The US Global Partnership has drawn up a five year development programme which will see to the donation of free shoes and educational supplies to support the educational needs of every child of school-going age in Atwima Koforidua in the Atwima Nwabiagya District of the Ashanti Region, which has been selected for development as a model Garden Village in Ghana.
Under the programme, brand new shoes and other educational materials would be supplied to students of the local schools every six months for the next five years.
About 1,465 students from the Atwima Koforidua D/A primary 'A' and 'B' schools and D/A Junior High (JHS) 'A' and 'B' schools would benefit from the package.
The criteria for selection in order of priority include students who go to school barefooted, those who go to school with bathroom sandals, and those with shoes but not in good condition.
This follows the realisation that in spite of the free compulsory basic education, capitation grant, free feeding and school uniforms programmes instituted by the government to support basic education in Ghana to help achieve the Millennium Development Goal 2 by the year 2012, hundreds of thousands of children of school going age in Ghana are still out of school, as a result of the inability of their parents to buy them footwear, and attend school with worn out shoes or bathroom sandals.
Mr. Kwaku Kyei, Chief Executive of the US Global Partnership, who won the United States President's Volunteer Service Award by President Obama on September 23, 2011 for his outstanding contribution in engaging the youth of the United States in mobilising international development assistance from the US to Africa, said the purpose of the whole integrated approach to the development of the village was to directly engage the local community leaders to seek ways to help the people help themselves out of poverty.
Mr. Kyei said the focus would be on both the causes and consequences of poverty, and support to agricultural development by strengthening the weak or broken links in the food value chain to get investors to invest in them.
He said in return for the offer to the students, each beneficiary would be given two trees to plant each year and nurture, which progress would be measured on the sixth month when they are due for new shoes.
It is expected that by the end of the programme in five years, over 10,000 trees would have been planted by the school children in Atwima Koforidua alone, to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and mitigate the effects of climate change, by creating buffers and resilient systems to cope with climate change.
Mr. Kyei said the initiative would be used as a focal point to institute the Garden Village Initiative to resuscitate and restore the natural environment to its green and lush state, containing abundance a rich and varied tropical hardwoods and exotic trees, which will provide a source of valuable resources for future generations.
The programme also seeks to instill in the school children the spirit of patriotism to give back to society at an early age.
His initiative also seeks to find possible areas for development to create employment opportunities for the youth in the town, for them to stay there, instead of moving to Kumasi to find non-existing jobs.
It would also look at the needs of the farmers in the town, and what can be done to support them. As part of that process, middle men who have been exploiting the farmers would be a thing of the past, as the project would be looking at linking the farmers in the village to direct markets, including building their capacity to be able to enroll them in selling directly to the World Food Programme, and processing others directly for the export market.
Running alongside the free shoes distribution and tree growing is an intended de-worming programme for the school kids, aimed at treating soil transmitted worm infestation, which causes a host of serious health problems and often prevents children from attending school, or being able to concentrate while in class.
Under the initiative, the community would be provided with an ICT Centre and a library in the area of education.
A comprehensive website will be designed for the town, and used to attract funding and support to promote the proposed development projects initiated by the people.
The Odikro of Akrofuom at Atwima Koforidua, Nana Osei Gyapong Adusah IV, has embraced the initiative, and is currently collaborating moves to see to the effective implementation of the project.
Nana Adusah, who was installed oOdikro barely ten months ago, has embarked on massive development to give the community a modern facelift.
The projects under the proposed development plan include the construction of a 2-storey chief's palace, resurfacing of all the streets, provision of street lights covering all the nooks and crannies of the community to ward-off the menace of robbery, and the dredging of the storm drain to forestall incessant flooding during the rainy season.
Other projects envisaged under the development plan include two additional Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit (KVIPO) places of convenience for the community, and the provision of pipe-borne drinking water to improve the lot of the people.