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Learning Greek to escape poverty: The story of St Nicholas Preparatory School in Ghana

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By Panagiotis Dalatariof.

In 2006, the Tsakos Group launched the building of an Orthodox Christian Church in Tema New Town, Ghana. This was completed in 2008 and consecrated with the name of St Nicholas, after the Patron Saint of the seafarers.

Following the construction of the church, it became apparent that a school, close by in order to cater for those in the local community and support children living in deprived conditions in the area, was needed.

St Nicholas Preparatory School was therefore developed with the motto: “Every child has a right to education.”

Education within the school goes beyond the traditional norm of Ghanaian education as well as the standard compulsory syllabus. The children are also taught Greek and French, and the school runs a children’s navy cadet corp.

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

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

Tsakos Foundation had business with Ghana for many years. St Nicholas being the patron’s saint of the sea, was a church that would offer inspiration to the sailors, as they can see the lights of the church at Anchorage στη ράδα. So the foundation decided to give the community a small kindergarten for 20 children between 3-5 years.

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. 

Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, visited the school this year.

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

We are a UK registered charity which operates the school together with an NGO. The Maria Tsakos Foundation gives the support, Mytilineos S.A., sailors onboard ships and their families, individual donors who sponsor children from the UK, Greece and USA, and the trustees themselves.

4. How many children are there in school? 

Currently, we have 162 children, and every year we take 15 additional children and open up a higher class and promote the children already in the school.

5. What courses are taught? 

The school follows the Ghana education system and additional classes are held in Greek and French language, cultural traditions and Greek dancing, music including singing and an orchestra. We also have a navy cadet corp. With the support of former Ghanaian Olympic athletes, we have also developed a solid athletics and sports program.

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

We are primarily interested in introducing the Greek culture, language and history to the children believing that the Greek culture has much to teach, expanding their views of the world.

7. Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, visited the school this year. What was the result of his visit?

We were overwhelmed when, during his lightening 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 broaden the knowledge of our school in Greece.

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

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

We celebrate Christmas in the various churches in the facility. However, poverty does not allow for any particular event. Our children will have a Christmas party at the School. They have already celebrated St Nicholas day and they will receive presents 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’s motto is, “every child deserves an education” and we attempt to stop the repeating poverty circle that the children have been born into and repeat itself generation after generation. These children, given a chance, have enormous potential in many diverse ways.

Therefore, apart from the education, we are trying to give them an all-around experience with many diverse interests, which will help them in their future employment and personal life. The teachers experience many new interests with the visits and collaboration with the international community through volunteers and sponsors.

For the last 18 months, we had to build more classes, accommodating children up to 16 years old. That, and the COVID-19 global situation, brought us in great need of sponsors and help. We offer two meals a day and clothing to all our students. Maintenance costs, teaching staff and material is vital to be financed seamlessly. We could not stress enough how important it is for the children to finish school and start their lives without fear.

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