From teacher to queen

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Catharine Owen was treated like royalty after she raised money for a Ghanaian school. Stephen Lucas reports

A supply teacher from Eccles has been made an African queen, after raising pound;8,000 towards a new school in eastern Ghana.

Catharine Owen was crowned Mama Ganu the First after raising the money for a 180-place secondary school in Ganukope.

The 57-year-old who teaches at schools in Wigan, Manchester and Bolton, had no idea of the plan to make her queen.

She said: "I just went out there to take photographs and check on the progress of the school. The ceremony was a surprise. When they were dressing me they told me to remove my bra, I was afraid it was going to be one of those African ceremonies where they all go topless but they tied a cloth round me. I was very relieved."

Miss Owen wore a toga, bracelets, necklaces, armlets and anklets for the ceremony in late April. She said: "I tried my best to do their native dance. It involved lifting my elbows high and throwing my shoulders back.

There was a lot of good-natured encouragement, clapping and laughing."

As queen, Miss Owen is an adviser to the paramount chief of the village. "I had to promise that if the principal chief calls on me for help I would be ready.

"That can be at any time of day or night, so I am waiting for the phone call. My role is to seek out the views of the women in the village and tell the chief."

Miss Owen raised the money by doing a nine-day solo scooter ride from Land's End to John o'Groats. She also sang twice for 10 hours, and walked Hadrian's Wall.

Miss Owen said: "Education in Ghana is free from six to 12, but after that you have to pay. There is no secondary school in Klikor and the children have to travel miles on unsafe roads."

She decided to raise the money after she met Peter Agbezudor at Patricroft Methodist church, Eccles. His family owned the land but wanted to give it to the community so that the school could be built. The project is due to be finished in early 2006, however Mr Agbezudor is still a long way off from the pound;1 million needed.

Miss Owen joked: "Being queen of the village has definitely gone to my head, my friends are curtsying to me."

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