Saturday, 14 November 2015

Two months into our time in Ghana. Liz and I are in danger (in a good way!) of becoming Ghanaian ourselves. There are a few reasons why this might be happening:

- I spent 20 minutes at Kaneshie station yesterday seeking out the roadside goat-kebab seller. I can't explain how good it tastes.
- I will go to great lengths to find the fan-ice sellers in any town. Fan-ice is Ghanaian ice-cream.
- Ghanaian phrases and sounds are creeping into our speech. If someone is walking past when we are eating we will say 'you are invited' (a common invitation for anyone to come and join you for food). When we talk (perhaps me more than Liz) and are in agreement with someone we will often say 'e-heh' which Ghanaians commonly use when in agreement with what's been said.
- We now have our own Ghanaian clothes – Liz has two dresses, a bag and is getting another dress, bag and purse made. I have a couple of shirts. Ghanaian's have amazing dress sense. Ghanaian women will wear the most incredible dresses for even the most mundane activities, like collecting water or shopping.
- We really want to go to a funeral.... I will explain later.

So, the last week has been a bit different, especially as Liz and I were apart for most of it. In November every year, for one week, all the schools (primary and secondary) in the area surrounding Adawso (the nearest town) come together for a week long sports tournament, played on a giant sports ground in Adawso. It includes athletics, football and netball. Our school, Abenta, is through to the next round (get in!) and will take part in the district finals. What's great about the sports tournament is that it brings the whole community together – parents, friends, ex-students, sellers from the town and just random people from the surrounding villages come out in support. So, Liz popped down for a couple of days to support our students, and made the most of the food being sold – having some waakye (pronounced waa-chee) – on one of the days.

I've been back to Cape Coast for most of the week. This time for a three-day teacher training conference by an organisation called Phonics Ghana – here's their website: They work in association with another teacher training organisation called Sabre. Phonics Ghana work predominately in the northern region and Sabre in the Central and Western Regions. Both are focused on teacher training for English language, which is the official language of Ghana. (when I've spoken to Ghanaians about this, they say it's a good thing that English is the official language as it prevents any tribalism and feelings of favouritism of one tribe by the government. There are over 50 languages spoken in Ghana and many more dialects).

So, equipped with three days of training, we will be using the programme in our school and possibly other schools in the area. Such a programme doesn't exist on a national level, although the organisation and it's parent organisation, Phonics International, hope that the results from its pilot projects will lead the government to adopting the phonics approach to improving literacy rates in Ghana.

Starting next week, Liz and I are going to start a huge literacy drive in our school, with the backing of, and co-ordination from, the headteacher. Organising the following, we hope the following initiatives be taken on and adopted by the teachers of the school and charity more generally:

1) phonics lessons – 100 lessons, 1-3 per day, each 20 minutes long, each planned and resourced electronically by Phonics Ghana.
2) a library loan system, where students can take books home for set periods
3) an assisted reading programme either one-to-one or in small groups
4) purchasing of children's books by West African authors with money set aside by the charity. We do have about 100+ books here already but all written for a Western audience. Children's books on Biff's attempt at building a rocket ship to take him to the moon don't really mean much here. It's a bit of an unintended negative to come from book donations from the West.

So, it's all go-go-go here. We have the CEO, Neil, here for the next couple of weeks as well as a couple more volunteers. Only four weeks left until we fly back to the UK for Christmas. Time flies here.

A few more random things:

- We killed a chicken last week. We ate it too. Sorry vegetarians.
- Ghana is loud! They love their music turned up to 11.
- The harmattan has arrived. This will mean cooler nights. Which is nice. Because the climate here varies from hot to very hot.
- We have a camera again! We still have a long-drop and (in the style of Alan Patridge) 'never the twine shall meet'.
- Yesterday I experienced an air-conditioned trotro. What a treat.
- Ghanaian's LOVE talking about politics (well, maybe it's because I do too...). When being shown to my hotel room last Monday the hotel receptionist spent about 30 minutes giving me a very impassioned lecture about Ghanaian politics. Turns out we had some things in common, he doesn't like privatisation either.
- Funerals. Possibly the biggest culture shock so far. Ghanaians love funerals. They are THE big social gathering. Hundreds turn up, even if they don't know the deceased individual. They start on Friday and end on Sunday. The family dress in a black and red outfit and you will see multiple funerals taking place in cities at the weekend. Music plays throughout the night on Friday and Saturday. A lot of money is spent on a funeral. Aikins, our volunteer coordinator, said 'nothing costs as much as a Ghanaian funeral', there's definitely some truth in that. Other locals have explained that funerals serve various functions: to try and solve disputes between people, to dance through the night, to meet your future husband or wife!

Here are some photos:

Athletics taking place at the Adawso pitch.

 Liz with Aikins and Emmanuel at the sports tournament. Emmanuel is one of the builders / carpenters for the charity.

 Our students getting ready for the football with Rejoice, the basic 2 teacher. Small Samuel at the front doing his best to look angry.

The photos above: teacher training workshop at Philip Quaque School in Cape Coast. The teachers were great and made the Obroni feel very welcome.

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