For the fifth consecutive year, PAMBE Ghana Global Market is open for business in Oklahoma City. The market offers a collection of fair trade items handmade by artisans from regions across the world.
The market is run by local volunteers, and all proceeds support La'angum Learning Center in Ghana. Founded by Alice Iddi-Gubbels, a former Oklahoman, the school is being built largely by the community in Ghana's extremely poor Mamprusi district.
In Ghana, Iddi-Gubbels said, the public school teachers only speak English, the country's official language. That's a problem for many young students, she said, because at home, they only speak their mother tongue, Mampruli.
This language barrier causes many of these children to drop out of school very young.
“They are not taught English. Their parents don't speak English. In the rural areas, nobody speaks English,” Iddi-Gubbels said. “Why don't we start with what they come to school with? They come to school with their own language.”
Her vision is to create a learning environment that is accessible and culturally relevant to the community it serves. Starting her students out in their mother tongue is one important aspect of the education method she's building. The school uses Montessori-based teaching principles and emphasizes parent and community involvement.
She hopes to see La'angum become a model for other schools in the area, sharing best practices for better results.
The school's name, La'angum, means teamwork in Mampruli.
It's a fitting name, Iddi-Gubbels said, because the community itself builds each room of the school.
In 2008, the community came together to build a prekindergarten classroom, a storeroom, a small office for the teachers and a big pavilion. It was quite a feat considering the village has no running water or electricity.
That year, about 40 bright-eyed pre-K students came to the school.
The next year, the people of the village built a kindergarten classroom and added another group of students. Every year since, they have added a classroom and filled it with students. This September, the original pre-K students attended the school's premiere third-grade class.
Soon, ground will be broken for a fourth-grade classroom.
Recently, a generous donor offered the school two grants of $10,000 each to aid in building the school, but the grants are dependent on Iddi-Gubbels finding matching donations.