Having a student that’s respectful, brilliant and excellent in all their academic engagements is a treasure every teacher yearns for; especially for their students.

Every student needs a teacher that believes in them and motivates them to be the best they can be.

It is undeniable that this is the formula for every successful relationship between student and teacher – for both to excel. It is also undeniable that this is what brings out the best version of a student – a fighter for themselves.

This is the start of a story about this kind of relationship between Olivia Agbenyeke, an A-student and her secondary school teacher from Keta Senior High School, Foga Nukunu.

Foga Nukunu, who was a teacher at Olivia’s senior high school, is one who believes in helping students who want to help themselves. He believes in the power of education and how far it can take a person.

“She was very brilliant,” he says.

However, even though Olivia got the grades she needed to progress; all A’s and one B2 in her final year exams, she couldn’t go onwards and this worried her teacher, Mr Foga. So he investigated.

“I stayed in touch with her and found out she was at home,” he said.

She had been at home for a year, working two jobs. One in her father’s drinking bar at Agbogbloshie in Accra and the other tutoring schoolchildren in Adabraka.

“Even though I didn’t have money for school fees, I wanted to do something about it. So I contacted Kofi Yeboah [previously of Daily Graphic] and got her story told,” Mr Foga said.

The story published in the Daily Graphic in April 2013 which was written by Kofi Yeboah

It was from a story written in the Daily Graphic in April 2013, by Kofi Yeboah, a newspaper reporter at the time, that made her story known to the public which got attention from a sympathetic company, Phoenix Life Insurance.

“I was very emotional even when writing the story, I could just not understand how somebody like her, has done everything she needs to do, was where she was,” he said.

“This is not a girl who lives in East Legon or Airport Residential Area. This is not a girl who went to Mfantsiman.”

“She was born and bred in Agbogbloshie and went to KETASCO,” he stressed.

“If she had done her part, why was she at home,” he wondered.

“I did only a little,” to push her story. “I was fortunate and lucky to have the opportunity to write her story. But I think any journalist could follow up on this kind of story.”

To him, “she made her story herself.”

With a scholarship sponsored by Phoenix Life Insurance, Olivia attended the University of Ghana. Six years later, she has graduated as a medical doctor.

Dr Olivia Agbenyeke with her family at her graduation ceremony at the University of Ghana, Legon campus in Accra

But Olivia didn’t know her teacher Foga Nukunu had sent her results and an email to Kofi Yeboah until much later in her life.

“I was so happy! I was so excited,” she says when Phoenix Life Insurance stepped in to sponsor her tertiary education.

They did not only pay her tuition fees and gave her the supporting materials for her education but also gave her money to maintain herself throughout school.

“My story is not the first story. I’ll not be the first and I’ll not be the last. People have done this and I can also do it,” she thought. “Much has been put into you and much is expected of you. So I was determined.”

Olivia has always been determined. Never stopping, always moving forward. Tune your ears to the tones of her voice and you’d be engaged by her upbeat spirit. Without a doubt, I believe she could do anything.

She tapped her motivation from two places. The fact that she simply wanted to be a doctor and the other, her family background.

No one from her family had set out to be a doctor and her father supported her ceaselessly.

She also says that while in secondary school, when alumni visit the school, she listened to their stories and that too was a source of motivation for her.

But after secondary school, things became hard. She would hear her friends tell her about their experiences at university but she couldn’t go. That one life experience she hadn’t got her own to tell and her father was very sad about the circumstance.

“I was sad when she couldn’t go to school.”

All of Olivia’s life, her father, David Agbenyeke, had talked to her and she listened. “She was obedient and a good child,” he says.

Olivia and her father, Mr Agbenyeke in front of his bar in the compound of the family home in Agbogbloshie. 

He had done everything he could for her till she got to university level. He simply couldn’t afford it and that broke his heart.

“I didn’t feel good at all. I kept on thinking as to where to find the money to be able to help her to go back to school until the opportunity came [Phoenix Life Insurance] and I was so happy when it came in,” he says.

“They helped me and when she graduated, there were tears of joy,” he recalls.

Smiling in the background, Olivia glances at her father. Their father-daughter relationship is dear and she admits she is a daddy’s girl.

Olivia, her father and Olivia’s sister live in a house inside the dingy walls of the Agbogbloshie slum in Accra and not many who live here, make it as far as university.

Olivia says that along the way, she has had friends who fall victim to life’s experiences. She says that she knows of some people who fell pregnant and others who just couldn’t make it due to other circumstances.

It’s not hard to believe. Look around the slum, take a walk in the slum and you will find all sorts of social vices. Think of anything, and you’ll find that Agbogbloshie has it. Traders, market women, swarms of people moving in and out, mountains of rubbish, and the infamous e-waste dumpsite.

It’s not a place you would wish anybody grow up in but it’s the reality for more children than just Olivia.

Now, Olivia sets out to create opportunities for people like her the same way generous people helped her.

She is also well on her way to achieving her ultimate goal of becoming a Paediatric neurosurgeon and will soon begin the next stage it takes to become a specialist in a branch of medicine.

She thanks God, she thanks her father, she thanks her secondary school teachers and she thanks Phoenix Life Insurance.