Salamatu M. Shiraz is a 22 years old activist from Tamale, the capital town of the Northern Region of Ghana. She is the oldest daughter of a single mother, and grew up with very limited resources.
As a child, Salamatu went to a public school, where she experienced the poor conditions of educational rights in Tamale. The school was lacking chairs and desks and five students had to share a single textbook. In addition, the school had what Salamatu calls “hidden fees” for exams and furniture, forcing the students to work long hours to earn money or eventually to drop out. Salamatu did what she could to pay her own school fees by selling bread at the local market, and she just avoided dropping out of school, as she received an NGO sponsorship for marginalized girls going to school.
Since Salamatu successfully managed to graduate from High School she has been following one clear personal goal: “I want to give back to society the benefits of my education”.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION CAMPAIGN
With this personal goal in mind, Salamatu decided to join a Campaign training at Global Platform Ghana; ActionAid’s training hub for empowerment and activism.
She and the thirteen other participants selected “The right to education” to be the theme of their campaign at the Global Platform training, where they would have to plan, organise and carry out a full-scale social change campaign.
As part of the campaign research, the participants realized that the Ghana Education Service are actually legally bound to provide sufficient books, desks and chairs to public schools for all students. Salamatu was very surprised about this finding, remembering her own school life: “Growing up I didn’t know that it is mandatory for the government to provide books - I have never had any single textbook from Primary School to Junior High School”.
The young activists demanded the provision of adequate learning materials (such as furniture and books) to public schools in the rural areas of Ghana. Together with the campaign team Salamatu met with the Regional Education Director of the Northern Region of Ghana, and presented their campaign research report, showing evidence of lack of learning materials.
The participants managed to mobilize more than 400 youth, school representatives and active citizens and gain a strong support among citizens and organizations to continue the pressure on the local school authorities.
As a result of the campaign the Ghana Education Service made the commitment to distribute the desks and learning materials to the four schools.
A CHANCE TO SPEAK UP
The campaign gave Salamatu a chance to speak up for the right to quality education and she became the co-spokesperson of the campaign and a leading figure in organizing and mobilizing youth around the issue. Her passion and zeal earned her the nickname “Action Mama”.
She gave public speeches to raise awareness in the busiest streets of Tamale, participated in radio debates, and spoke at the campaign march at the independence square of Tamale.
Being part of the Campaign training gave Salamatu insight in the structural reasons behind the challenges she faced as a student and empowered her with tools to make her voice heard and continue her work with reclaiming public education: “After each training session at the Global Platform you feel like you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. You feel like going out there to educate others on what you learned”.