The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ghana through its alumni wing undertook a sensitization drive on all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Ada Senior High School in the Greater Accra Region on Saturday November 11, 2017. The SDGs, a successor of the Millenuim Development Goals (MDGs) started in 2016 after the MDGs expired in 2015.
They have 169 targets which covers a broad range of sustainable development issues such as ending poverty, and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change and protecting oceans and forests.
The students, numbering about 2000 were divided into seventeen groups led by alumni members of the international NGO and discussed the concept of the goals and what they seek to achieve by the year 2030.
In all the groups, almost all the students don’t have any idea about the SDGs hence; the volunteers schooled them on the goals and how best they could play a role in making the goals a success which will in the long term affect their wellbeing.
Discussions on Goal one ‘No Poverty’ were led by Kojovi Afadzinam and Bridget Ocansey where the students were taken through the need to eliminate poverty which is considered a bane to human development.
According to them, even though there is a drop in the poverty gab from 1.9 billion to 836 million between 1990 and 2015, more need to be done to totally eradicate poverty.
For this reason the students were enlightened on the objectives of the SDG one which aims to increase access to resources, services and support areas suffering from extreme poverty due to conflict and disasters.
Samuel Dontoh and Jaleela Zaman who were leaders for the group on SDG five, ‘Gender Equality’ took the students through the need to ensure gender equality in all angles.
This goal aims to change the course of harmful practices that affect women and girls’ development. They said child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), teenage pregnancy continue to rob women and girls of equal opportunities.
It is estimated that more that 200 million women and girls experienced FGM and over 750 million women and girls currently alive got married before they became 18 years.
In this regard, the SDG five says achieving equality for both genders by 2030 will require prudent measures s at all fronts through advocacy strong policies to fight them.
With over three billion people depending on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, Lydia Tsahey, leader for goal 14, ‘Life Below Water’ took the students through the need to protect the country’s oceans against pollution.
She however explained that 30 percent of the world’s fish stock is currently over-exploited which as a result is not yielding sustainably.
She also told students that since the beginning of industrial revolution, we have seen a 26 per cent rise in acidification in our oceans. She added that marine pollution has reached an alarming stage with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic materials to be found on every square kilometer ocean which is evident in coastal areas in Ghana.
President of the VSO Alumni Association and Project Lead for the SDGs advocacy, Staniel Tetteh stated that exposing the students to the goals will enhance their capacity to contribute to their achievements.
“We realized that the youth are not involved in the SDGs and they have no idea about it and we thought we should take it out there to them for them to understand the concept and what they can also do to contribute to it.”
“We believe if the young ones understand this from the scratch and grab basic ideas about the SDGs, by the time they grow up they will take leadership of them to ensure the success of the program. So nurturing them with policies that affect them directly is key hence the need for this exercise,” he explained.
After a thorough deliberation with all the students in their assembly hall, they agreed on SDG four, ‘Quality Education’ and pledged to contribute their quota to it by utilizing available resources judiciously while spreading the message to parents especially those in remote areas to get their children educated.
A third year student, Aminatu Musah expressed joy about the campaign, calling for it to be replicated in secondary schools across the country.
Aminatu who initially had no idea about the SDGs added that her favorites among all the 17 goals are goal one and two ‘No Poverty and ‘Zero Hunger’. “It’s an educative program and other schools should involve themselves to help the students learn about the SDGs so that by 2030, it will reduce poverty and hunger.”
Another student, Jesie Lomo said the initiative is helpful as it will motivate him to become a responsible citizen. “It encourages us and can help educate our parents, friends and our various communities on the need to work towards these goals for our good.”
A Visual Art teacher, Elias Otipeseku commended VSO Alunmi for the campaign and says it should be embedded in the Ghana Education Service’s curriculum. “This is a very nice program that we have had VSO talking about the SDGs and it will enlighten the students to things that affect their development and what needs to be done ensure they grow to be responsible people.”
“Making these goals part of classroom activities will be laudable because the students will get to understand the objectives of the 17 goals more.
Having understood those goals they will also play a role to make sure that in 2030 those goals will be achieved. So every school and every student should be able to hear this so that by the end of the 2030, we will make sure that the goals are achieved.”
The VSO Alumni Association previously visited two Junior High Schools; Redeemer Academy and Abavana JHS in Weija and Kotobabi respectively.
With funding from the DFID, the group has planned to visit more schools in 2018 with the SDG campaign drive.