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Why I think we’ll all be worse off if we abandon overseas aid

VSO volunteer Tom Legge outside a classroom in Ghana ©VSO/Tom Legge

VSO education volunteer Tom Legge on his placement in Northern Ghana 

Tom Legge, 35, from London is a VSO volunteer currently on placement in the north of Ghana. He thinks the current attacks against UK Aid fail to look at the benefit it has to the UK, as well as to people in less well-off countries. 

"My wish is that these children, whose lives we hope to impact, will go on to make Ghana a richer and more prosperous country. That cannot happen without the continued work of projects like this, supported by UK Aid. Without it we will all be worse off."

Tom Legge, VSO volunteer in Ghana

How does an economy like Ghana’s grow? It has to increase productivity. But to do that, a country must develop its infrastructure, its education system and improve its economic and political management.

From where I'm standing, UKAid is supporting Ghana to meet these challenges sooner. It is benefiting the people of Ghana, and it will benefit us in the UK too. 

I do believe in the cold economic arguments - but they're not what gets me out of bed in the morning.

It is the lives changed, the opportunities created by development projects that are my source of inspiration. I came to Ghana to volunteer because I want to see a fairer world in which poverty is no longer the norm.  

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Seeing the need 

My project works with marginalised rural schools in the north of Ghana. Here, learning to read is the exception, not the norm.  

In fact, our research in one district before the project started couldn’t find a single primary school child who could read.

There are lots of reasons why educating children is very challenging in this part of Ghana. But through improved teacher training, better school supervision and strong leadership,  underperforming schools have a chance of transforming education.

VSO volunteer Tom working with teachers in Ghana ©VSO/Tom Legge

VSO volunteer Tom's digital expertise is highly valuable in Ghana, where he is supporting a project improving education through technology 

Our Teacher Empowerment and Support through Technology (TEST) project uses the latest technology to increase the skills of teachers, heads and school supervisors. 

Schools are using projectors and tablets to make their lessons more visual, interactive and engaging for children. We also give educators access to short online courses to improve their skills in areas such as lesson planning, classroom management and pedagogy.  

Making progress

Our work is supported by funding from UK Aid and a Greek charitable trust – and we’re already seeing signs of improvement.

For example Mariama Yussif from St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Talensi said:  

“[The technology] helps you to teach well and in different ways, and the children learn very well.  

“We have seen this with phonics. They are now able to make the sounds. I took them through sounds and how to blend the letters to produce words, using the equipment. Now I’m tasking them with short sentences. They are improving.” 

Primary school pupils in Ghana | VSO ©VSO/Theresa Menka

In northern Ghana, only a quarter of pupils can read by the end of primary school. Project's like Tom's could touch thousands of children's lives

Redressing the balance 

"It is the lives changed, the opportunities created by development projects that are my source of inspiration. I came to Ghana to volunteer because I want to see a fairer world in which poverty is no longer the norm. "

On a personal level, seeing the project impact teachers and children alike is deeply moving.

I think of all the lost opportunities and difficulties children who do not learn to read will face in their lives.   

My wish is that these children, whose lives we hope to impact, will go on to make Ghana a richer and more prosperous country. That cannot happen without the continued work of projects like this, supported by UK Aid. Without it we will all be worse off.

Find out more about what volunteers like Tom are achieving 

See our current volunteer vacancies