Meet Ghana’s “Madam Books” 

Writer: Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng 

Madam Ampofo helping a child with reading

A chance meeting with a remarkable lady has restored my belief in the idea that our country still has people whose idealistic contributions to society will one day carry us across the line into meaningful development.

Madam Joyce Phyllis Ampofo’s exterior attractiveness and gentle manner hide an inner core of steely determination and courage beyond measure.

Even more, she has achieved so much in a short time without making a fuss or complaining. As she puts it: the only way to get ahead is to move on.

Madam Ampofo is the CEO of Rainbow Trust Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the provision of library, library services, books, and reading strategies for children in schools in deprived areas.

To your columnist, she is just Ghana’s “Madam Books”. To date, she and her main partners, Book Aid UK, have provided more than 50 activities in connection with books and libraries.

These activities have taken place in 48 schools in different districts across four regions – Greater-Accra, Eastern, Ashanti, and Bono-East.

She is a teacher by profession and after 20 years as a classroom teacher, she has now dedicated her life to crusading for books and reading for children and has achieved a lot for the underprivileged in education in a relatively short period of time.

Her teaching career took her to the following schools and communities over a 20-year period: Trede JHS – Ashanti Region, Twedaase JHS – Tema, Kotobabi JHS, Baastona JHS, and Klagon JHS.

She explained how she moved from being a classroom teacher to her current occupation as a provider and crusader for libraries and books in schools.

Madam Ampofo is the CEO of Rainbow Trust Foundation

“In the course of my work as a teacher, I realised that there was a serious deficiency in the learning and teaching process, which was a lack of books for many of the children, so I resorted to using my own money to buy books for the most deprived children”.

Soon, the support she gave to her pupils became a vocation but she realised that her personal efforts and even those of her fellow teachers at that micro-level were not sufficient enough to be effective.

This is what led her to set up the Rainbow Trust Foundation while still teaching and devoted her resources of time, energy and money to her vision of ensuring that every child has access to books and reading.

In her words: “Rainbow Trust Foundation’s sole aim is to ensure that every child has access to books that will inform, enrich and eventually shape their lives through transforming their minds”. It was established in 2013 and officially registered in March 2015.

So far, the list of schools that have benefited from Rainbow Trust’s support is long and growing, but to give the reader a flavour, these are just a few:

  •     Nkwaeso Basic School, Techiman, Bono-East Region

 

  •     Presbyterian Basic School, Ati (New-Tafo)

 

  •     Mamfe Methodist Basic School

 

  •     Mexico Primary School, Tema and Aggrey Road Basic School, Tema

 

  •      Akyem Wenchi Methodist Basic School and Soabe

 

  •     New Asuoyaa Roman Catholic Primary

 

  •     La Wireless Cluster of Schools.

For many of the schools on the long list, which can be accessed on the Foundation’s website, the activities include refurbishment of the library room, painting & decoration, shelving and provision of furniture as well as stocking of the refurbished libraries with books.

In addition, a number of teachers from every school so assisted attend a course in basic librarianship which equips them with practical skills to look after the books and help the children to make maximum use of the library.

My personal experience of Madam Ampofo’s work started with that chance meeting at the office of a mutual friend who is a book publisher.

Once I learnt about her occupation, I put a proposal to her to assist a school at Akyem Ati, (New Tafo) with some books. Remarkably, she offered the full range of activities from refurbishment to the provision of books.

Madam Joyce was personally involved in assessing various schools and in selecting the Presbyterian Basic Schools as the most suitable for the support.

As stated earlier, she went with a team of specialists to train teachers selected from the beneficiary school at Ati. The Ati Presbyterian Basic Schools can now boast of a refurbished library, freshly painted, new shelves and furniture, and more than 1000 books for the pupils.

As with all schools that benefit from the Foundation’s support, the books are primarily for borrowing so that children can take them home and return them to pick another book. The books are brand new and suitable for the demands of the curriculum at the appropriate stage.

Madam Ampofo and the Foundation had a major impact during the Covid pandemic, especially in the period of the lockdown and its immediate aftermath. With schools closed and children losing contact learning hours, it was essential for children to have books during the lockdown. With most schools lacking any sort of libraries from which children could borrow books, Rainbow Trust swung into action.

The organisation launched a special programme known as BOOKS TO GO (B2G) to provide books and other materials, including customized bags for pupils to borrow books and read at home.

Under this project, five schools were selected, and each school received: 2000 high-quality UK-donated Cambridge Education Primary Books (all new and from the original publishing houses), 140 local award-winning books (so as not to depart from the local content principle), 200 specially-branded ‘Books-To-Go’ bags for children to carry borrowed books home, shelves to hold the books, and two plastic boxes to store or quarantine the books.

In addition, each school received two hand-washing stations with Covid Covid-19 protocols. They also received teacher-librarian training manuals and two registers for inventory and record-keeping of books.

The Foundation also provided free training for teacher-librarians for effective management of school libraries.

A second Covid 19-related project known as “Explorer Library” which revolved converted empty classrooms into libraries where thousands of books are held for the benefit children.

Thankfully, the effects of Covid have mercifully subsided but these models have inspired Madam Ampofo and her team to provide library facilities for even more schools.

Madam Ampofo, who is really “Madam Books” has exciting ideas about extending her services into the larger community beyond schools. To achieve that purpose, Rainbow Foundation and its formidable founder and CEO deserve all the encouragement and assistance they can have.

First published in the Mirror