What started as a summer trip to study abroad in Ghana has turned into a life mission for one Macon native.
In the summer of 2014, Kokayi Bakari Postell traveled to Ghana, a country of approximately twenty-seven million people on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. The coastal country boasts sandy beaches, mountain waterfalls, the largest man-made lake in the world, and a tropical climate to enjoy year-round.
Kokayi lived in Ghana as a student in the cultural exchange program through the university he attended. The universities in Ghana are among the most popular educational institutions for exchange students, attracting university students from all over the continent of Africa and around the world.
The exchange program lasted for two semesters, basically a school year. The program began with students being immersed directly into Ghanaian culture and history. For Kokayi, this was perfect the experience because it made him feel at home.
Yet for Kokayi, two semesters were not enough time in Ghana. He felt compelled to stay longer, believing it was his mission to make an impact in Ghana. So that is just what he did.
On his GoFundMe page, Kokayi recalls when the children of Ghana first captivated his heart. “As I got off the plane and got into the international student bus, one of my first interactions was with a small boy wearing a yellow shirt and some flipflops. He said, ‘Bossu, I have some nice Ghana chocolate for you. Won’t you buy it.’?”
Kokayi goes on to recount how, as he made his way to the mall in town, he saw many more school-aged children selling everything from coconuts to clothing. It struck him that none of these children were in school in the middle of the day.
Moved by belief that the children he saw needed an education, Kokayi looked for an opportunity to make a difference. He went on to teach in Elmina, a town along the Atlantic coastline located in the central region of Ghana. There, he taught the subjects of Pan African History and Creative Arts. During this time, Kokayi was teaching as a volunteer without any pay.
While in Ghana, Kokayi became very active in the community. In addition to his involvement as a teacher, he also joined a cultural dance group, the Akomapa Cultural Dance Group. Akomapa means “Good Heart”, a meaning truly fitting for Kokayi, who worked hard to give of his time and talents while he was in Ghana.
Kokayi goes on to explain more about his activities in Ghana: “I got very deep into African cultural dance and I did a few productions at the Ghana National Theatre.” He even danced at weddings, funerals, and school celebrations while there.
Though he was born here in the United States, Kokayi says he was “sculpted in Ghana.” Ghana feels like home for him, and he is happy there, so much so that Kokayi is currently trying to return to Ghana continue to teach.
“Change starts with the youth,” Kokayi explains. He feels that as a teacher, he will be able to make his biggest impact on the lives of his young students.
Kokayi, who attended Macon’s Westside High School, recently received his bachelor’s degree in African Studies from Emory University, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Since receiving his degree, Kokayi has been offered a teaching position in Ghana.
He will be teaching the core subjects of math, science, history, and English at the British International School in East Legon, Ghana.
Without hesitation, he gladly accepted the position, but unfortunately, he is solely responsible for all costs associated with his transition to Ghana. Kokayi will be responsible for covering his own travel costs, housing, visa, permits, and other fees. He is currently trying to raise funds before his departure.
In addition to completing his education at Emory, Kokayi has spent his time back home selling African goods and attire to support his efforts to return to Ghana. He has appeared at festivals, including Macon’s 25th Annual Juneteenth Festival, which was held in June, 2017, at Tattnall Square Park.
His scheduled departure date is this month, December, a time he is highly anticipating. Kokayi is concerned due to his need to raise more funds for his travels. He has since started a GoFundMe account to help him meet his remaining needs, with a goal of $3,000 dollars total. He is very close to reaching his goal, with about $1,700 still needed.
The meaning of Kokayi is “he who summons the people,” a name young Kokayi certainly lives up to. In his GoFundMe video, he explains that he is not returning to Ghana for adventure or self-discovery but to teach, mentor, and support the children of Ghana.
“Now that I’m this age I see how that name ties into everything I’ve been doing in life, communicating with the people, learning through the people, this whole journey of teaching is to educate the youth and speak to the people who are the future for us,” Kokayi says.
Kokayi wants to start his career as a teacher and mentor in Ghana, but that is not his ultimate goal. Over time, he hopes to expand his mission of promoting positivity to the masses by creating positive music and eventually starting an exchange program for young students in America to be able to experience life in Ghana and connect with the students there.
“There’s potential for worldly connections, an understanding between cultures–we really need to come together, just all people, and have a better understanding of each other,” Kokayi says.
While in Ghana, Kokayi can expect to make on average around 2000 cedis a month as his teacher’s salary, which is around $431 U.S. dollars per month. As an Emory University graduate, this is a huge difference in what he could expect in American pay, a sacrifice which shows his true love, commitment, and dedication to Ghana.
“This is from the heart,” Kokayi explains. “This is definitely what I know I want to do.”
“It just feels right: I’m excited, I feel passionate about what I am doing,” Kokayi continues. With the sacrifices that Kokayi is making, not just financial, but also traveling across a vast ocean away from his own family, he is proving his love for teaching, for children, and for Ghana.
To contribute to Kokayi Bakari Postell’s GoFundMe account, the link is www.gofundme.com/teach-for-africa.
Kokayi can be reached by phone at (478) 508-5760; once he reaches Africa he can be contacted by phone at +233 (0)26 848 9151. He can also be reached by email at Kokayi1991@gmail.com.