A relatively new city located about 16 miles east of the Ghanaian capital Accra, Tema was largely constructed on the site of a small fishing village during the 1950s. Oil is its main trade, and the city grew quickly after the construction of a refinery in 1961.
Today, Tema is a teeming city of around 300,000. It is Ghana's key port, earning it the epithet “Harbour Town.” As well as its all-important oil refinery, it is also home to various other industies, from aluminium and steel to its more traditional fishing trade.
A exemplary city with a dark side
Along with many big urban centres, Tema is a city of two halves. The original city – Tema Township – is a model of urban planning, with smooth-running infrastructure from street lighting to roads, attractive landscaping, and various other impressive features.
Its relative affluence made it a major draw for migrants searching for a better life for their families. The Tema Newtown area was quickly swamped by newcomers, and it soon earned a reputation as the "poor cousin" of Tema Township.
People here lead precarious lives. With few of the services or infrastructure of the Township, residents have severely limited access to essential services from sanitation, waste collection and adequate housing, to education and healthcare.
A working childhood
Life is particularly tough for children. Poverty means that many can be found begging on the streets – their contribution to the family income - while others engage in dangerous child labour such as fishing. Most lack access to schools, while many are unable to attend anyway due to financial pressures at home and their role in the family economy.
What are we doing to help?
Our Children's Village in Tema was our first in the country, and opened in 1974. We provide a loving home with an SOS mother to children from Tema who can no longer live with their families. Children from the Village attend our SOS Nursery alongside children from the local community, before going on to our SOS School where they receive primary and secondary education.
An international education
Our International College in Tema offers a fantastic education to gifted students from all backgrounds from across the continent. Here, we aim to prepare promising learners for the best universities around the world.
Recently, Mekidem from Hawassa in Ethiopia went on to study at Harvard University after completing his education at the International College.
What do students think of Tema?
Boosting life chances
Delivered from our SOS Social Centre, our wide-ranging community work bolsters the life chances of children from difficult backgrounds. Today, we provide healthcare to children from the community who would not receive any without our support. Every year, we deliver basic treatment to 1,500 people from our medical centre.
We also help parents develop their skills and improve their chances of finding work through skills training, and provide all the basic tools - including a financial kick start - to those with business ideas.
Another key area of work in Tema is our focus on families affected by HIV/AIDS. We work to help these families cope with illness, providing food and medicine, as well as school scholarships to children. Our prevention campaigns help reduce transmission by educating people about the causes of HIV/AIDS and preventative steps which can be taken against infection.
SOS Children has been providing support to families in this divided city for forty years. With our help, children get opportunities they would otherwise go without.