Shadrack Frimpong has vowed to challenge the notion that investing in girls’ education isn’t worthwhile.
As a President’s Engagement Prize-winner, Frimpong hopes to make a difference for the girls and families of Tarkwa Breman, the rural Ghanaian village where he grew up. His prize money will go toward the construction of a girls’ school and a medical clinic.
Frimpong, a biology major in the College of Arts & Sciences with extensive global health coursework, has witnessed friends and family members in Tarkwa Breman suffer from HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and other diseases—a situation compounded by the village’s lack of accessible health care.
He also realized that the failure to provide an education to girls leads them down a path that too often ends a sexually transmitted disease or high-risk adolescent pregnancy, as was the case with one of Frimpong’s childhood friends.
“My friend’s situation showed me how health and education are inextricably linked,” Frimpong says.
Frimpong’s plans are comprehensive: With the support of his parents, he met with his village’s chief, who arranged for the donation of 100 acres of land where the facilities will be built. A portion of that land will be turned into a farm on which students’ families will work, once a week, in exchange for a free education for their daughters. Revenues from the cocoa crops will help pay for the school’s maintenance costs.
He is working with the Ghanaian ministries of Health and Education to supply teachers and doctors to staff the school, which is planned to accommodate 200 students, and clinic, slated to include consultation rooms, a pharmacy, a dressing/injection room, a laboratory, a delivery room, and an on-call room.
Frimpong will be in Tarkwa Breman this summer to oversee plans for the facility. Penn architecture students, guided by Richard Wesley of the School of Design, will also be traveling there to survey the land and design the building, which is expected to open in the summer of 2016. Then, starting the following fall, Frimpong plans to go back and forth between Ghana and the U.S. while he attends medical school, pursuing joint degrees in medicine and health policy.