Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson on Launch of USAID/Ghana Partnership for Education: Learning Book Distribution

Director-General of the Ghana Education Service Mr. Jacob Kor,
Chief Director of the Ministry of Education Mr. Enoch Cobbinah,
Development partners,
Nii Me, Naa Me,
Teachers, parents and pupils,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the U.S. government to join the Ghana Ministry of Education in launching the distribution of more than four million books to schools in each and every district of Ghana.

These books will open minds, expand horizons, and introduce millions of primary school children across Ghana to new worlds and opportunities.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. A literate, educated population drives development and builds nations. But a 2013 test showed that the vast majority of Ghanaian primary school students are unable to read with fluency. I am happy to report that this is changing. One of the major drivers of this change is the strong partnership between the U.S. government and the Ghana Ministry of Education.

USAID and the Ministry of Education together launched the Partnership for Education: Learning last year. This activity focuses on all the factors that influence how well children can read—everything from teacher training to curriculum support to community mobilization. Learning aims to train more than 50,000 teachers and improve the reading skills of more than 2.8 million Ghanaian pupils within the next five years.

I have already been humbled to see the fruits of our close partnership with the Ministry of Education. We have provided more than 450,000 books to upper primary students, and trained more than 18,000 teachers to use these new books to improve literacy. We worked together to draft the Education Decentralization Bill, which is on its way to becoming law. And just last fall, we held reading festivals in all ten regions of Ghana, which brought together teachers, pupils, village chiefs, queen mothers, and community members with storytelling sessions, performances, and other events like spelling bees.

I was so pleased to meet with Afua Ansah, the 14-year-old champion of the National Spelling Bee here in Ghana. Just two weeks ago, Afua [EH foo a] competed with the best spellers in the world in Washington, DC and became the first Ghanaian to make it to the finalist round of the prestigious Scripps Spelling Bee. I watched as she represented Ghana and Africa admirably. And I know she has inspired children all over the country to boost their reading skills.

The 4 million books being distributed will bring this magic of reading into each and every public primary school in Ghana. The books are in ten Ghanaian languages, as well as in English, and were handpicked by the Ghana Education Service to improve reading skills while inspiring imaginations.

I know from experience how powerful a single book can be. When I was in eighth grade, my teacher asked us to read a book called The Ugly American.The Ugly American took me to the fictional Asian country of Sarkhan in the 1950s, where American diplomats were failing. The book inspired me to become a good diplomat who—unlike the book’s characters— makes a positive impact and makes the world a better place. Standing here today, I could not be more grateful to this book and all the other books that spurred me to achieve my dreams.

There are countless stories like these all around the world. Before I became a diplomat, I was a teacher, teaching English, French, and American Civilization. And I saw every day the power of books to light a fire within my students and take them on life-changing literary journeys.

I know that the millions of books we are distributing will ignite the same spark in Ghana’s children. Now, all across this country, from rural villages up in Upper East to bustling neighborhoods here in Accra, pupils will be able to immerse themselves in stories in their native languages. These young readers are well on their way to becoming the teachers, writers, doctors, and leaders who will shape the Ghana of tomorrow.

Thank you for joining us today to officially launch the distribution of four million books to primary schools all over Ghana. And a special thank you to the Ministry of Education for being such a steadfast partner in the quest to get Ghana’s children reading. I look forward to meeting with Ghana’s primary school students in the future and hearing about their life-changing literary journeys—and to seeing how they harness their newfound skills and knowledge to change the world. Happy reading!