In 1988, the women of the West African nation of Ghana were trapped. With a per-capita income of $425, Ghana fared better than some of its struggling neighbors, but its few advantages coalesced around the male population. Those families with the means to educate their children focused on the boys, who were thought more intelligent. It was seen as the smart investment.
The girls were guided into limited traditional roles—working in the fields, tending to children, and caring for the home. Less than 4 percent of girls living in rural areas had any higher (high-school level) education. Almost 40 percent of Ghanaian girls had no schooling at all.
The Congregation of Divine Providence, founded to educate young women in poor rural areas, saw the great need. An initial group of three—Sister Marilene Cullen, Sister Ellen Marie Eckerle, and Sister Agnes Clare Kramer—arrived and established the CDP’s Ghanaian mission, including Our Lady of Providence Secondary School in Kwasiboukrom, in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana, near the border with Côte d’Ivoire. Along with math, English, religion, and business skills, the students learned a more important lesson, by experiencing “an environment which emphasizes their worth beyond a prevailing attitude that women are the beasts of burden and the maidservants of male counterparts.”
Over the years more sisters arrived including Sister Bernadette Claire Kramer, Sister Mary Joyce Moeller, Sister Janet Schneider, and Sister Mary Theresa Bowman, who left Ghana in 2005. The school continues working toward its vision of academic excellence, educating and empowering its students for a future where they will be integral in building not just households, but the Ghanaian society and nation.
Now guided by another community of women religious, the school is lauded as one of the best in the country. Perhaps the finest testament comes from one of its graduates, now a research assistant at a university on Ghana’s southern coast, who says, “I love OLP. This place is where I was formed.”
Wednesday, April 25, five of the Sisters who served in West Africa celebrated the 30th anniversary of our Ghana mission with a lunch at the Rio Grande in Newport, Kentucky. From left to right: Sister Marilene Cullen, Sister Mary Joyce Moeller, Sister Bernadette Claire Kramer, Sister Janet Schneider, and Sister Ellen Marie Eckerle.