults at a community learning center. Already being used in ‘Nerala’s Child Survival’ in India and Ho Bankoe EP Primary school in Ghana, both teachers and students attest to the importance of this server in a learning environment.
Although not all areas in Ghana has access to internet connection, EVCO’s aim is for every CLC to have internet access. This makes communications easier for business and education. In this region with transportation and other infrastructural challenges, we hope for this to be the beginning of using technology to ease some of these frustrations.
Peace and Technology (PaT) Project in detail
PaP is aimed at the one hundred and fifty mile radius covering the Konkomba and Nanumba tribal areas in the Northern Region of Ghana. The estimated population is 1.8 million (Ghana Sensus Bureau 2002). Already hailed as a sustainable educational program for many parts of Ghana, EVCO plans to support this region through by the process below in the next two years with a possible extension.
Under this program, EVCO will do the following:
EVCO will install a total of ten (10) computer labs in both tribal areas within 5 calendar years (2011-2015).
a. 5 community learning centers (CLC) in the major towns
b. 5 school computer labs
c. 4 primary schools (2 in each tribal area) will participate in “Photos and Fun” EVCO’s photography program geared towards introducing children to digital photography.
- All labs will be networked and made internet ready and also equipped with the RACHEL server.
- Community learning centers would also be used as career training/developing centers and also for adult literacy classes
- In the next several years, EVCO will and invite other NGOs to conduct various technology and other workshops at the community learning centers
- Each donated and setup school computer lab will also include periodic EVCO computer workshops for both students and teachers
- Every school that received a computer lab will also participate in “Sowing a Seed of Patriotism”; EVCO’s motivational speech program
- Every computer donation includes 2 calendar years of EVCO technical hardware and software support
- Leaders of the communities will provide the community centers and electricity for the CLCs.
Unleashing the power of @15 with RACHEL and other electronic portals provide information badly needed in this region which goes a long way to bridge the digital divide. EVCO has already traveled to the region and met with local officials and 4 Members of Parliament to discuss our plans and intentions. Preparations are underway for the installation of the first two CLCs at Yendi and Saboba in early 2011 with many officials applauding EVCO’s efforts.
Twenty thousand people are expected to use the ten computer labs and community learning centers every year. By the end of the two year period, EVCO’s motivational speeches and computer workshops would reach five thousand students, mainly teenagers and young adults in various towns and villages. Our Photos and Fun program which is mostly given to schools that do not have a good source of electricity to qualify for computer donation, will introduce over one thousand young students and teachers to technology through digital photography. Since community learning centers are put together with the consent of the Chief, Member of Parliament for the constituency and the District Chief Executive, EVCO is indirectly bringing all authorities together for the benefit of community development.
At the end of this two year program, EVCO’s goal of Peace and Education will be realized because most of the students touched by EVCO’s programs in boarding schools will travel home during school break. About half of the students will travel to various villages within the region with more information about technology and the global village either through RACHEL or the internet from the community learning centers. They will engage in a virtual teaching cycle with their peers and parents. Creating a positive distraction from the ongoing civil war will go a long way to develop responsible citizens who are focused on development not destruction for not only the Konkomba and Nanumba tribes but for Ghana, Africa and the world.