About Me

A culmination of my travelling experiences....

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


I thought it might be nice to round off my blog with a few thoughts that I brought home with me, so here goes:

  1. Malaria is never funny- one should not joke about it...
  2. Private schools for the poor-
    • Are widespread in Ghana, meaning that they are local and easily accessible to those living near to them
    • Are better than the government schools in terms of resources, tuition time, the ways in which they strive to improve and innovate, and the headteachers are never asleep
    • Are no worse than government schools in terms of the quality of the buildings/infastructure
    • Charging 1cedi a day is a great idea- it is a manageable amount to most families, and does not require them to save up any large amounts of money, for example for books, stipends or uniforms (which are included in the daily charge)
  3. Eating chicken and rice almost every day gets boring, and makes you not want to eat it again for a very ling time.
  4. Child Labour is not always bad-
    • LOTS of children at private and government schools work as well as going to school
    • They mainly sell, and a lot of them do so with their parents, but some work independently
    • They do it in good heart- to get money for their parents or to help their parents, for no other reason. I think that in most cases it is lucky that their parents allow them to go to school during the day and only work afterwards, this is a good comprimise, and the income their work provides probably allows them to go to school.
    • Every child I interviewed also did lots of jobs within their home to help their parents, and usually got money for doing this- I suspect this is the money they used for school
    • Every child also placed a much greater value on their education than on working, and would prefer not to work, and to devote more time to schooling, but they don't have the luxury of this option.
    • Almost every child wanted to stay in school until University- they place a great value on education and see it as a route out of poverty- this is not a secret, it is a widespread belief.
  5. Anything can be taught with the assistance of a good textbook and a useful prefect...
  6. Career Aspirations-
    • The main jobs which students aspire to include- Nurse, Doctor, Lawyer, Journalist and Footballer
    • These positions are affluent and indicate the students desire to be well educated and to do well in life
    • The teachers indicated that they and their peers also aspired to similar positions when they were at school, and many of them in discussion indicated that they still wished to pursue their education further and seek even more affluent forms of employment.
  7. Ghana is lovely, beautiful and very friendly.
  8. Tro-tro's are a great way to travel- particularly if you get the front seat.
  9. Education is highly valued among all of the Ghanaians I met, potentially more so than it is in the UK- expecially by the students. I think that students in England don't know how lucky they are to have a great government education system, and potentially take it for granted- if education wasn't as easy to obtain maybe they would appreciate it more, and take advantage of the opportunities they have got. I think we have lost sight of the value of education in the UK.
  10. Nothing will break my love for Africa, and I will hopefully be going back sometime soon.
I had an amazing experience and I hope that you have enjoyed reading my blog!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

An Abrupt Ending

Unfortunately overnight on the Friday night my "malarial" syptoms escalated, and I had to go to the doctors on Saturday morning.  Marc Bea (the hotel owner) kindly took us to his local doctor- the 'Tuba Community Clinic', which was a slightly scary experience, although at the time I wasn't all that with it.  The clinic was a basic concrete building with a waiting room at the entrance, in which there were benches, a bed, and a desk.  I was summonsed over to sit by the desk, and had my temperature and blood pressure taken, before I was sent in to see the doctor.  I was given an immense stack of medicine- some for every ailment, and some for Malaria.  The doctor said that he suspected that it was Malaria coming and that I should take the medicine and I would get better, cholera and food poinsoning were among the other suggested possibilities.  Back at the hotel I didn't get much better, and couldn't hold any medicine down, so the lovely nurse, Evelyn, came and hooked me up to a drip, which made me feel much better.  In the meantime, news spead, and Ken came to check up on me.  In the end I decided it was safest to try to get home, in case it actually was Malaria, and my brother changed my flights to Sunday. 

Sunday morning came, and after a lot of sleep I was feeling a little better, Evelyn came back and rinsed me of 86cedis for my drip (probably the best £35 I have ever spent), and I got my stuff together.  Being charged this for the drip really made me reflect on the cost of medical care (maybe I was paying obruni prices) as the drip was cost more than a whole monts wages for an Omega teacher (70cedis a month), meaning that if the locals get ill it must be hard for them to get the treatment that they need.  Ken and the Donkoh family collected me and drove me to the airport, and I was VERY sad to leave.  I had such a great experience and even though I only left a couple of days early it was heartbreaking to leave, but I knew I had to get myself healthy again.  The airport was typically Ghanaian with its crazy systems, but I made it through and onto the very quiet plane, getting myself a whole row of seats and enjoying a nice sleep before arriving in Brussels. 

Since returning I have had multiple blood tests and have gradually recovered, I am still awaiting the results of the test which will confirm or deny Malaria, but whatever it was it wasn't nice.  To my parents disappointment however it has not put me off, and I am hoping to get some more travelling in as soon as this masters is done!  The biggest disappointment is that I can no longer really get away with using my "I think I've got Malaria" catchphrase- gutted.

I think I've got Malaria

Today I woke up with a bad cold- the perfect excuse to use my favourite African joke- "I think I've got Malaria", a phrase I like to repeat at any menial syptom.  Regardless, me and Tutu set off back to Galilea for one last visit, and conducted interviews for our dissertations with the P6 class.  Generally the schools have varied in their approach to our research, some have insisted that children can't miss classes, and so we have had to utilise break and lunch times, where as others, as in Galilea, have just allowed us free access to whichever students we choose.  The results for Galilea provided an interesting comparison in my study, and a difference that I would have expected, as not many of the students worked.  The school is a long way from a market, and the area in which it is located is quite rural, meaning that there are far fewer employment opportunities for the students within close proximity to their homes.  The school manager however did say that some of the older students fish on the lake (which is right next to the school) at weekends, which is interesting to note, however I expect that this was mainly JH, as none of P6 said that they did this.

After the interviews we left the school, as we needed to go to Kasoa later, and took a trip to Shoprite for cash and lunch provisions, and then back to the hotel for a break.  We went down to Kasoa school mid afternoon in order to get there before the students left, for some ICT.  The computers were on, but slow, and most of the students that got logged on had not received emails back from their 'pen-pals' in Newcastle, so there wasn't all that much we could do, and to finish the troubles off, lights went off so we went home!

Lights off

Today we returned to 94 as we expected that there might be more painting to do.  Me and Tutu began the day by teaching Science to P5.  The topic of the day was Energy sources, not something I could remember much about from school (Science never was my strong point), but with the aid of the textbook we managed to get them discussing and hopefully understanding what the different sources of energy are.  We moved on to conserving energy however, which seemed highly inappropriate in the context.  In the UK it is easy to explain to students why and how they should save energy, switching things off, using public transport and such like are appropriate and relevant options.  However, in a poor area of Ghana, where they have a minimal number of electrical appliances, and all transport is generally shared, it seemed less important.  The lesson ran on longer as once again the next teacher didn't show- I am really not sure whether this is because we are there or whether they wouldn't have shown anyways.  The teacher in question spent most of the rest of the day in the staff room though, so I am thinking that he probably just regularly misses classes. 
We spent the next few hours applying a second coat of paint to the computer lab, which left it looking very nice.  Sunday pounced on the empty(ish) paint bucket as soon as we had finished (bad luck crazy cook lady), claiming she would use the end of the paint to decorate her room! I have never known so much competition for a bucket! Once the job was done, and we had scraped a lot of the spilt paint off the floor, we headed to Kasoa school for some ICT time, but "lights off" (the local phrase for no power) meant that our trip was pointless, and so we headed back to the hotel. 

Being in a little earlier than expected left us with extra time to head to the Chinese restaurant for dinner, it was a short tro ride away, and very disorganised (as with most Ghanaian restaurants), but the food was nice, and made a change from fried chicken and jollof or fried rice!

Miss Sophia's Special Day

Today was Sophie's birthday and we all went to 94 school to help her celebrate.  Sunday, the tuck-shop lady at 94 had kindly offered to provide biscuits and 'minerals' (i.e. coke, sprite etc.) for her celebrations (at a nice profit to her!!).  Whilst watching the students do their usual early morning singing and marching we chatted to Sunday, who was angry with me and Miss Tutu for not going to 94 for the last few days.  We then attempted to get African and carry a tray with a water bag on, on our heads- I don't think we did too badly as no one dropped it! Then we began the school day by assisting with Sophie's jolly phonics lesson, which began with a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday from the students.  The KG2 class (who Sophie has been teaching) teacher, Miss Rebecca, seems rather harsh at first, and is very strict with the children (some of her best phrases include "What is wrong with you?", "Keep Quiet", and "Respond"), but she is clearly much nicer than she appears as she was very pleased with herself for getting the children to sing, and even bought Sophie some apple juice! The students were a bit mental today, but that's usually quite fun, and they were really enjoying the new sounds and actions, so that's all that matters really!
After phonics we went into a Fantse lesson to attempt to pick up some more of the local lingo, this meant learning a number of crazy letter combinations that actually make a completely different sound, I think I have forgetten them all by now! After this it was lunch time, rice and fish in its usual epic portions which I obviously can't finish! And then it was finally time for Sophie's party, and most of the teachers came up to the staff room/future computer lab to wish her well.  There were hymns and prayers and another round of Happy Birthday before the biscuits and minerals were distributed.

After all of this the day was still not done, as it was time for us to begin painting, we had intended to do some pictures and slogans around the playground in lots of bright colours, but Ken seemed to have other ideas, as he provided us with some emulsion and directed us to the computer lab, which is soon to receive it's computers! Apparently though, in Ghana paint has to be diluted with water, and so one of the teachers had to sort us out before we could get going properly.  As the students and eventually the teachers all went home, we were left to finish the job, with the help of the "crazy cook lady" who was eyeing up our paint bucket.  Just as we were nearing the end (minus the part near the ceiling that we couldnt reach) the lady who cooks for the school, and apparently lives there during the week, came in and did the top section for us!

We ended the birthday celebrations with a pizza at JD's (not so) Fast Food and a trip to the hotel bar to visit Michael (the barman), who provided us with some hefty shots of Cardinal (the local strawberry liquor)- essentially half a tumbler- not bad stuff!

Friday, 1 April 2011


Today we returned to Galilea, and spent most of our time there with P4.  We began by observing their French lesson, but took over when the teacher was called away, and then continued to teach English, Maths and Citizenship as no teachers came to take over.  We wondered if the other teachers were not coming because we were there.  The class did well though, and luckily we had a helpful prefect, Kamal, and some textbooks to help us through, particularly citizenship, which we did not know much about.  Three students including the prefect answered all of the questions though, with minimal participation from others and none from some, indicating a broad range of abilities within the class.  We managed to squeeze some singing into the English lesson as well, which the students loved, brightening up the morning!  On our way back to the hotel my flip-flop broke and I was left hobbling on the hot sand- good job I brought many pairs with me!

In the afternoon we headed to the bank, bumping into Ken, David and John whilst we were there, and managed to bag a lift from their to Kasoa school where we were intending to continue Tutu's ICT mini-project.  However most of the children had taken the school bus home so we were unable to make any headway and had to leave it for another day.

The evening was spent watching Ghana vs England at the hotel bar, and obviously supporting Ghana.  We met someone at the match who had previously lived in Newcastle- small world, but apart from that it was uneventful until the Ghanaian goal at 91 minutes, which sparked an immense reaction, making the whole game worthwhile.  It seemed that the Ghanaians were pleased to have equalised, and to have scored, despite not winning outright.

Galilea, Galilea

Monday meant a new school for Tutu and I, and we had opted to visit Galilea, the only Omega in the area that we had not yet made it to.  Ken and Nevis collected us from the hotel, Nevis, as usual hid from the scary obruni girls, and then fell asleep, despite the bumpy road.  First impressions of the school were that it was well-organised and orderly, it was nicely painted, and well laid out.  The school manager, Mary showed us round and introduced us to all of the classes, although when we entered nursery Nevis began to cry (I think he is sick of the scary obruni's following him around).  We watched an ICT lesson to get us into the swing of things, and it was very like Sugata Mitra's Hole in the Wall, as the children worked in small groups teaching each other and learning how to do things through discovery as opposed to direct instruction.

After this we went into some of the younger classes, whose teachers had been at the phonics training, and had began to teach it.  We did some short phonics lessons with KG2 and N2, KG2 began to get some words and were quite good at the sounds.  We even did some activities with human words, and naughts and crosses which went down well.  N2 however had been taught alphabetically as opposed to the specific phonics order, and struggled to grasp the sounds and actions, perhaps they are a little young.  We attempted to add 's' to their repertoire however and then moved on.

Following this we taught English to P5 as half of the class was in ICT and the other half had been left to fend for themselves.  Part way through we were joined by the rest of the class and we managed to work through some of the activities in their English books quite successfully. The class were keen for us to stay on but we left them to their maths test, which looked rather difficult, mainly due to the different terms used in Ghana.  Looking at the test paper I thought that they were working at quite a high level, and this illustrates the high standards demanded by the schools.

Earlier in the day we had mentioned that we liked Jollof rice to the school manager and were served this, with Goat meat and a boiled egg, after a rather lengthy wait, taking us up the end of the school day.  I am enjoying the boiled egg and rice combination however and feel that I may bring this back to the UK.  Whilst eating however we were disturbed by scenes of the P2 teacher opposite rather brutally caning most of her class (I am doubting they had done anything bad enough to deserve that), and I wondered what the policy was on this in the Omega schools.

The same teacher was later asked to escort us to a taxi, and this was fortunate as we would not have found our way back out alone!