School is a waste of time, Ebenezer thought. Time, he decided, better spent earning a living.
For this reason, the boy from Nkrakese closed his books, dropped out of school and followed his friends to work in the cocoa farms in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. That is, until we partnered with the International Cocoa Initiative and Ebenezer discovered a different kind of learning!
After four months participating in play-based games and activities, the 17 year old now loves going to school, is engaged in his studies and is enrolled in the Prekesasi Junior High School.
Play created a positive environment for him to learn and to complete his basic education.
"I was encouraged to go back," says Ebenezer. "I realized if I want to be someone in the future, I should be in school."
The program was designed to be fun, focusing on educating cocoa-growing communities in child protection, child rights and responsibilities. Our local teachers—trained in our play-based methodology—showed the 800 participants how to put children at the centre of learning. And it worked. Our specially designed games become the teaching tools, engaging and empowering each participant, while providing them with the emotional space to experience the lessons.
"Through the training, I learnt how to communicate better with my friends and maintain a clean environment," says Ebenezer. "I also encourage my friends who are not in school to come back and have succeeded in talking to one of my friends who is also back in school."
Many youth are still foregoing their education to work on the farms to help their families survive. Teen pregnancies and a lack of engagement in the classroom also contribute to low classroom retention. According to UNICEF, more than half of the youth in Ghana did not attend secondary school in 2012.
But with youth like Ebenezer, this pattern is changing. He's become a leader focused on inspiring others to be educated, healthy and peaceful citizens. And it's the first step to creating positive, lasting change.