BY TOM TEMPLE
While Alice Iddi-Gubbels was teaching at Westminster School in Oklahoma City, she had a dream. Her dream was to return to the village in Northern Ghana where she grew up and start a school.
Not just any school, but a child-centered school that would begin teaching young children in their native language and slowly transition them to English, which is the official language of the country.
In 2007 Alice began to realize that dream, creating PAMBE Ghana as a registered not-for-profit organization and moving back to Ghana. PAMBE Ghana is an acronym for Partnership for Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education in Ghana. PAMBE is also a word in the local Mamprusi language meaning “abundance.”
In 2008, the first classroom of the school was built by members of the local community. It started with 40 students in pre-school, and a trained faculty of three teachers.
A grade was added each year, and now there are 279 students from pre-school through sixth grade 6, 10 teachers, and eight teaching assistants, as well as enough classrooms for all, a library and a solar-powered computer lab.
For the past 11 years, PAMBE Ghana’s Global Market has provided Oklahomans with an opportunity to support La’Angum Learning Center in Northern Ghana while purchasing unique art and unusual gifts made by artisans in Ghana and other developing countries.
This year the Global Market opened Oct. 29 on the first floor at OKC’s 50 Penn Place [southeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Northwest Expressway. The space was generously donated by In-Rel Properties.
The Market is Oklahoma’s largest volunteer-staffed fair trade store, with over 50 volunteers keeping it open from 12-6, Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10-6 on Saturdays until Dec. 24.
The Global Market began in 2009 as a means of introducing Oklahomans to PAMBE Ghana’s La’Angum Learning Center and to fair trade. This unique combination ensures that all purchases suppor the artist who made it, and benefit PAMBE Ghana.
Global Market volunteers are well versed about fair trade and about the La’Angum Learning Center and are eager to share interesting stories about Market products and the school.
Items in the shop are purchased from all over the world and come directly from artisans and producers, or through fair trade businesses [members of the Fair Trade Federation or TransFair USA]. Artisans and producers are paid a fair price for their product when it leaves their hands.
Fair Trade criteria also guarantees safe working conditions, quality control, marketing assistance, no child labor, and a continuing, supportive relationship between sellers and buyers.
Alice’s dream continues to grow, thanks to dedicated supporters and volunteers in Oklahoma, Canada and around the globe. The local communities surrounding the school provide the engineering and labor for building and maintaining the school, along with donating foodstuffs and cooking the daily lunchtime meal.
Four classes have already graduated and gone on to junior high school in a neighboring town.
This summer the first graduating class sat for the national comprehensive tests and all placed in the top of their class and have gone on to high school.
For more information about PAMBE Ghana and the Global Market, visit www.Pambeghana.org.
– OKC designer and builder Tom Temple is a long-time friend of Alice Iddi-Gubbels and a member of the PAMBE Ghana board of directors. The provided photos show PAMBE school in Ghana and products available at the OKC market. This essay and photos first appeared in the November print edition of The Oklahoma Observer.