Bridging the big educational gap between children in the cities and children in rural communities. Meet Diana Delali Mensah, Founder of the ReadNetwork
Big organizations with big titles make big news. The World Bank, the United Nations and the Red Cross, just to name a few, are household names, but they’re not the only ones enacting change around the world. Diana Delali Mensah, the founder of the ReadNetwork, a non-profit organization is bringing education closer to children in her native country of Ghana.
Diana Delali Mensah, a fellow of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a true social entrepreneur with a passion and mission to help bridge the big educational gap between children in the cities and children in rural communities. Now in its second year, the ReadNetwork collaborates with local communities to ensure that children have proper education.
Tell us more about your childhood- where did you grow up, and what were your favourite moments growing up?
I’m the first of two kids and the only girl for that matter. I grew up in Ho, Volta Region of Ghana though l was born in Lagos, Nigeria back in the “Ghana must go”. My favourite moment growing up is anytime I have to recite a poem, act play either at church or school.
When did you first have the idea of setting up a Not-For-Profit initiative?
The idea to set up a not- for- profit initiative came in 2015 when l was working and stationed in a rural community in the Ketu-North District Assembly.
Why did you decide to found a NGO with a specific educational focus?
I’m passionate the next generation that will come after us and the upbringing they get today will be a determining factor of their future. I took my annual leave and went to stay with my big cousin Angela in Accra. My niece who is about four years knows how to use and manipulate my phone to do all sorts of things and even reads books I feel are not yet her level. I resumed work, went back into the communities to work only to discover that children of the same age as my niece cannot manipulate my phone, neither can the read the little books l gave them but only watched the pictures in the books. This made me realize the big educational gap between children in the cities and children in rural communities and I’ve been working since then to bridge or reduce that gap.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered, and are perhaps still encountering, while setting up and running ReadNetwork?
Financial constraints, partners and collaborators
How many volunteers are currently active with ReadNetwork?
We have 8 volunteers
How does ReadNetwork integrate the local community into the learning process?
We are very much in touch with the local community especially the parents, caretakers and the school teachers as partners in shaping these children
What are some of the best-practice teaching strategies you use?
Comprehensive question answering skills, smooth phonics, combination of phonics and whole language, look and say among others.
In which ways can people actually actively get involved in your organization?
By volunteering to work with us, donating stationery, and supporting us financially in order to expand the project to many more communities
What was technically the most challenging part of starting this initiative?
Building a team and a curriculum.
How did you get the funding? Is it just from your pocket? Or you have partners?
I use my salary to support this initiative and a friend of mine in the US has also recently sent us some reading materials for the children.
Do you have any special programmes to tackle psychological problems of children who experienced/ing hardships?
We always encourage and motivate them but we haven’t had any of such cases yet.
Could you tell us more about your future projects?
We dream of having a school where these children will be groomed with the technical know-how based on their interests, abilities and talents to take on the numerous challenges of Ghana/Africa and spearhead solutions.
One of our major projects is what we launched for the first time in Ghana on 25th July 2017, a framework known as Public Achievement. It teaches skills of constructive public problem solving and and our aim is to build an African Institute of Public Achievement in Ghana which will fulfil the training and practical Public Achievement needs in the whole of Africa.
What else are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about mentoring young girls/ women and matching them with accomplished women leaders and professionals who will serve as their mentors and capacity builders.
I am a beautician as well and I offer services in makeup artistry, waxing, pedicure / manicure, hairstyling and facial treatments.
Aside from running ReadNetwork what other pursuit’s do you undertake? Projects or a career etc.
I work for the Government as a Social Development Practitioner with the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development, I am an entrepreneur who has a mobile beauty business known as BeautyTrendz and a fresh student with the University of Ghana Graduate School where I’m pursuing Social Policy to put me on a pedestal where l can be part of Policy making.
You’re still a young woman. Have you always been an activist at heart?
I have never seen myself as an activist but someone who is passionate about helping to solve some of the problems around me in society.
You are part of a Leadership programme in the US, what was it all about? and what was the impact of it?
It’s called the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders an Initiate of President Barack Obama where 1000 young leaders were selected across Africa to partake in a 6 week intensive leadership training across 40 universities the US in four tracks (Public Management, Civic Leadership, Energy, Business and Entrepreneurship) and after that a 3 day Presidential Summit with President Obama.
The fellowship honed my leadership skills, expanded my networks both locally and globally and it was through this fellowship that I met Prof. Dennis Donovan of the university of Minnesota/ Augsburg whom I invited to Ghana with the assistance of the US department of State to launch and train 30 participants for 3days in a trainer of trainers conference on Public Achievement.
How can our readers get involved in your projects and be helpful to you?
Support us financially, volunteer with us, collaborate and partner with our projects.
Which dreams of the ReadNetwork have been already realized? What was one of the most touching/remarkable experiences that you had during your work in the organization?
We have successfully brought Public Achievement to Ghana, We have 30 trained Coaches across the public service in Public Achievement, A lot of young women have benefited from our mentorship programs, We have received a lot of success stories from parents and teachers of our children in the literacy program who formerly could not read and write but have improved greatly through our literacy program.
Majority of our youths roam the streets with so many engaged in social vices and crimes. What measures can be adopted to holistically address youth unemployment in Ghana?
Our educational system should be more technical and vocational than theoretical
If you were President for a day, what change would you make to the polity?
Entrepreneurship should be encouraged and there should be funding opportunities for start-ups
How can you be contacted?
Through, +233 556836980 and firstname.lastname@example.org , Readnetworkgh@gmail.com
Thank you for your time