Eugenia is the founder and CEO of Young Educators Foundation, a charity that helps children improve their spelling and literacy. She is a passionate educator who makes learning fun for children aged 8-18 years through spelling competitions and other education programmes. Eugenia believes children are the ‘present’ and reaches many of them in Ghana and Nigeria through her work. She has been commended by the President of Ghana for her contribution to education.
You’ve been described as one of the very few passionate and ‘selfless personalities in the Ghana education sector’- where does that passion for education come from and how have you put legs on this passion?
The passion is from my very existence as a beneficiary of education. More than anything, education has been the one factor that has afforded me the heights I have attained in life. As a matter of fact, it was in pursuit of higher education that I stumbled acròss the Scripps Spelling Bee. As a child, one doesn’t fully grasp the value of education probably because of how one is ‘introduced’ to it, especially in Africa where education and learning can be made to seem like a chore. As such, my mission is to ensure that children find education and learning fun, engaging and rewarding, 3 pillars that guide most programmes that my organization runs.
Clearly, very impactful work you’re doing. When you look back to the start and what your goals were, what’s been most surprising about where you are now?
How far we have made it, that’s the most surprising! The journey has been long with seemingly insurmountable hills and challenges. There were many times within the last 12 years that I was certain I was going to fold up business. I had been in a field with huge budgets and here I was trying to raise funding within country from local sources. It has been nothing short of a Herculean task but there was always a glimmer of hope in the turn of events that spurred me on.
You acquired the sole rights to USA’s Scripps Spelling Bee in Ghana, an intervention that has become a real hit. What did you consider when taking the decision many years ago to buy the rights when I can imagine you had no idea it would be this successful?
On the contrary! I was more than certain that the Spelling Bee in Ghana would be the most successful children’s educational programme in Ghana and that schools, parents and organizations would be falling over themselves to subscribe to it because Ghanaians attach very high value to education. That and the fact that the Spelling Bee in Ghana would get children to want to read, was my impetus for bringing it to Ghana. Of course the reality is far from the dream…but we persist.
You believe the education children are being given in schools is not ‘’preparing them for the world stage’’. What type of learning in your view would help children compete well globally?
In Ghana, education and learning sadly seems to be limited to the classroom. Our society perceives anything outside of the classroom or the syllabus as not learning. As such, we have been known to be good theorists, not practical. I have been to schools where all science subjects, physics, chemistry and biology were taught only in the classroom or laboratory. How do they experience first-hand, a metamorphosis of say, the butterfly? Such learning methods stifle creativity and knowledge acquisition and the major loss in this style of learning is critical thinking skills. So typically, the average student hardly questions anything because the teacher has provided them with all the information they require…or so they are made to think. I believe student-led exploratory learning is the sure way our children can compete well globally.
You credit your education for the career choices you’ve made- how so?
If I weren’t educated, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Education has afforded me opportunities that those who are not educated strive for. But it isn’t my formal education that has led me in my career path; it’s my love for reading & spending time with children, both hobbies nurtured at home by my parents that led me down this path. I keep telling parents who tend not to want to let children engage in extracurricular activities that a lot happens outside the classroom.