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Childhood education major Shannon Feller poses with Robert Marcus Kwofie, a teacher at Bakatsir Methodist Junior Secondary School in Cape Coast, Ghana.

Photo courtesy of: Shannon Feller

Ghana

Feller is working to secure the computer lab at Bakatsir Methodist Junior Secondary School (pictured here).

Photo courtesy of: Shannon Feller

Ghana

Feller said that that although the Ghanaian children (such as her students pictured here) are expected to obtain an education comparable to that in developed nations, many schools do not offer the technology necessary to compete.

Photo courtesy of: Shannon Feller

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Study abroad takes a service learning twist, as sophomore raises money for security upgrades in Ghanaian school


One Ohio University student is taking her study abroad experience in Ghana and flipping it on its head – using it as an opportunity to not only learn from the community but to give back to it as well.

As Shannon Feller, sophomore early childhood education major, spent fall semester teaching secondary school children in the west African country of Ghana, she realized the importance of security devices for proper education. Feller has dedicated the remainder of her visit to raising funds to install a security system for the school with which she works.

"The greatest gift that can be given to a school and its students is the knowledge that their education will be protected," she said.

Feller has been teaching mathematics to the students at Bakatsir Methodist Junior Secondary School in Cape Coast since August 2012 as part of the Ohio University Teach in Ghana study abroad program.

"More and more of our study abroad programs are instilling an element of service learning into the experience abroad – not only to enhance the academic experience and to better understand the community but also to strengthen the bond between the student and the community in which they are learning and serving," said Catherine Marshall, director of Ohio University Education Abroad. "Teach in Ghana, especially, has always had that spirit, as their mission is to work cross-culturally with children in a classroom setting."

Upon Feller's arrival, she recognized that although the Ghanaian children are expected to obtain an education comparable to that in developed nations, many schools do not offer the technology necessary to compete. She said the devices that are available are not usually maintained well.

Bakatsir Methodist Junior Secondary School has multiple working computers for student use, she said. However, a teacher at the school admitted that a few were stolen by thieves who broke into the structure housing the library and computer lab.

To ensure that later technological and educational improvements to the school are secure, Feller hopes to help the school obtain security for that building. After visiting a local shop for estimates, she was told that because of the building's proximity to the ocean, only expensive galvanized steel would be advisable. The estimated cost would be 4,000 Ghanaian cedis, or about $2,000.

To offset the costs, Feller began an online fundraising account at GoFundMe.com. So far, the website has garnered $1,155, which was used to fund the recent installation of five windows and two doors in the building. Feller said that any extra money raised will go toward educational materials for the children.

"Especially in a place like Cape Coast, every little bit donated can go a long way in improving the education my students receive," she said. "If I know the building will be secure, I can continue safely donating to the school long after I return to Ohio."

Marshall admires Feller's innovation, which presents an opportunity for even broader engagement.

"Shannon's effort has the potential for sustainable relationships," said Marshall. "A sustainable stream of support could be established because of the connection she is creating between her host school and the people donating to the project."

*Tessa Dufresne contributed to this article.