HOW DZIDZORNU IS CLAIMING HER CONFIDENCE
Dzidzornu, 17, stands in front of an assembly of primary school children in orange and brown uniforms. Her strong voice breaks through their chatter, and she has the students’ full attention as she starts clapping and stepping side-to-side. They match her rhythm and mirror her movements. As she begins to sing, they echo her words back to her, “We have come to play... we have come to play...”
A few years ago, the thought of standing in front of a group of her peers would have made Dzidzornu cringe. Her shyness and low self-esteem made it difficult for her to make friends, engage in the classroom, or even respond to questions from her teacher or parents. But through the support of a Right To Play-organized Junior Leaders club, Dzidzornu has come out of her shell, claimed her confidence, and become an influential leader among her peers.
OVERCOMING HER FEARS
Dzidzornu lives with her parents and three siblings in Oshiyie, a small farming community near Accra, Ghana. She was shy from a young age.
“I was always scared in the classroom, especially when the teacher would call on students at random to answer questions. If they called on me to answer, I could hear my heart pounding in my chest,” she remembers.
Her fear affected her performance in school, and she remained near the bottom of her class. It also affected her ability to build relationships with her peers.
“I was unable to approach my classmates and talk to them. I was always nervous that they would say bad comments about me. I wanted to feel free to make friends with some of the other children in the class, but I didn’t know how to do it.”
“I WANTED TO FEEL FREE TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH SOME OF THE OTHER CHILDREN IN THE CLASS, BUT I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT.” – DZIDZORNU, 17
Dzidzornu’s mother, Patient, was concerned, so she asked her daughter’s teacher for extra support. They recommended that Dzidzornu attend an upcoming Junior Leader camp organized by Right To Play. The camp brought children from neighbouring schools together to have fun and build life and leadership skills.
It was a turning point for Dzidzornu. Over the course of a few days, she and her peers engaged in group sessions in a safe and supportive space that helped them build their confidence and leadership abilities, practice communication skills like public speaking, and collaborate and problem-solve.
“I learned so many things at the camp. I learned how to start a conversation, how to stay confident, and how to be part of a team,” she remembers, smiling.
TAKING THE LEAD
After the camp ended, Dzidzornu was invited to join her school’s Junior Leader club. Every week, she gathered with friends to practice the skills they’d learned, discuss challenges, and learn more about child protection and gender equality. They also organized and led community sensitization activities to share what they were learning with their family and friends. Dzidzornu’s shyness and fear began to fade, and she started to take on more responsibilities as her confidence flourished.
With this new outlook and the support of her growing friendships, Dzidzornu ran for the coveted position of School Prefect in a school election. Elected by the student body, the School Prefect is responsible for supervising other students, and acting as a positive role model for their peers. When the polls closed on election day, Dzidzornu was the clear winner. She was elated.
“I LEARNED SO MANY THINGS AT THE CAMP. I LEARNED HOW TO START A CONVERSATION, HOW TO STAY CONFIDENT, AND HOW TO BE PART OF A TEAM.” – DZIDZORNU, 17
“It was not an easy race,” says Dzidzornu. “I didn’t think that I was going to win. When I look back, I realize things have changed for the better. Now I can talk in the class, talk to friends, talk to teachers. I can stand in front of the whole school and talk to them, motivate them, teach them. Knowing that my classmates and the children in my school would vote for me as their Girls’ Prefect is an indication of the changes that they’ve seen in me. This would not have been possible before, but it is today.”
SUPPORTING HER PEERS
Dzidzornu continues to participate in the Junior Leader club as a student champion. She’s become one of the best-performing students in the school, and she uses her free time to encourage and support her classmates in and out of the classroom. She hopes to continue her studies so that she can become a nurse and help keep people in her community healthy.
Gifty, one of Dzidzornu’s teachers, describes the transformation she’s witnessed, “Right To Play has done so much for Dzidzornu. It has boosted her self-esteem and now she’s very active. The shyness, everything, has gone away. Even when the teachers are having meetings, this child can control the whole school, especially the upper primary since she’s in class six. She’s very, very good.”
The Junior Leader club that Dzidzornu and her friends attend is part of the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation (GREAT) program. Active in Ghana, Mozambique and Rwanda since 2018, the GREAT program uses Right To Play's play-based learning approach to remove barriers to education, especially for girls, and to build teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes.