This Innovative Teacher's Style has Gone Viral

Betenase M/A JHS students receive their first computer donated by Amirah Alharthi
Betenase M/A JHS students receive their first computer donated by Amirah Alharthi | © Richard Appiah Akoto
Kwame Aidoo

Thirty-three-year-old Richard Appiah Akoto is doing his best with the resources at his disposal, and he’s inspiring people in the process. Akoto, who goes by the nickname Owura Kwadwo Hottish on social media, has been the information and communication technology (ICT) teacher at Betenase M/A Junior High School in Sekyedomase in the Ashanti Region for the past six years. Lacking actual computers, Akoto draws computers, computer features, and other related images using just a chalkboard and blue, red, and yellow chalk. This way, he can present his students with a visual representation of the Microsoft Word interface.

When asked what inspires him as a teacher, Akoto said, “Making sure [my students] understand [the curriculum] and [that they] never lose hope [because] they don’t have computers.” This is no easy task, but Akoto rises to the challenge. ICT is a compulsory subject for students from primary stage onwards, and though Betenase M/A hasn’t had computers since 2011, the young students still must pass the national exam to move on to senior high school. They sit for the same exams as their mates in better-equipped public and private schools.

Richard Appiah Akoto draws the Microsoft Word program on a blackboard to teach his students who do not have access to computers

Official Ghana school syllabi are rarely modified and require teachers, such as Akoto, to educate students on the computer system, unit, and monitor. Students must also know how to set up hardware and boot a computer and take written exams that test their memorization skills. In the case of Betenase, few students receive top scores. Only one in Akoto’s school received an A in ICT in the previous term.

Betenase M/A JHS students receive their first computer donated by Amirah Alharthi

Research conducted in 2014 by Results for Development Institute, with the Ghana Center for Democratic Dialogue, revealed that though private schools cost about 54% more per student than public schools, private high school education is still considered more desirable.

With Akoto’s new-found fame, things are starting to look up for the teacher and his school. He was invited to be a guest of Microsoft at their convention in Singapore. Among the attendees were 400 educators and school leaders from 91 countries. Any proceeds benefit the Microsoft Certified Educator Program for professional development. Additionally, Amira Alharthi, a postgraduate researcher in the School of Mathematics at University of Leeds, who read about Akoto, decided to donate a laptop to the school. Akoto assures that others have also promised to donate computers, as well, including five desktop computers for the school and a personal computer for Akoto from NIIT Ghana, an IT training school.

As staff and students of Betenase M/A JHS receive their first few computers, it’s important to remember the people who brought attention to these issues, including the response from Cameroonian Tech entrepreneur Rebecca Enonchong (@africatechie). She and others on her timeline have followed up with replies, comments, and suggestions directed at international ICT gurus, tech enthusiasts, and individuals on and outside the continent, Microsoft Africa included.

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