St Nicholas is the Patron Saint of the Sea, so for such a saintly figure revered by the Greek Orthodox Church, to be associated with a school catering for the underprivileged in Ghana is the narrative.
St Nicholas Preparatory School is a seaside academic project at Tema Manhean, an expansive fishing community in the Greater Accra Region.
It was founded by the Maria Tsakos Foundation with the motto: “Every Child has a right to education.”
The project was supervised by Captain Alkiviadis Kappas and Deborah Eleazar, representatives of the Tsakos Group who have worked with the community.
The 100,000- dollar project was a show of appreciation to the community by the Tsakos Group with major support from Atlas Copco Ghana and Theofilos Pizanias, the Honorary Consul of Greece in Ghana and representative of Aegean Bunkering.
The project is being supported by a number of individuals and the community of seafarers in Ghana and around the world.
Beginning with 28 children, it now has 90 in five classes with eight permanent teaching staff.
The pupils are taught English, reading, writing and other classroom skills. They are also provided with school uniforms, books and writing materials and are given two healthy meals a day.
They are offered medical treatment, pastoral care, life skills, sanitation and moral education.
The project was initiated to provide education to under-privileged children between the ages of four and six.
The school is being expanded to offer the pupils junior secondary education. The project costing 300,000 dollars consists of two-storey building and nine classrooms.
There are also long term plans to teach IT, construction and tourism to complete the children’s education.
Interestingly pupils of the school have in their small way making positive impact on the community.
During the second edition of the National Sanitation Day (NSD), which fell on St Nicholas Day, the pupils used the occasion to educate the fishing community about the dangers of living in filth.
As a prelude to the NSD, pupils of the school have formed the habit of cleaning the beaches and organising community awareness on good sanitary practices by carrying educative placards through the town.
The school, which is hosting St Nicholas Orthodox Church built by the Tsakos Group, celebrates St Nicholas Day annually, with a church service and an open day used to showcase projects and work undertaken by the pupils in the last academic year.
The pupils organised a play about the essence of washing of hands thoroughly before eating and after attending to nature’s call to avoid communicable diseases like cholera.
They thrilled the audience to a cadet parade and poems in English, French, Greek and Ewe.
The NSD was launched by the Government in November, last year giving birth to a national clean up exercise, on every first Saturday of every month, which entered the second phase in December and the third phase on January 3, 2015, to deal with the country’s mounting sanitation problems.
Mrs Eleazar of the Tsakos Group said those behind the success story of the school includes Captain Kappas, one of the founding fathers and most generous benefactors of the academic facility.
She expressed the need for stakeholder responsibility to complete the school project and acknowledged the assistance of volunteers who are helping to run the facility.
Mrs Eleazar said three pupils of the school have been sponsored to train at the Mankoadze Vocational Training College in the Central Region.
Tema Paramount Chief, Osongaa Nii Adjei Kraku II expressed appreciation to the pupils for facilitating the second NSD programme, which he said was made a success in the traditional area through the support of personnel of the Naval Base and the public.
Reverend Father Rhineons Opoku of the St Nicholas Church discounted public perception that the mission is secret society dabbling in the occult.
He said the misconception is driving away children who could otherwise enjoy the free education being provided by the preparatory school.
Some of the stakeholders of the school at the function were: Nomso Dike (Sahara), Raymond Kyaano; Commanding Officer Eastern Naval Base, Baba Sumaila; Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC), Dimitri Avraam; Consulate Belgium, Theofilos Pizanuas; Consul of Greece, Mariana Gabriel; Consul of Cyprus, Joseph Manu; Ghana Supply Company (GSC), Nelson Gaba also of GSC, Joseph Abagba; Ghana Institute Of Freight Forwarders, Justina Acheampong; (GNPC) and Loretta Alan of Zenith Bank.