Learn Greek to Escape Poverty: The Story of St. Nicholas Preparatory School in Ghana

By Panagiotis Dalatariof.

In 2006, the Tsakos group initiated the construction of an Orthodox Christian church in Tema New Town, Ghana. This was completed in 2008 and consecrated with the name of Saint Nicholas, after the patron saint of sailors.

After the church was built, it became evident that a nearby school to accommodate members of the local community and support children living in disadvantaged conditions in the area was needed.

The Saint-Nicolas preparatory school was therefore created with the motto: “Every child has the right to education. “

Education within the school goes beyond the traditional Ghanaian education norm as well as the standard compulsory curriculum. Children also learn Greek and French, and the school operates a children’s sea cadet corps.

To find out more about the school, The Greek Herald spoke with the founder of St Nicholas School and the former director and CEO of Tsakos Shipping, Deborah Eleazar.

1. How did the idea for the Greek school in Ghana come about?

The Tsakos Foundation had business with Ghana for many years. Saint Nicholas being the patron saint of the sea, was a church that would inspire sailors because they can see the lights of the Church of Anchorage στη ράδα. The foundation therefore decided to give the community a small kindergarten for 20 children between 3 and 5 years old.

2. When did your vision start to come true?

In 2009, a plot of land next to St. Nicholas Church was donated by the Maria Tsakos Foundation for this purpose.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited the school this year.

3. Who supports you so that you can offer all of this to the children?

We are a UK registered charity which operates the school with an NGO. The Maria Tsakos Foundation supports Mytilineos SA, sailors on board ships and their families, individual donors who sponsor children from the UK, Greece and the US, and the administrators themselves.

4. How many children are there at school?

Currently we have 162 children, and every year we take 15 more children and open an upper class and promote the children already in school.

5. What courses are taught?

The school follows the Ghanaian education system and additional lessons are given in Greek and French language, cultural traditions and Greek dance, music including singing and orchestra. We also have a sea cadet corps. With the support of former Ghanaian Olympic athletes, we have also developed a strong athletics and sports program.

6. Is there a plan for your students to come to Greece to explore the country?

We are mainly interested in introducing children to Greek culture, language and history, believing that Greek culture has a lot to teach, broadening their view of the world.

7. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited the school this year. What was the result of his visit?

We were shocked when, on his whirlwind visit to Ghana, he visited our school and was able to see our progress. He expressed extreme interest in what we have achieved and promised to help expand the knowledge of our school in Greece.

Mr. Dendias presented us with reading material and two magnificent Greek paintings which now have pride of place in our canteen. He was very warm towards the children.

8. How is Christmas going there? Are there any special events?

We celebrate Christmas in the different churches of the establishment. However, poverty does not allow any particular event. Our children will have a Christmas party at school. They have already celebrated Saint-Nicolas and they will receive gifts from our sponsors.

9. How does this school change the lives of children and teachers?

The aim of our school is that, as the school motto is, “Every child deserves an education” and we try to stop the recurring circle of poverty in which children are born and to be repeated generation after generation. These children, if given a chance, have tremendous potential in so many ways.

Therefore, apart from education, we try to give them a full experience with many diverse interests, which will help them in their future employment and personal life. Teachers are experimenting with many new interests with tours and collaboration with the international community through volunteers and sponsors.

In the last 18 months we have had to build more classrooms, which can accommodate children up to 16 years old. This, and the global COVID-19 situation, has brought us a great need for sponsors and help. We provide two meals a day and clothing to all of our students. Maintenance costs, teaching staff and materials are essential to be financed in a transparent manner. We cannot stress enough how important it is for children to finish school and start life without fear.

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