News/ArticlesNewsFrom Empowering Dreams to Transforming Lives: SCEF’s 13-Year Journey in Ghana

From Empowering Dreams to Transforming Lives: SCEF’s 13-Year Journey in Ghana

In the heart of Ghana, a remarkable journey began in September 2010 when the Street Children Empowerment Foundation (SCEF) was founded by Paul Semeh, along with Metropolia UAS students Petteri Pietinen, Eeva Berg, and Susanna Halinen. With a clear mission to ensure that all street-connected children had access to quality education, SCEF embarked on a path less travelled—a path that was guided not by empty blame game advocacy but by a deep commitment to creating real change in the lives of these children.

The Turning Point: A Shocking Baseline Study
The journey was not without its challenges, but one critical turning point came with a baseline study conducted on over 300 past students of the Street Academy (SA). The findings were alarming—within just three months, 36% of the children who had been rescued by SA and placed into non-formal education for approximately three years before transitioning to public schools in Accra Central had dropped out. The reasons were varied but prominently included the lack of school fees, essential school supplies, uniforms, and backpacks. Child abuse and other factors also played a role.

The Vision: Enrolling Street-Connected Children in Public Schools
Armed with this knowledge, SCEF’s strategy became clear: rescue children from hazardous activities and street situations, rehabilitate their minds and the minds of their families to recognize that education is the most potent tool for escaping poverty, and reintegrate them into lives away from the streets.
SCEF’s mission was crystal clear: every street-connected child in Ghana should have access to public schools. Believing firmly that education was the responsibility of the state, and any challenges should be addressed through collaboration with civil society.
With this mindset, in October 2010, SCEF initiated its first-ever event, “Back to School/Supplies for Dreams.” The goal was simple but profound: provide street-connected children with the school requirements they need to access quality education in public schools. These requirements included exercise books, notebooks, textbooks, pens, pencils, erasers, school uniforms, backpacks, and other essential supplies.

A Mission with a Holistic Approach
SCEF’s mission was not limited to distributing school supplies. It encompassed a comprehensive approach that aimed to break the barriers preventing street-connected children from enrolling in public schools. This approach involved empowering parents, guardians, and immediate caregivers to assume their roles fully within a five-year program. It also entailed building and maintaining safety nets around the children SCEF served.
SCEF’s holistic theory of change approach also centered on complementary education services to support duty bearers in providing the best resources for Ghana’s children, keeping them away from the streets. SCEF’s journey in providing complementary education services began with the establishment of Read Right Clubs in selected schools in 2013. These clubs were set up in what became known as “Elaine Brown containers,” named after the retired American reading enthusiast Frances Elaine Brown, who started as a volunteer and later became a staff member, board member, and founder of SCEF USA. Despite her declining health, Elaine’s dedication to SCEF’s cause remained unwavering.

Volunteers from around the world, including Ghana, Germany, the UK, the USA, Belgium, and others, visited schools in Accra Metropolis daily. They engaged students in after-school and vacation reading clinics, offering teacher training to selected schools to enhance reading lessons. SCEF’s commitment to promoting reading was further solidified with the construction of the SCEF Learning Hub, featuring a central library and reading promotion as its core activity.

A Decade of Impact: Rescuing, Rehabilitating, and Educating
Over the past decade, SCEF has emerged as a beacon of hope, rescuing, rehabilitating, and educating more than 500 street-connected children. This transformative approach has been a resounding success and forms the core of SCEF’s CHaW Program, which aims to rescue and provide educational scholarships for 100 children each year.

The “Back to School/Supplies for Dreams” initiative has remained a pivotal force in SCEF’s journey toward realizing its mission. Alongside the generous support of individuals providing scholarships through SCEF’s godparent program, SCEF has enjoyed a consistent partnership with the Rotary Club of Accra Airport (RCAA). Every year, RCAA joins SCEF in distributing backpacks and school supplies to all SCEF street-connected children in schools, including 100 new ones rescued for the upcoming academic year.

A 2015 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) revealed that most public-school pupils could not read with comprehension by the end of Primary 2. The SCEF baseline study also highlighted a high school dropout rate among students with reading difficulties. The consistent success in promoting reading led SCEF to form a partnership with Book Aid International in 2019, giving birth to the Reading Is Basic (RIB) project. This project aimed to address the pressing issue of low reading comprehension among public school pupils in Ghana.

RCAA’s involvement in SCEF’s journey has gone beyond school supplies. They have gained a profound understanding of the grassroots challenges facing education at the basic level, which has prompted them to deepen their support by collaborating with SCEF and Book Aid International (BAI) on the Reading Is Basic (RIB) project in 40 schools. This project is yet another testament to the power of partnership in creating lasting change. The Reading Is Basic project has made a significant impact on the lives of children and schools. Since 2020, SCEF has distributed an impressive 20,906 brand-new books. These carefully selected books cater to the diverse reading needs and interests of students and have been distributed to 55 beneficiary schools across the Accra Metro and Ga-South clusters of schools. RIB seeks to encourage the habit of reading, recognizing its essential role in improving communication skills, increasing understanding, and offering new knowledge and cultural insights.

The SCEF Learning Hub boasts a well-stocked library that serves not only the children but also the Jamestown community. This library provides a haven for children, offering an after-school program to help those with reading difficulties while assisting them with their school assignments.

“The library has helped me a lot. I have developed a deep love for reading, learned new words, and improved my English. This improvement is reflected in my school performance.”

Eyram, one of the beneficiaries of the SCEF Library

The 13-year journey of SCEF is a testament to the transformative impact that dedication, a holistic approach, and unwavering commitment to education can have on the lives of street-connected children in Ghana. As SCEF looks toward the future with the goal of rescuing and providing scholarships for 100 children each year, it remains a source of inspiration and a shining example of what can be achieved when individuals and organizations come together to empower dreams and change lives.

SCEF’s mission to ensure that every street-connected child in Ghana has access to public schools is not just a noble aspiration; it’s a fundamental right. Education is the cornerstone of a brighter future for these children, and we must continue to support SCEF’s vision. But we cannot do it alone.
As we celebrate SCEF’s achievements, we call upon individuals, communities, and organizations worldwide to join hands in this noble cause. Our call to action is simple yet profound: let us stand together to provide quality education, mentorship, and support to street-connected children. Together, we can break down the barriers that have kept them from realizing their full potential.

Consider becoming a sponsor, a mentor, or a volunteer to support SCEF’s CHaW Program and initiatives like “Back to School/Supplies for Dreams” and the Reading Is Basic project. Your contribution, no matter how small, can make a significant difference in the lives of these children.
Additionally, let us encourage governments and policymakers to prioritize education for all children, regardless of their background or circumstances. Education is not just a personal endeavor; it’s a societal responsibility, and governments must invest in the future by ensuring equitable access to quality education.

SCEF’s journey is a testament to the power of compassion, determination, and collaboration. Let us all be inspired by their story and take action to ensure that every child in Ghana—and around the world—has the opportunity to learn, grow, and build a brighter future. Together, we can create lasting change and empower the next generation to break free from the cycle of poverty.

Join us in this mission, and let’s continue to write the story of hope, resilience, and transformation for street-connected children everywhere.

Together, we can make education not just a dream but a reality for every child.