ZEN Petroleum over the last 10 years, has had to be very brave, and unrelenting in its quest to prove that a relatively new, indigenous Ghanaian company can compete against worldwide majors in Ghana’s petroleum industry. While it is no easy task competing with companies with over 100 years of global trade, and over 50 years of cementing their feet in the Ghanaian market, ZEN has had one goal in this time; to demonstrate not only that it can compete, but also match and exceed market standards.
A major element of that goal has been to uphold a sense of responsibility to the communities in which the company operates. For ZEN, it is not enough to demonstrate commercial viability, at the highest levels of industry; it is equally crucial to bring communities along on that journey. In light of this, ZEN takes very seriously its responsibility to conduct operations in a manner that is safe for its people, the environment and the community. Further, corporate responsibility, with a particular focus on education, is embedded in its business strategy, as a core tenet of sustainable business practice, and because it is the right thing to do.
This is imperative because, the future of Ghanaian companies like ZEN, and the sustained development of the nation at large, is directly linked with access to quality education for Ghanaian children everywhere. Regardless of their background and economic status, ZEN holds true that every child should be able to realise their full potential and have equal opportunities in taking their place as future leaders across the corporate ecosystem, public service, national governance, and as sustainable human resource for the global community.
Collectively, the country still has a long way to go towards achieving these goals. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), while 91% of Ghanaian children enroll in primary school, approximately 48% do not progress to senior high school, and only 16% enroll in the university. So, while ZEN does not operate in an arena that allows for a very direct role in creating change, there is a reliance on critical partnerships with experts within the communities to ensure that this vision of a bright and equal future is achieved.
Leading educational change for Ghana
With support to the tune of $170,000.00 since September 2018, ZEN has contributed to the work of Lead For Ghana (LFG), a local not-for-profit organisation working assiduously to eliminate educational inequity in Ghana. Through its two-year teaching Fellowship, LFG raises leaders to affect systemic changes that make excellent education accessible to all children irrespective of their economic background.
In 2018, ZEN’s support facilitated professional development sessions for 26 Fellows in the Volta Region and for 35 Fellows in the Northern Region. During professional development sessions, expert facilitators are taken to the various Regions regularly, to organise leadership training sessions that equip the Fellows with extra support required to tackle a myriad of challenges that hinder teaching, academic success and mindset development. These sessions also equip Fellows with essential soft skills including communication, negotiation, stakeholder engagement and project management. During the second year of their two-year service period, Fellows work with partner communities to identify and solve the most pressing community wide challenges through a capstone project requirement. Fellows have tackled mainly infrastructural and human development projects including livelihood projects, the construction of school blocks and community centres and community health and hygiene projects. Alumni of the LFG program leverage these learning experiences as they continue to work in varied public and private sector positions to eliminate educational inequity in Ghana.
With continued support through 2019 and since, LFG has successfully organised its recruitment events at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Cape Coast, University for Development Studies, the University of Ghana and Ashesi University. These recruitment events offer an opportunity to meet, educate and market LFG’s vision to hundreds of university students. As a result, 33 brilliant graduates were recruited into its 2019 leadership development program; serving students across 3 districts and 12 schools in the Northern Region. For the 2020 recruitment season, LFG successfully recruited and placed 104 young and diverse individuals in 4 additional regions, expanding their operations to a total of 6 regions in Ghana. LFG continues to support Fellows in underserved communities to positively alter the learning trajectory of Ghana’s children. An innovative community engagement project has also been rolled out to increase enrolment in their schools, and to sustain students’ learning during the dire days of the pandemic.
According to data gathered between 2015 (before LFG Fellows were placed in partner schools) through to 2019, the pass rate in the BECE recorded for the partner schools in the Northern and Volta Regions has risen from 38% to 92% in the subject areas Fellows taught; Mathematics, Science, ICT and English – an incredible achievement.
ZEN to Community (Z2C)
As part of its Z2C social intervention programmes, ZEN has also recently completed the construction of a public library for the Perseus Mining Resettlement Village in Ayanfuri, located in the Upper Denkyira West District of the Central Region. This was done in fulfilment of a commitment made during the commissioning of the resettlement community. With an investment of $60,000, the objective of the library project is to give children in the community the opportunity to access resources for exploratory reading and for learning, to enable them excel at school and compete with their peers at the highest level.
Support has also been given to organisations like Chorkor-based NGO, Brothers and Sisters in Christ Serving (B.A.S.I.C.S International) and their B.A.S.I.C.S’ education program, which provides education access for children in the community. A recent donation of GH¢50,000 was aimed towards covering the fees of children returning to school amidst the ongoing pandemic, which has increased the ever widening education-access gap.
Additionally, in partnership with the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation (NADeF), ZEN has awarded the Excellence Scholarship, to motivate highly-driven and brilliant undergraduate Business students. Following a rigorous review of applications received from students across Newmont’s host communities, the awarded scholarship covers academic fees, accommodation, stipends and an allowance for books.
The ZEN Way
The customer is the reason ZEN exists, and it is with them in mind that the company has developed a holistic, compliant operations model to protect the environment, staff, assets and critically, the customers’ needs. Bearing in mind that, there are no customers without an empowered community, it is important to factor in measures aimed at positively impacting their socioeconomic wellbeing, alongside commercial considerations. As we uphold these values, we redefine typical notions around local ownership and accountability, setting the pace for future generations.