New police centre name connects Ghana to Norfolk
- Credit: Contributed
The naming of a classroom in a new Norfolk Police training complex has cemented the relationship between a Norfolk village and northern Ghana.
The Wulugu Room has been incorporated into the new police centre which was formerly Hethersett Old Hall School as a reminder of the bond that exists between Hethersett and Ghana.
For former teacher Lynne Symonds, seeing the school she served for many years shut was a bitter pill which has been slightly sweetened by the new connection which will see the Wulugu name live on.
She founded the Wulugu Project in 1993 with the aim of helping Ghanaian children out of possible slavery through introducing education, building schools, and bringing clean water and toilets to the area.
“I was very interested in international science, enabling lesser developed countries to develop,” she said.
Mrs Symonds represented England at an international conference and met a contingent from Ghana, one of whom, asked a very poignant question.
“He was sad because another girl in his school had died the previous week and he asked me how I felt when girls at my school died. That meeting was a moment of realisation for me," she said.
“I went back and told the girls at Old Hall School that it would be a great match and I think it changed the lives of many, both in Hethersett and Ghana.”
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The Wulugu Project was named after the first village helped by the project and has gone from strength to strength, founding over 100 schools and hostels for girls, providing clean water through bore holes, toilets and more.
The original school at Wulugu now has 2,000 children.
As a result of all her efforts, Mrs Symonds was made a chief of the Mamprusi Tribe.
She said: “When I was told I was being made a chief my immediate thought was that it was ridiculous.”
Now she is expected to act chief-like whilst on official duties in Ghana.
“I am expected to behave regally when I am there. I am given a spearman to protect me. Tribal chiefs are very important people who do care for their people,” she said.
To become a chief, she had to go through an “enskinment” ceremony where she sat on animal skins.
“It was a huge and incredible honour to become a chief. I am a girl from Sunderland and this was quite something for me.”
She has already been told that the title is uniquely hers and will never be conferred on another white woman.
The project is desperate for more funds to allow it to continue its work. It costs £32,000 to build a junior high school for 14 to 17-year-olds and £54,000 to build a primary school.
Sinking a bore hole can cost £3,500 and some of these have been financed by Rotary Clubs in Sunderland and in particular Wymondham with the Norfolk club being particularly supportive.
Mrs Symonds said: “Originally lots of girls had no formal education and were sent into slavery. Now our project has awards for tackling slavery, racism and much more.
"Girls are now learning literacy, numeracy, office skills, hairdressing, printing, marketing and much more."
The project works closely with local authorities in Ghana who pay the wages of teachers and identify what needs to be done.
Mrs Symonds says people in Ghana were “devastated” when they heard that Hethersett Old Hall School had closed but loved the fact a room in the new police training centre is named after them.
"In many ways it feels like a role reversal as schools in Northern Ghana build themselves up whilst Old Hall has closed.
“I have enjoyed everything I have done for the project, although it has been a lot of hard work. I have to remember that we are dealing with people’s lives. Given more money we would be able to do so much more,” she said.
More information on the Wulugu Project is available at: https://www.wulugu.co.uk. Lynne Symonds can be contacted on 01603 810748 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.