St Albans geography teacher becomes African chief

Stephen Ramsbottom

Stephen Ramsbottom - Credit: Archant

Being head of geography at a top St Albans school is achievement enough but Stephen Ramsbottom has now been made an African chief as well.

Stephen, who runs the geography department at St Albans High School, has had the title of Maala Na, chief of development, conferred on him through his work with the charity, Savannah Education Trust (SET),

The trust came into being following Stephen’s visit to northwest Ghana, one of the poorest regions in the world, in 2000, when he met a chief who told him how desperate they were for a village school. In 2006 the charity’s first school was opened in Bagri village.

In Lawra District, Upper West Region, Ghana, they have now built 13 schools which have educated 1600 students, trained 55 teachers and provided 250,000 free meals per annum.

The development is having a big impact in the region which prompted the Paramount Chief, Naa Puowele Karbo III, to invite the charity’s trustees to the Kobine festival (a national harvest and cultural festival) to be ‘enstooled’ as Maala Naa or development chief. It is the first time the honour has been given.

Conferring the Maalu-Naa title, the chief described SET as: “A worthy development partner and a lifeline of the children’s education in the district, considering the huge investment made in education and the remarkable achievement of the trust to making education available and accessible to children in deprived communities.”

He added: “The impact of the trust on the education sector and in the lives of the children and communities in which it operates is immense. It cannot be overemphasised.”

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Stephen and his SET trustee colleagues were presented with a ram, a cockerel and some guinea fowl. Each of the five trustees is now a Maala Naa and will take on the role when they visit.

They have special robes, a hat which is a symbol of the burden they bear as a chief and a stick which symbolises the ability to knock problems out of the way.

Stephen said: “The position as Maala Naa, and the costume that goes with it, is important to us.It will make the job of building more schools easier. To be accepted as one of the people was a very moving experience.”

The trust has three programmes: to build and run schools, to provide free meals daily and to run a teacher scholarship programme. They raise funds by raising awareness of the desperate need for schools in the area through talks and presentations around the UK.

For further information and the opportunity to donate click here.