Sydney lawyer, Anais Menounos, offers free education to disadvantaged children in Ghana

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At just 26 years of age, Anais Menounos has already kicked some serious goals. She’s not only a successful Sydney lawyer at Clayton Utz, but she’s also the co-founder of the St Nicholas Mission Academy in Ghana, Africa.

Launched in 2018 with the help of Inusah Amidu, St Nic’s is a primary school in the Ghanaian town of Kokrobite which offers free education to 90 children from families that live below the poverty line.

Anais tells The Greek Herald she decided to open the school in Ghana after she volunteered with an NGO in the country and witnessed for herself the poverty and inequality experienced by some children.

Anais Menounos launched St Nic’s with Inusah Amidu (right) in 2018. Photos supplied.

“When I was there, a child ran up to me and begged me for a book and it honestly rattled me that someone… had that thirst for knowledge that we take for granted. Here, you know, people throw out their books for council clean-up and over there, people are begging for books and can’t afford to buy them,” Anais says.

“So for me, coming from a place where I really value the education that I received and I’m really trying my best to put it to good use, I can see how even just to provide basic education to disadvantaged children in a different part of the world can really change their life.”

Lunchtime at St Nic’s.

According to statistics from UNICEF, 29 percent of children in Ghana do not complete primary school, 53 percent do not complete lower secondary and 65 percent do not complete upper secondary.

Whilst the Ghana government says education is “free,” the reality is very different. Government subsidies do not reach every community, which places a burden on families to cover the cost of books, uniforms and lunch.

Families who earn very little must sacrifice sending their children to school to be able to feed their families and provide shelter.

“The community that we’re in is a fishing community so it’s right on the Atlantic coast with beautiful beaches. But the flip side of that is many young boys are kind of roped in by their dads to learn the fishing trade and they never get a chance to go to school,” Anais explains.

“The young girls sell food on the street with their mum, and they could be married off really young or they just have to work really hard to pay for family expenses.”

The Greek Australian says St Nic’s fills this void in Ghana. The primary school provides free tuition, lunches and drinking water, health insurance registration, books and stationery to children who have no access to the education system at no fault of their own.

“We’re really trying to get that younger cohort of students off the street, off from working and putting them into school to ensure that they stay in school,” Anais says.

So far, St Nic’s currently rents school grounds in Kokrobite and offers five classes ranging from nursery to Kindergarten Level 1, Kindergarten Level 2, Primary 1 and Primary 2. The response for the local community has been phenomenal.

“The community love what we’re doing. The parents are so, so happy that their children are being given an opportunity to go to school,” Anais says.

“Some of our students started in kindergarten at age 12 so they had never stepped foot into a school, didn’t know how to read or write and they’ve made such amazing progress and everyone in the community is so appreciative of that.”

But of course, Anais says there’s still more that needs to be done and she won’t stop until St Nic’s has changed the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children in Ghana.

“We’re really hoping to be able to buy land eventually and build our own building,” Anais concludes.

“Hopefully we’ll reach high school [as well] and you know, we can keep supporting students through high school and then we’re hoping for them to get good jobs and to be able to support their families to really try and lift them out of poverty.”

You can find out more about St Nic’s and the amazing work they do via their website at: stnicma.org.

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