It's no secret that education is key to providing opportunity for future success, but many families in Ghana's rural communities can’t afford the school fees.
That's why a community leader and businessman in a small Ada-Foah community called Kewunor, Mr Winfred Dzinado, decided to pull together the resources to fund the construction of a school.
The community sits at the end of the estuary in Ada-Foah, nestled between the Volta River and the Atlantic Ocean. The families of Kewunor have made their living by fishing and selling petty goods for more than half a century, but it wasn't until recently that social programmes, ecotourism, and the help of volunteers made it possible to build a better future for the children.
Project in jeopardy
Though the community projects have seen much success, the future of the people in Kewunor, the school and Maranatha Beach Camp have all been threatened. The Dangmebiawe clan, a dominant neighbouring clan, has partnered with Italian-owned Trasacco Estates Development Company Ltd (TEDC) to develop the land into a luxury resort and yacht club, according to a notice sent to Dzinado by TEDC. The project will require TEDC to bulldoze the existing structures and displace the nearly 1,300 people living on the land.
TEDC has yet to begin construction because the community has refused to leave. Having lived in the area for several generations, the people have nowhere else to go; especially nowhere they will be able to provide affordable education for their children.
In October 2013, Winfred received first notice that the land he and the people of Kewunor lived on had been purchased. He was advised to vacate and remove the family compounds and beach huts at Maranatha within 30 days. Since then, TEDC held an unsanctioned sod-cutting ceremony, for which they were fined GHC2,000, according to The Republic.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for the Ada East Constituency, Doeyoo Coudjo Ghansah, approached village occupants the morning of the sod-cutting and told them she was on their side with the issue and urged them to remain calm. This was shortly before she participated in the ceremony as an honoured guest.
Accusations have been made that TEDC has given bribes to government organisations, including members of the Ghana Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Culture and Creative Arts, and the Ministry of Tourism in order to ensure the success of their beach chalet, according to The Republic.
TEDC didn’t respond to the several phone calls made to their main office. One representative said he was aware of the project, but said nothing except that construction hadn't started.
A representative for Parliament for the Ada East Constituency, Jacob Ceasar, said that the people currently occupying the land were only using the place for business and there were no permanent structures to indicate that it was their home.
"We want the project to come. We want jobs for our people. It's not good to help Trasacco, but it's good to make the area more lively and bring more people into the tourism business," he said.
When told that not only were there permanent structures and a school for local children, but that there was already a tourism business that was benefitting the local people, he said the school was not on the plot of land they were planning to develop. This is inconsistent with the claims by TEDC that all the land up to the water pipe would be developed. He also seemed ignorant about the existing businesses.
"Even though they are Ghanaian, they are not providing jobs for people. The fact that they've gotten a few jobs for a few people does not mean somebody who's linked with the government could not do better," said Ceasar.
A volunteer organiser, Lorna Bonnington, felt that the changes TEDC was planning to make would be devastating to the people. She said there were many other plots of land beyond the estuary where no one was living that would serve as a better location for the resort. She stressed that the people of Kewunor did not have any other way to make a sustainable income.
"Their income is from fishing and sailing, and even if you build them a nice house, it doesn't matter if they can't go fishing; it's already over for them. Their skills aren't matched to living in the place (Trasacco) is suggesting. They should just let the (existing) development (of Kewunor) continue."
She didn't see a way around the fact that TEDC's intrusion and the people of Kewunor's relocation would be devastating, even with TEDC's promise to provide employment to 400 local people.
"For people who can't speak English, about 10 per cent of the village's adults speak English, and don't have the skills to work in the kind of place they're planning to make. And they're planning to rebuild the school? I don't see that as a practical promise."
Plan and persevere
In spite of the struggles, the beach camp continues to operate and it feels to many that life in the village will continue to improve. Dzinado hopes this remains true.
He has plans to nurture the beach camp, slowly adding amenities and holding more events for visitors to keep building and developing the community.
"I still want to be teaching until the time I die," he said. "I want to be with children teaching, singing, (sharing) ideas and travelling."
The children of Maranatha will continue to go to school and dream of becoming doctors, pilots, and teachers as long as their homes remain undisturbed. Until such time as the issue is resolved, the people will pray for resolution and continuity of their livelihoods.
The writer is a journalist and Gilman Scholar from San Francisco who was recently a visiting student at the University of Ghana, Legon.