They told him he was wasting his youthful time, energy, and money on a project that would not take him anywhere. They told him he had better find a profession that would help him settle down and probably help him to marry and have his own family. But for Francise, his life is a sacrifice for others. For him, all such ‘achievements’ are meaningless if the next generation go through the struggles he endured in his education. That is why in his own small way he has set up a foundation to groom talented kids in his community. He talks with B&FT’s Inspiring Startups about his journey.
Francise Nunoo was born and bred in Tema New Town in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. He had his secondary education at the Fasco Senior High School, a private school in Tema, where he studied visual arts. Naturally gifted in art and design, he furthered his training at the GRATIS Foundation. There, he was trained in textile design; specifically, batik tie and die. From GRATIS Foundation, he moved to the Ghana National College of Arts (GHANATA) in Accra to study painting, textiles, and graphics.
The voluntary teacher
After completing his national service, he had virtually nothing doing at home. But he recalls his time in senior high when he struggled to get what he was being taught because the teaching was largely theory-based.
“In secondary school my teachers taught well, but I struggled because I didn’t really get the practical training. So, when I went to GHANATA I got the needed practical skills to make fine arts and designs. It got me thinking that if I had got such kind of training earlier in life, I would have done better works than I used to do and probably would not be where I am today. So, I said to myself that if I have seen the value of practical training now, then I have to help the younger generation coming after me so they don’t go through the same situation I went through.”
And that began his teaching journey. He didn’t apply to schools and wait for their call. Straight away, he went to a nearby Senior High School and asked the headmaster if he could support the visual arts department. Since the school already had a visual arts teacher, he was told he could not be employed. But because his interest was to help the students, he decided to teach them voluntarily without pay; hence the name Sir Nunoo.
The Mastermind Arts and Technology Foundation shows up
His teaching skills and his approach to learning endeared the students to him. So, some of them, even after completing school, still went to him for more training. This gave him the idea to start a foundation that he could use to help more kids in the community instead.
With the foundation, he extended his tentacles to other disciplines. He spoke with others who share his vision to train people in disciplines he has limited knowledge in. Aside from design, he teaches bead-making, performing arts, painting, electronics, among others.
How the foundation is financed
Basically, the foundation is financed from the personal savings from his work as a teacher. Then, if he is fortunate and make some sales from the work, he ploughs that back into the foundation. Again, there is one man—a missionary from the US called David Bonney— who has, on several occasions, been touched by the help the foundation is offering the community and made some donations to support it.
How it has impacted lives
“One young man from a broken home called John Agyekum Kufour – named after Ghana’s former President – who is very good in arts, has really benefitted from this foundation. His father sometimes finds it difficult to pay his school fees, so we help him to sell some of the works we do here and use the proceeds to pay his fees for him.”
That is just one example of the many who have benefitted from his foundation, as Sir Nunoo says many kids have been helped by it to further their education.
So far over 30 students have passed through the foundation, just three years after its establishment. Aside from those who have directly passed through the foundation, he sometimes goes to other private schools and organises workshops for the art students.
The Mastermind Arts and Technology Foundation wants to be the nursery of the next generation of art talent in the country. He wants to begin from kids in primary school so they do not have to go through the bad experiences he had in his education.
For someone who currently works as a preparatory school teacher and has to finance this foundation mainly from his own pocket, it is obvious that cash constraints will be his biggest challenge. If he makes no sales of the works or doesn’t receive any unexpected help from somewhere, it becomes very difficult for him to run this social enterprise. So, he is appealing to corporate organisations and other donors to come to his aid.
He is still using his hall as a classroom and a gallery due to lack of finance to rent a place for those purposes. He is looking for benevolent individuals or organisations that share his vision to assist him in getting a suitable location for his foundation.
Another challenge he sometimes faces is discouragement, even from well-meaning friends. “I remember a friend of mine one day told me to rather focus on my life and stop wasting my little money and time on such a project. She reasoned that I am a young man and need to settle, but the project I have taken upon myself will not allow me to have the means to settle. So, I should rather find a better job to do and stop wasting time on what I am doing.”
But comments like these only tend to strengthen Sir Nunoo, as he is never perturbed by them.
How education has helped
For Sir Nunoo, his training at GHANATA has really shaped his life. In fact, it was through that he sensed there was something wrong with the country’s educational system – hence establishment of the foundation to help talented students with practical training.
“The best advice I can give to my brothers and sisters out there is that whatever they went through in life which became a hindrance or stumbling block to them, they should try and take it out of the way for the next generation so they do not go through the same situation.
“And again, if we want to help people we should not focus on what we will gain or lose from helping others. There are people who initially showed interest in my project but later left, because they felt we should enrich ourselves from the foundation…which view I don’t share.”
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