Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan
Accra Girls Senior High School
59th Speech and Prize Giving Day
October 26, 2019
Madam Headmistress of Accra Girls Senior High School
Mrs. Joyce Acolatse;
Madam Chairperson and member of Accra Girls Old Students Association (AGOSA) 1969-year group
Dr. Jane Araba Aikins;
Guest speaker and member of AGOSA 1979 year group Ms. Doris Wiafe Annor;
Board Chairperson and members of the Board,
Directors of Education and members of Greater Accra Conference of Heads of Assisted Senior High Schools (CHAShS),
the Ayawaso North Chief Executive,
all AGOSANS, parents,
members of both teaching and non-teaching staff,
students, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Thanks for your kind invitation to participate in today’s occasion. In the words of the late Ghanaian educationist Dr. James E.K. Aggrey, “The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.” As a former teacher, at a girls’ secondary school, it means a lot to me to participate in today’s ceremony, for I know the special vocation chosen by you teachers.
Indeed, no one chooses to become a teacher for money or fame. Teachers choose their profession to make a difference and inspire their students to be all that they can be. Please give your teachers a round of applause! Last month I wrote an op-ed that highlighted the many ways our U.S. Mission in Ghana is working hand-in-hand with Ghanaians to boost education at the primary, secondary, and higher education levels.
We take our partnerships for education very seriously, as an investment in Ghana’s future. We are also proud that the United States remains the nation of choice for Ghanaian youth to study abroad. Did you know that 3,200 Ghanaian students studied at 630 U.S. colleges and universities in the 2018-19 academic year, making Ghana the third-highest sender of students from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States, after Kenya and Nigeria?
We would be delighted to see those numbers increase, especially from Accra Girls! Please run, don’t walk,to see the Education USA advisors at the US Embassy. It’s free!My presence today underscores the importance the United States places on educating and empowering women and girls. You are the leaders of the future, in all sectors. We cannot promote development in America, Ghana, or anywhere else in the world without encouraging and welcoming the immense talents, ideas, and contributions of girls.
I have been pleased that our U.S. Embassy’s “Woke Women Task Force” has partnered with your school and many Ghanaians from all sectors to raise awareness against and combat gender-based violence. Very often we have to transform minds and promote education at homes and in our communities to effectively advance women’s rights.
I encourage you students to find a female mentor, and I encourage the teaching staff to become mentors. Women need to mentor one another more. When we champion and mentor girls, we are investing in their future and the future of our communities, nations, and world. It takes just a little time to make a major difference in a young woman’s life.
I taught at a girls’ school as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the DRC, and I was so proud of my former students, the “old girls” of that school, when they invited me to join them on a trip to the school where they were mentoring the current students. I didn’t suggest it to them – they invited me.
After all, the elders take care of the young when their teeth fall out, and the young take care of the elders when their teeth fall out. On a more serious note, for those of you who have faced “MeToo” situations, and I count myself in that group, you need to speak up!
Such despicable behavior is more of a power play than anything else. It is not your fault, and a conspiracy of silence only robs you of your power. If you have not yet had a “MeToo” experience, you most likely will, so prepare a strong network to support you as you speak out to bring about accountability and change.
On a more positive note, Drawing on your talents and resiliency, from among you, some here may invent new technologies that will revolutionize digital communications, or become the CEO of an agricultural company that will modernize this key sector and position Ghana to nourish itself and become a major exporter of food across Africa, thereby generating needed jobs, income, and food security.
Or, you may become diplomats and Ambassadors or even the President of the Republic of Ghana, and whoever she is, I know you can make history! We look forward to continuing our partnership for education with this school and with Ghanaians from the length and breadth of this beautiful country.
A robust economy in Ghana depends on much more than its natural wealth and resources. We know that basic skills like reading, writing, and math are pre-conditions to equitable economic growth, improving critical health indicators, gender equality, and socio-economic progress. Indeed, a prosperous and stable Ghana is both good for Ghana and good for the United States –and it all starts with education.
I am pleased to present to your school on behalf of the U.S. Embassy and the American people 20 soccer balls and two boxes of books and some mementos.Both balls and books helped me develop leadership skills, on and off the playing field.
Congratulations in advance to all of today’s prize winners – ayekoo! Thank you again for the privilege of joining you today.