The day Mary Sassah graduated from Valley View University in Ghana was a day she will never forget. Though it’s difficult to describe how she felt when she received her degree.
“I can’t even put it into words,” says the 26 year-old. “I just felt extremely happy.”
On that day, Mary not only became the first woman in her family to graduate from a university, but also the first woman to become a graduate in her entire community of Fotobi.
The road to higher education was a difficult one for Mary. When she was a young girl, she spent her days at school, but the evenings, weekends and holidays were spent working on a pineapple farm to help pay for her education.
“There wasn’t any time to do homework,” says Mary. “My mother saw what I was doing and thought I was suffering for my education, so she decided to withdraw me from school.”
This is a common situation many girls in Ghana face. Lack of finance is one of the main reasons girls drop out before they reach high school. Social norms also stop girls from pursuing higher education. Many parents choose to send just their sons to school while encouraging their daughters to marry young.
“In those days there was no one to look up to. There was no one who was a graduate, but there were many girls that had dropped out of school. “
Mary knew she was different and that she would be the one to break the cycle. When she was in third grade, her mother wanted her to drop out of school, even going so far as to ask the school to release her, but Mary persevered.
“Even when I was young, I knew my ultimate goal was to graduate from university, even though there was no one I knew that had made it that far. I always wanted to make a difference”
Opportunity and hope came when Mary was accepted into the FAWE all-girls secondary school on a full scholarship. She excelled at the school and through FAWE, she met Denise Gray Felder and her husband, Donald Felder from New Jersey. The Felders’ saw Mary’s hard work and determination and agreed to pay for her university education.
Now, Mary is a successful graduate with a degree in Human Resource Management. She is currently a Teaching Assistant at Valley View University and hopes to pursue her Master’s degree. She hopes families and communities in Ghana will see her as an example and want the same for their daughters.
“If you start from grassroots with the chiefs in the communities, they should be able to inform and sensitize families to see the importance of girl-child education,” says Mary.
Not only will educating girls help your family but it will also help improve the community and country.
Mary says she wants more girls in Ghana to have their own goals and stick to them.
“When you don’t know exactly what you want, people can influence you,” says Mary, “Know what you want and fight for it. I had a dream, fought for it and this is how far the Lord has brought me”
Mary would like to expressly thank FAWE Ghana Chapter and the Felder family from New Jersey for believing in her and seeing the potential she possessed.
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