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I first met Akosua Boateng back in 2004 when she was looking for a location to put her school.  She was then a virtual virgin to Ghana, bubbling with ideas and a well of energy that is usually sucked dry long before newcomers get their first idea off the ground.  I shared her enthusiasm, but with a tea spoon of salt.  I had seen her type before and only prayed she wasn’t too dismayed at the end of the day.

Five years have since passed and Akosua is still a regular to Ghana.  Not only that, but her vision is a reality, she founded The Youth Institute for Science and Technology in 2005 and has nurtured it since.  Now when I see her, I greet her with a new found respect, because I know she passed through hell fire and high water yet perseveres.  A teacher turned philanthropist is, in and of itself, impressive, but even more inspiring is the fact that Akosua did so while shouldering the weight of her son’s college education and her own general cost of living.  She embodies the character required to get anything done in Africa: absolute resolve, willingness to make sacrifices, and above all, focus. 

Akosua was born way down south in Mississippi, but raised way up north in Massachusetts, probably accounting for her versatility.  Though she would have a child at the tender age of 17, she completed high school and went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst M.Ed, Cambridge College.  Early on in life, she made the decision to role with the punches, to take her hits and get up swinging.  Her life, like most lives, has not been easy, nor were things ever given to her, rather she paid for all she has by the sweat of her brow.

Having settled into her career as an educator, she realized the marginalization of African-American youth in America’s school system and began to take a deeper interest in education, not simply for the sake of indoctrinating our children with the same-old-same, but with the intention of molding our future by providing today’s youth with a proper foundation/education.  Working through the system can be very frustrating for most, in the end it changes you more than you change it.  Her despondence caused her great agitation as she witnessed the systematic annihilation of our race, through the public school system, yet she did her best to reach the students within her grasp.  Furthermore, she continued in her own educative process, challenging herself to learn more about her own African heritage and true identity.  It was this pursuit that spurned her initial interest in Ghana.

Once it was decided that she would come to Ghana she simply focused on how.  Akosua has a certain knack for attracting what she needs.  People gel with her and she finds doors open relatively easy to her, thanks to her magnetism. When it was time to travel she was able to secure stand-by tickets, a friends place to stay, and enough money not to starve.  We call it traveling on a shoestring.  Upon arriving home, to Momma Africa, Akosua was met with beautiful black faces like her own, embracing her and claiming her as their own.  Her heart melted when the children, she so often knows as rude and disrespectful, were kind and loving, offering curtsies with their good-mornings.  Then and there she knew, she could make a difference here.  Unlike in America, she could mold these children and help them see their greatest potential.  On the heel of that first journey it was decided, she would open a school in Ghana.  That was in 2003.

By 2004 she was back in Ghana looking for property to rent in order to get this project off the ground.  Mind you, she had gone back and sold the idea to many of her colleagues, friends and family.  She was encouraged by the show of support, each one offering to contribute in whatever way they were capable.  In some cases she was assured school books, others volunteered time to fund-raise, while others made cash donations.  Simply put, she involved her small network of peoples to give life to a most noble vision.

Contrary to her expectations, she found out that not everyone in Ghana is as innocent as those children, nor as cooperative.  During her first attempt to rent a place she was given the necessary guarantees and promised the building would be awaiting for her occupation.  Upon her subsequent visit she met occupants in the building and the landlord seemed less than concerned.  This was a blow to the gut.  Money spent on tickets and rent was no longer her own, but part of a pot that represented a small coalition.  The last thing she wanted to tell them was that they lost before they even started.  She dug in and sought the assistance of her many new links in Ghana.  This yielded a contact with a lawyer/chief of the Agogo Village.  He expressed interest then invited her to his village and provided her a run-down building to use, yet he expressed great reservation about dealing with an African-American, stating that we often make promises we can’t keep.  This challenge only invigorated her, as was her determination to prove to him that there are many of us ready and willing to offer our lives to the restoration of Africa.  That notwithstanding, she would learn that no matter what you do for some they would never be happy.   

Once sourcing a location she had to see about the logistics of importing the many supplies that were donated for this project.  Doing her due diligence she went to customs to learn about the procedures.  There she was assured that her imports were duty free, considering her outfit was a non-profit, non-governmental organization, who was bringing goods for the benefit of the nation.  That understood, she loaded up a container after a year of fundraising and came back to Ghana.  She was in for the most unpleasant of surprises, as she put it, dealing with the Ghana's port authorities almost cost her a nervous breakdown.  Never before had she experienced such organized disorganization, such blatant payola, and such outright greed.  She recalls watching on as a customs agent went into one of her boxes to take some things out for her child, while the others ran her around, demanding signatures of people who all demanded money.  Days turned into weeks and they continued to toss her around, holding her goods hostage, until they had squeezed every cent they thought they could get, which amounted to $3,800 (usd).  At the end of that fiasco she was quite ready to wash her hands of this place.  This deceitful, corrupted place, no matter what her ties might be.  But instead she prevailed. 

In 2006 the Institute for Science & Technology opened with 3 staff and 8 students.  Three years later, the school boasts 20 staff and 168 students, of which 90% scored above 90% on Ghana Education’s assessment test.  In addition to keeping students abreast of all national curriculum requirements, Akosua has also introduced self-help, technologies that can be practically applied in rural areas, namely the production of bio-diesel.  In 2009 she taught the children and the adults of Agogo-village how to build a bio-diesel processor, which they now have as their own, along with the knowledge of how to build another.  That being done she plans to embark on rain water harvesting and solar energy.  She recognizes that with the soaring costs of energy, renewable energy offers a viable alternative to dependence on a grid or a government that will not supply power to many of the villages in Ghana.

Undaunted by the challenges, Akosua has become seasoned and more resolute.  She plans on opening another school in the capital of Accra in 2009 and another in the Ivory Coast in 2010.  She operates at a loss now, but prefers not to focus on the finances more than necessary, as she is sure her profits will soon outweigh her losses a hundred-fold.

Clearly it hasn’t been easy, but it is a reality.  Hundreds, if not, thousands of lives will be changed thanks to the efforts of Akosua and her many supporters.  She particularly credits the synergy that has been created in Atlanta, Georgia, with respect to repatriation and doing business in Africa, for creating a solid foundation for persons like herself to source strength and support in their African endeavors.  There are a host of organizations and individuals that are doing business in Ghana, from Atlanta, who have gone through the same difficulties and are now working together to insure  their dreams for returning home can be realized, albeit the many obstacles in the way.  As a member of a growing number of Africans born in America, repatriating their resources and their skills to Africa, Akosua Boateng is proof that it can be done, so far has one has the mind and the heart to do it.

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