By Taylor Hanna, Ghana Ambassador
I was fortunate to get to visit Gabriel Ashiagbor this past week at his home in Abeka.
Gabriel has been curious about electronics since he was very young, explaining, “When I see an electronic thing, I want to see the brain behind it.” And in this way, he “destroyed a lot of [his] father’s electronics.” But rather than being angry with his son’s affinity for taking things apart, Gabriel’s father was encouraging and supportive of his inquisitive nature.
When Gabriel was fourteen, his mother passed away. Helping his father support his five brothers and sisters while completing high school wasn’t easy, but he tackled the challenge and ultimately was admitted to the Ghana Technology University College.
Now 23 years old and in his final year at Ghana Technology University College, Gabriel studies Telecom Engineering and works part time repairing computers to support himself. “My dad retired from active service two years after I got admission so my finances haven’t been smooth. So I decided to join a friend who repairs computers [and] shifted to the evening session so that I can work in the day and join the evening class. It hasn’t been easy because I sometimes get to class tired,” he explained.
In their last year, students must complete a final project in addition to their classwork. Gabriel focused his project on a problem that he saw throughout his university career: under-equipped facilities in school. University education is valued highly in Ghana, but Gabriel explains that the funding and facilities of education institutions often cannot match the demand. While students can become frustrated with overcrowded classrooms and competition for resources, the schools are equally challenged in tracking student participation. Gabriel has seen many of his classmates skipping class altogether. So his project seeks to incorporate facial recognition and radio-frequency identification technologies to help schools track attendance in a cost-efficient way.
Zidisha loans have allowed him to fund his project on time without worrying about sacrificing valuable class time to work extra hours, as he would have had to do if he were required to come up with the required capital in advance. His first loan funded a research questionnaire, while the second allowed him to order electronic parts. They hadn’t arrived by the time of my visit, but I hope to go back again to get to see the project in action!
When he graduates, Gabriel hopes to be able to improve upon his final project and produce it at scale, offering it to schools across the country. In addition, he would like to start his own company installing fiberoptic cables.
Gabriel is very grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by Zidisha lenders and I’m very excited to see his final project and what he accomplishes after graduation!