There is something infectious about being around people who are passionate about what they do. Every day that I spend with CUA the more inspired I am in my own work. I have been able to spend the last few days with my new friend and CUA (Credit Union Association of Ghana) staff member Ernest, the Youth Savings Officer. I asked to spend a little time with him to better understand the Youth Savings Program instituted by CUA, it is now two days later and I am realizing I have only begun to scratch the surface of the impressive work that CUA is doing.
Ernest explained to me that for the last ten years CUA has been helping schools throughout Ghana institute Youth Savings Clubs, that to date total 47 clubs. The clubs are run by a few teachers who volunteer their time and act as supervisors, there is also an executive committee made up of four members of the student body as well as a number of student representatives from each class. The student reps take deposits from their fellow members; note it in the depositor’s passport and another notation on the accounts sheets. They then bring the money to the teacher supervisor who will sign for the money and make a note in their general accounts book, then take it to the credit union to deposit into the general account. When a student wishes to make a withdrawal they need to submit a request in writing to the teacher including the item they wish to purchase and what it will be used for, generally the withdrawals go towards school fees and books. Not all requests are successful, as no matter how convincing a teenager can be, extra minutes for their cell phones or a second month anniversary present for their girl/boyfriend won’t make the cut. The program is about building a savings culture in this newest generation that will help them remain financially responsible for the rest of their lives.
|Esther Pabi and Hackman Eric, Chem SHS Youth Savings Club members|
I was able to go to a school in Tema, CHEM Senior High School, and meet these young micro financiers in person today. I sat at the head table and looked out at the 13 young faces before me along with Ernest and the three volunteer teacher supervisors. Of course at first my obrunyi presence made for shy looks and quiet whispers but it didn’t take more than a minute or two of listening to Ernest speak about the importance of their club and what they are doing, not for their teachers or school or this Canadian sitting before them but themselves and their fellow students before the audience was wrapped in the task at hand.
Once Ernest was finished inspiring, the floor was opened for any questions. This was not a timid group. When should we be giving the deposits to our teacher? As soon as break arrives, replied Ernest, holding your fellow students deposit is a great responsibility and you want to make sure that it doesn’t get lost along the way. The others want to know why it takes so long to get their withdrawals. It can sometimes take up to a week and they don’t want to put their money in the savings anymore. Ernest quickly replies that of course it takes some time to get your money; it is not in Madame’s pocket it is at the credit union where it is safe and growing with each deposit you make. She cannot just leave and get your money, give her sometime and if the withdrawal is approved you will get.
Ernest ends the session with reminding the students that they should remember to make deposits regularly; take the small money that you don’t want and put it in your savings. A pesewa a day can grow into a cedi before you know it!!!