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HISTORY & ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE
KOPEYIA GHANA SCHOOL FUND


When the American musician and composer, Robert Levin, first traveled to Kopeyia to study drumming in 1988, the 2,000 inhabitants of this rural farming village in Southeastern Ghana were facing steeply diminishing crop yields and escalating poverty, stemming from generations of illiteracy, a paucity of resources, and continued isolation from the outside world.  Families lacked the means to send their children to the nearest elementary school, located some kilometers away. Meanwhile knowledge of health, nutrition and sustainable farming techniques was scarce.

Levin’s appreciation for Ghanaian culture, and his observation of Kopeyia’s lack of educational opportunity, moved him to offer assistance to Kopeyia’s elders if they wanted to establish a school. Kopeyia opened its school under a thatched shade on October 10, 1988. Levin established the Kopeyia Ghana School Fund (KGSF) in the USA in 1989. The Fund’s first task was to build a permanent village primary school building. Within a few months, Kopeyia had successfully combined cement bought with $1,000 in KGSF-raised funds, 10 acres of locally donated land, and the labor of the entire community to build the walls for its first 5-room school building. The village made due with a thatched roof on the new building for three years, until a permanent roof could be constructed. During that time, the students carried their desks and chairs to and from school every day, to prevent the wood from spoiling in the event of rain. In 1991, a permanent roof was built on the first building, and construction of a second school building began.

Since 1988, KGSF has made the dream of education possible for more than one thousand Kopeyia youths. The Kopeyia Bloomfield Local Authority School, which is staffed partly by Ghanaian government teachers and partly by KGSF-salaried teachers (hired to reduce class sizes), gradually added a Kindergarten and a Junior Secondary School, and is now offering pre-school through 9th grade. Thanks to years of incredibly generous donations from children's book Ann M. Martin and her Foundation, the school’s physical plant now includes four permanent buildings, with 18 classrooms, the Ann M. Martin Library, a science lab, staff common room, head teacher’s office, plus two mud and thatch buildings for the Kindergarten, a cafeteria, two water tanks, a soccer field, and a farming plot. Extra-curricular activities include a Girls Club (whose members study health and nutrition and convey that knowledge throughout the school), Reading Club, sports teams in soccer, volleyball, track and field, and netball, a cultural troupe, and extra classes four days a week to prepare the oldest class for their standard national final exams.

In 1996, KGSF began offering scholarships to Kopeyia’s top ninth grade graduates to attend the region’s best Senior Secondary Schools for grades 10-12. Since that time, more than 75  Kopeyia residents have earned scholarships, and over 60 have been graduated from high school and vocational school.  In 2000, one of these graduates, Kofie Agbeli, won a full academic scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa in the USA.  His travel and living expenses are covered by a KGSF stipend.  In 2003-04 Kofie is a senior!  He will finish his course work in December 2004.

In order to achieve its goal of building education and knowledge to further development in Kopeyia, the KGSF insists that the secondary level and college students it sponsors sign an agreement to return and pursue their careers in Kopeyia.

Recognizing the valuable lessons that Americans could learn from Kopeyia in turn, the KGSF also extends cross-cultural programs in American schools. KGSF founder Robert Levin teaches the students a Ghanaian drumming and dancing piece, talks with them about the music’s cultural context and its relationship to American music, and invites discussion about lifestyles and cultures. Participating schools include Bloomfield and Dwight Englewood Middle Schools in New Jersey; Rudolf Steiner Upper School, The Village School and Manhattan School of Music in New York; Middleboro Elementary School in Massachusetts; and the University of Northern Iowa.

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©1988-2010 Kopeyia Ghana School Fund, Inc.