At only 26 years old, Anais Menounos has already scored some serious goals. She is not only a successful Sydney lawyer at Clayton Utz, but she is also the co-founder of St Nicholas Mission Academy in Ghana, Africa.
Launched in 2018 with the help of Inusah Amidu, St Nic’s is a primary school in the Ghanaian town of Kokrobite that provides free education to 90 children from families living below the poverty line.
AnaÃ¯s tells The Greek Herald She decided to open the school in Ghana after volunteering with an NGO in the country and witnessing firsthand the poverty and inequalities experienced by some children.
âWhen I was there a kid ran up to me and begged me for a book and it honestly shook me that someoneâ¦ had this thirst for knowledge that we take for granted. Here, you know, people throw away their books for council cleaning and over there people beg for books and can’t afford to buy them, âsays Anais.
“So for me, coming from a place where I really appreciate the education I received and really do my best to put it to good use, I can see how even just providing basic education to underprivileged children. in another part of the world can really change their lives.
According to the statistics of Unicef, 29 percent of Ghanaian children do not complete primary school, 53 percent do not complete lower secondary and 65 percent do not complete upper secondary.
While the Ghanaian government says education is âfreeâ, the reality is very different. Government grants do not reach all communities, forcing families to cover the cost of books, uniforms and lunch.
Families who earn very little have to sacrifice sending their children to school so that they can feed their families and provide shelter.
âThe community we are in is a fishing community, so it’s right on the Atlantic coast with beautiful beaches. But the flip side is that many young boys are somehow recruited by their fathers to learn fishing and never get the chance to go to school, âsays Anais.
âYoung girls sell food on the streets with their mothers, and they may be married very young or they just have to work very hard to pay for family expenses. “
The Greek Australian says that St Nic’s fills this void in Ghana. The primary school provides free lessons, lunches and clean water, health insurance registration, books and stationery to children who do not have access to the education system through no fault of their own.
âWe’re really trying to take this younger cohort of students off the streets, stop working and put them in school to make sure they stay in school,â says Anais.
So far, St Nic’s currently rents school grounds in Kokrobite and offers five classes ranging from Kindergarten to Kindergarten Level 1, Kindergarten Level 2, Primary 1 and Primary 2. The response from the local community has been phenomenal.
âThe community loves what we do. Parents are so, so happy that their children have the opportunity to go to school, âsays AnaÃ¯s.
“Some of our students started kindergarten when they were 12, so they had never set foot in a school, could not read or write and they made incredible progress and everyone in the community is so grateful. “
But of course AnaÃ¯s says there is still a lot to do and she won’t stop until St Nic changes the lives of thousands of underprivileged children in Ghana.
âWe really hope that we can eventually buy land and build our own building,â concludes Anais.
“I hope we reach high school [as well] and you know, we can continue to support the students until high school and then we hope they will find good jobs and be able to support their families to really try to lift them out of poverty.
You can find out more about St Nic’s and the amazing work they do through their website at: stnicma.org.