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School Bells Ring

Teaching in Senchi Ferry

semi-overcast 87 °F
View Volunteer Trip to Ghana on BryanG's travel map.

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Peter, Conscious, Doh, Shalom and Esther after tutoring

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“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.”

- Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and famous Ghanaian

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Although our team worked on multiple projects while in Ghana, most of us were placed in one of three schools in Senchi Ferry - Catholic, Bea Akoto, and Methodist. The denominational names are based on their founding years ago by missionary groups - they are now all part of the public system. From first to seventh grade, we were scattered throughout the community based on need and our preferences. I ended up working at the Methodist School, teaching 6th grade with Mr. Daniel Ankamah.

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Mr. Ankamah and Bryan

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Mr. Ankamah is a seasoned educator with 35 years of experience teaching in Ghana. He grew up in the region east of Lake Volta, near the border with Togo, but had been teaching in Senchi Ferry for years. Actually, our local group leader, Benjamin, was in Mr. Ankamah's class back in the 6th grade!

I was welcomed into his classroom, and taught all subjects to his sixth graders for three weeks. Mr. Ankamah was present most of the time in the classroom, but on occasion left to attend to other business. My situation was common, in that I was not filling a void in the school's teaching needs, but rather invited in to assist regular teachers already in place. The Global Volunteers model is based firmly on the concept that volunteers work with local partners and participate in a cultural exchange. Thus, none of us was supposed to be working alone. That said, some of our teachers were present less than others.

After the kids got used to me, and I them, I did my best to teach Math, English Grammar, Science, PE, and yes, Ghanaian Citizenship. Each class had a very detailed syllabus, so after studying this and available text-books, I was good to go!

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Hagga poses in front of Senchi Ferry Methodist School

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This is the classroom - tin roof, open to the outside on the sides, chalk board

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Classroom lighting provided by openings in the cinderblock walls

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Each student in Ghanaian public schools is required to wear a uniform, but school fees have been abolished in recent years. Thus any student with enough money for a uniform (about $4) can attend school. That said, there seemed to be lots of a la carte expenses the students had to pay. For example, at the end of the term, in order to take the exams that would secure or deny their promotion to the 7th grade, each student had to pay 20 peswas for the copying of their exam (20 cents).

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Christian and Emmanuel work on their Maths

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Victor stays behind during recess to complete his assignment

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I brought a stack of photos with me to share more about my life in the U.S. with my students. I then used these photos as prompts for a writing exercise. Here Eric writes a paragraph about the photo of my Nephew Jacob eating ice cream

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Gladys prepares to ring the bell (analog) for recess. Gladys was one of the students who was obviously hungry each day. Although very bright, she didn't have much energy. During recess I would share my Cliff-bars with her and she would perk right up.

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Diku relaxes on a bench during recess

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Mavis, Conscious and Abigail

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Priscilla learns to throw a frisbee during recess. I brought a frisbee and soccer ball with me for my students to enjoy. The school had only one ball for all 400 students.

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Catch!

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Helen during break

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The Library at Senchi Ferry Methodist School. The selection of books was very limited, but there were plans to install electricity and install a donated computer. Its a start!

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Patricia reads an old favorite

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After a snack, Gladys reads during library time - she is puzzling over the concept of "Igloo" (she has never experienced a temperature lower than 75 degrees, so her concept of ice is limited to the freezer at the local market).

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Gladys, Esther and Martha

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Another wing of the Methodist School

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I picked up a soccer ball at Target before leaving for Ghana, and I suspect it was the most popular thing I brought with me (including myself!)

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Who needs shoes - that is why they call it football!

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Moro and Diku

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Elijha

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Diku was about 15 and in the sixth grade, so he tended to dominate at recess

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Al-Haji, one of the few muslim students in my class, takes a shot on goal

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Karen, another volunteer on our team, teaches her 5th graders the Hokey-Pokey

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One morning as I arrived at school I saw what seemed like the entire student body in the main yard leaning over. I soon realized that they were "mowing" the lawn... with machettes. Apparently, they do this as a group now and then. And apparently, every kid in Ghana has their own machette (they call them cutlasses). And they can often be seen toting them to school. I am not sure why I was so fascinated by this. It was interesting to see students taking care of their school, but also funny to think that in the Untied States we expel kids for bringing toy guns to school, where in Ghana, kids are required to bring big, heavy, sharp cutlasses to class....

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The girls seemed especially good at it - I suspect they had lots of practice

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Eric mowing

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Hagga takes a break

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Some of our group worked on a construction project in the center of Senchi. The Library was a partnership between the community and Global Volunteers, and the July goal was to complete as much of the roof structure as possible.

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Benjamin, Emily and Samuel post in front of the Library

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Anne, India and Shirley take a break (while Brendan, Austin, Mark and Matt toil in the background!)

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Brendan provides the muscle

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Cleaning valuable tools

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Regardless of where we were working in the community, in the afternoons we all gathered in the yard at Senchi Methodist School for afternoon tutoring. We showed up on first day and were swarmed with kids eager to read and spend time with us. Benjamin, our group leader, did his best to limit our groups to three or four, but there were always extra kids hanging around wanting to join in. Although the afternoon program was designed specifically to help kids with their reading skills, I used the time for Math and Geography as well. I found that my 5th grade boys responded enthusiastically to competition, so I devised geography and math challenges where teams of boys would compete against each other and score points for finding a country on a map, calculating a math problem correctly, etc.

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Caleb, Tika and Moses read about Obama from a book on of our team-members brought along

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Nancy works with her girls on their reading

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Anne, Benjamin and Shirley at our tutoring session

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My guys swarm the map looking for Sri Lanka in one of my GEOGRAPHY CHALLENGES!

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Tika, Alfred, Caleb and Moses

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Miss Emily and three of her students. One day she was sick and couldn't come to tutoring and they cried all afternoon...

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Peggy, from San Bernadino, California, works with her group

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One of India's students walks her home after tutoring. Men and women of all ages hold hands in Ghana

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Even with the rough hewn building, the oppressive humidity and the lack of student foot-ware, sometimes, deep in a lesson about descriptive adjectives or translating fractions into decimals, I would forget that I was in Africa, 6,000 miles from home.... Then, I would be reminded...

There were lots of bats living in the rafters of the classroom - a fact that hardly elicited any notice from my students or co-teacher. The classroom is open to the outside all day, all night - if I was a bat I would live there too. One day, a particularly big one was up top and it shit on me while I was teaching. I was disturbed by this.

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A bat, minding his own business in the classroom rafters

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My students caught on to my annoyance and during recess they killed the offender and left it on my desk. I was horrified as where I am from, we are taught not to touch bats as they can harbor rabies. My students saw my horror and Akoto said: "don't worry Sah Bryan, it is dead, it will not feces on you anymore...." True enough. I guess I will need to do some more work on nouns and verbs though...

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Akoto and the Bat

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On a final note - I plan to continue my relationship with Global Volunteers and Senchi Ferry Methodist school. I hope to help support the school as best I can in the future. If you are interested in going to Ghana through Global Volunteers, I strongly recommend the program. If you would like to assist me in gathering supplies for the school or offering support in any way, please let me know. Even a little bit can help this community immensely!

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Greetings from Senchi Ferry Methodist School!

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Next time - exploring Ghana - Music, dance and markets!

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Posted by BryanG 05:35 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer

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