“Reflecting on my early days at the African Science Academy (ASA), navigating the intensive Cambridge Advanced Level curriculum in Mathematics, Physics and Further Mathematics was a formidable challenge. With no mentor or friend initially, the struggle was real. Yet, through peer tutoring sessions and candid discussions with teachers and colleagues, I not only conquered the demanding coursework but excelled in my A levels. The support I received was invaluable, prompting my return as a Progression Mentor. I understand the profound impact of peer mentoring,” said Gladys Ayebia Ashong, ASA alumna.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, mentoring is the practice of helping and advising a less experienced person over a period of time – especially as part of a formal programme in a company, university, etc. In this definition, one individual benefits from the experience and/or knowledge of the other toward the achievement of a goal.
Usually, when mentoring is spoken about, the picture of an older individual leading a younger one is painted. We must ask ourselves: How many youngsters have access to older mentors? Studies have shown that in every five children, only two (about 40%) have older mentors who actively participate in their lives. The remaining three (about 60%) only have role-models or no one to look up to. This is where peer mentoring comes in handy.
You may wonder “What is peer mentoring”? Peer mentoring is the process whereby two or more people in the same age group or experience level work together on helping each other grow. This relationship is less formal compared to the traditional mentoring relationship, and is structured for the benefit of both parties or everyone in the group.
There is a myriad of benefits that accompany peer mentoring. Below we will explore a few of them.
- It is an avenue for open communication: Due to the fear of being judged by others among other reasons, most people prefer to share their challenges and experiences with their peers who can relate better.
- It boosts confidence and self-esteem: Honest conversations with peers encourage solutions. In finding these solutions, peers explore their strengths and work on their weaknesses, boosting their self-image.
- Source of motivation: Knowing that others have gone through similar challenges and come out strong is comforting. It motivates peers to keep fighting.
On the part of peer mentors, peer mentorship encourages the individual to make more responsible choices in life. This comes from knowing that their lives are most definitely being followed by another individual (peer mentees). These peer mentors always seek to gain knowledge so they can be enabled to give answers to their mentees.
The African Science Academy introduced peer mentoring in a slightly different way, Progression mentorship – whereby alumnae come back to the school as mentors. As part of their mentorship programme, the alumnae assist students with their school work, college application, planning, timetable preparation and anything pertinent to their stay in the African Science Academy. Most importantly, the progression mentors share their experiences and past challenges with students to help them make well-informed decisions about their futures. Some students of the academy have shared their views on the topic.
“Mentoring from progression mentors helps me make decisions whenever I get confused and motivates me when I feel down,” said Emmaculate Adiba, Ghana.
Belize Umuwrerwa from Rwanda noted: “I was able to see the strength within me that I didn’t know of. I learnt to live with others peacefully, to behave well in front of them and to tolerate our diversity”.
“Through progression mentors, I have been able to improve my performance due to the help and motivation they give me. I appreciate their stay here as our mentors,” Veronica Akwojinga from Ghana said.
Another Ghanaian, Olivia Panford, commented: “Peer tutoring is more efficient for me, and has helped me bridge the gaps in my studies”.
“It’s the first-time having tutor-time on a timetable, but I’ve learnt a lot; from setting goals to evaluating them and eventually achieving them. Our tutors and peers also help us do self-evaluations and impart useful concepts to help us navigate ASA and life in general. Adapting to a new environment – much less in ASA – is difficult, but the progression mentors made it easier in all aspects,” says Nicole Mutesi from Rwanda.
The many benefits of peer mentoring cannot be over-emphasized. From effective avenues of communication to boosting intrinsic motivation, confidence and self-esteem, peer mentoring aids the smooth transition of students from one phase of their educational journeys into another. We therefore admonish Ghanaian institutions, especially high schools, to adopt various peer mentoring schemes that will suit the needs of their students.
The African Science Academy (ASA) is a girls-only Advanced Level school for math and science, founded by African Gifted Foundation. Established in 2016, ASA is a pre-tertiary boarding school for young women from across Africa with outstanding math and science potential. In just one academic year, our students complete globally respected Cambridge International A Levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics. We also provide our students with robotics and computer science programmes alongside their A-Levels to prepare them for careers in Engineering, Science, Computing and more. Means-tested scholarships and bursaries are available to all students.
Students attend from across Africa including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Eswatini and Rwanda. They are admitted after their senior secondary education in preparation to progressing to universities in Africa and around the world. Our students are highly motivated and academically talented. During their time at ASA, they are exposed to international approaches to learning and the opportunity to experience living away from home in a multinational community.
ASA has an honour code and a set of values which are instilled into students, and that training remains with them wherever they go even after graduating. Our core values are: Innovation, Ambition, Empowerment, Excellence, Diversity, Caring Community. ASA students undergo a holistic education by getting involved in extracurricular activities such as the Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Engineering, Media and Cool Creatives Club respectively which prepare them for finding solutions to real world problems.