By Taylor Hanna, Ghana Ambassador Volunteer
After meeting with a few of his roommates, I had the chance to sit down with Isaac Baccah last week in Legon, a first-year student of Information Technology, at his residence hall near the University of Ghana. Public universities in Ghana are highly competitive and only admit students at the top of their class academically, and need or merit-based scholarship opportunities are limited or virtually nonexistent for would-be students. So he may be too modest to tell you but just being admitted and self-financing his education is evidence of Isaac’s drive.
To support his tuition expenses, Isaac works two jobs on campus. One is cleaning dishes for an hour each day, for which he earns 25 cedis (about US $6.17) per month. The second is as a typist at a print shop near the school library, where Isaac spends two hours per day, Monday through Friday, typing documents for a salary of 50 cedis (US $12.34) per month.
Although his parents have been very supportive of his journey, Isaac didn’t have access to computers at home. The middle child of three, his mother sells provisions on the street and his father owns a bicycle repair shop. Growing up, his family couldn’t afford much in the way of technology. Isaac was first introduced to computers in school. But he made up for lost time by making the computer lab his second home – the instructors would teach him in off hours and let him practice taking apart and repairing the machines. Now, he says, “Computers are my passion… my calling.”
Isaac used his first Zidisha loan of $50 to pay housing fees at the residence hall, something that had previously been out of reach due to the need to pay the full amount at the beginning of the semester. During his first semester commuting to classes from his parents’ home, he would often find himself in traffic for up to two hours in each direction, causing stress over being late to class or work, losing valuable study time, and preventing him from taking part in extracurricular activities. Since receiving his Zidisha loan, he moved into an airy dorm with three roommates (also Zidisha borrowers) and is just a short walk from class.
Jean Nelson Hall consists of four stories of rooms surrounding a sunny rectangular courtyard with a basketball court and outdoor café. Residence halls make up their own small communities – each have unique personalities and rivalries and compete against each other in intramural sports. When I visit, students are reading and hanging their laundry to dry in the sun.
With three years left to finish his degree, Isaac wants to focus on his education while he has the chance – soaking up as many technical skills and programming languages as he can. He’s interested in programming and database management and dreams of a job at Microsoft. He hopes to use future Zidisha loans to continue to pay his school fees and to buy a faster computer that can handle his heavy use.
It was wonderful to get to meet Isaac and see his residence hall – all that talk about classes and student life made me want to go back to university! He is incredibly grateful for the support he has received through Zidisha and he is excited to continue his education.
Isaac – thank you so much for taking the time in between lectures and work to chat with me. We wish you the best with your schooling and career!