Salem Senior High School Students ‘Dream Big’ on Nelson Mandela Day

Accra- Nelson Mandela Day outreach activity at Salem

Salem Senior High School (Salem SHS) was brought to life on Nelson Mandela International Day when the United Nations Information Centre in Accra, joined the rest of the world to congregate in service to commemorate the Day.  The event was in response to the request by the United Nations and the Mandela Foundation “to devote at least 67 minutes of [our] time on 18 July to community service.” Hence, it was with pride and pleasure that staff of UNIC Accra spent a few hours with students of the school for an interactive day of learning. Various topics were covered, ranging from promoting peace, motivational messages to Mandarin Chinese language lessons during the learning session.

NIO Cynthia Prah briefs students of UNIC Accra's Nelson Mandela Day outreach event

NIO Cynthia Prah briefs students of UNIC Accra’s Nelson Mandela Day outreach event

Located in Osu, in the Accra metropolitan area, Salem SHS is a mixed day-school with approximately 400 students, aged between 13 and 17 years. It offers courses mainly in Business, Visual Arts, General Arts and Home Economics. The school began as an alternative place for students who did not gain admission into Osu Presbyterian Senior High School owing to their relatively poor grades.

Despite their academic status, Salem SHS captured the full attention of UNIC Accra on the occasion.  UNIC staff, including four interns, each took up a class to teach about Nelson Mandela and the importance of perseverance.  Salem SHS was chosen given their history of accommodating students with comparatively low grades. Sharing Mandela’s courageous and inspirational life lessons to never give up was to encourage the students to dream big.

It was therefore uplifting when during one session, the students decided to translate the word “perseverance” into the local language of Ga and began chanting the word. The students’ spirit to learn is indicative of their will to succeed. With this, UNIC Accra had fulfilled one mission: to inspire change with the message of perseverance.

Richmond Tsikaia, a Form 2 Business student, who aspires to be a part owner of the Arsenal Football Club shared the lessons learnt from the Nelson Mandela International Day when he said “Today, I learnt that when you conceive and believe, you will achieve.”

Students gathered at the auditorium

Students being breifed

The service, rendered to the many students of Salem SHS, may have been brief but surely, UNIC Accra is convinced that if nothing at all, one person, like Richmond, has been inspired. And so it is our hope that the students of Salem SHS will continue to aim high especially as the school celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The school: Salem Senior High School

At 50, Salem SHS recognizes that it has some academic challenges and is working towards dealing with them. It conducts extra classes to give students more attention in their areas of difficulties. The school also holds Saturday morning classes where students are tutored in Mathematics, English and Science.

The Assistant Head Master, Mr. Michael Agbevem, shared “We don’t rush our students, we take time with them to make sure we get those that are behind catch up and sometimes we do discriminatory teaching for those needing extra help.”

Independent of academics, Salem High School has a lot to be proud of, particularly in the area of Sports. Salem SHS’s football team has won regional and national trophies. In fact, former professional footballer and Black Stars Coach, Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio is a product of the school.

Nelson Mandela Day 1_Group picture with staff and student leaders of Salem Senior High SchoolGroup picture with staff and student leadership

Currently, the school’s major priority is to build new facilities and to introduce a school transportation system to serve students living in remote areas.

Another issue facing students is the financial burden of school fees. Approximately 33% of Salem SHS families are reportedly unable to pay the cost of yearly school tuition.

Salem SHS further plans to build a permanent school structure to help support the capacity of students attending the school. On its 50th anniversary, it must be acknowledge that Salem High School has come a long way and continues to assist students in their pursuit of a good education. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela International Day, spending time with the students of Salem SHS has been an invaluable experience.

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared Mandela’s birthday (July 18) Nelson Mandela International Day to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader’s legacy. Nelson Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday this year. Mandela’s life was devoted to obtaining justice and equality for all, especially the disenfranchised.