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Sunday, October 30, 2011

African Style Teaching

WARNING: Long post. Only for those who want to get an insider perspective on how I find teaching in Ghana. 

I have only taught "officially" for one year but I've done a number of teaching "stints" since sophmore year in college so I still add those bits in the classroom to my teaching resume. I've been in the classroom long enough to know that to be a teacher... is to be someone special. Noble profession, yes, but it takes a lot out of you if you want your students to do well. I'm the kind of person that pours myself into my work in order for it come out great. So with teaching, I work twice as hard because I'm dealing with someone's mind, the way they think and see things. It's a load of responsibility and I take it with pride.

When I applied to IFESH, I mentioned in my personal statement that I wanted to experience how students school in Ghana, especially since my mother schooled here and... survived. Agreeing to come to Ghana to teach, I knew I had to be open to anything they ask me to do. There was a vacancy in the English Department at ABETICOE so they asked me to take up two classes. No biggie.


Biggie big deal. The thing is that, I'm still learning about the Ghana Educational System and how it works and how it "doesn't" work. But from what I have observed, it has some sore spots. But then again, what educational system doesn't? (Insert: Waiting for Superman film)

ABETICOE is a teacher training college. I am teaching teachers how to apply various methodologies and practices in their classroom. Training colleges have a 3 year course work: first year is almost like a remediation course. The students take approximately 7 classes that include the 4 core and 3 electives. Second year students study teaching application in the classroom. Third years spend their time doing their internship on the field.

What happens is that, Ghana has a limited amount of students who can gain admission to the university. It is extremely competitive and expensive and at most, based on who you know. Upon finishing high school, you have to take an examination (like how we do SATs) and pass with flying colors to be considered for university admission. Even if your scores are stupendous, it doesn't guarantee immediate admission. For the most part, upon finishing high school, if you don't get admission to the university, you wait. You can rewrite the exam (which will take another year's worth of remediation classes). You can pick up a trade at an apprenticeship. You can apply to training colleges (nursing or teaching) but those are equally as competitive due to high application volume. So what seems to be happening is that students who are not getting what they initially want (which is to study on a collegiate level) are settling with training colleges. MANY of these students are using their time at the training colleges to pass time, get the government monthly allowance for teachers in training, and do their civil duty until they get a better chance to pursue their true passion. They really don't want to teach. But then some of these students do want to teach but they approach it with reluctance and worry. Reluctant because teaching barely pays the bills in Africa. Worry because the government can place you anywhere in the country to teach and if it's too far for comfort or the environment is destitute, many teachers stall on the job and don't show up to work.

When teachers do not show up to work the children truly suffer here. I have heard stories from some of my students that when they were in secondary school, the didn't have an English teacher for a whole year. And they still had to write examinations. They barely passed then. In the training colleges, they still struggle in passing their core examinations. When they start teaching, they will be expected to help another kid pass their school exams but at times, the teacher barely knows the content.

First years in teacher training colleges spend the year taking the same classes they took in high school because, in essence, they need it. However, the curriculum is packed into a 7 month program and literally, they are covering everything in just that short time period. I'm teaching English Language and expected to cover writing, speech, phonetics, linguistics, writing, paragraph development, note taking, etc... All of this without one reference book, no overhead projector, not a worksheet...The teachers here shrug their shoulders and suggest I just lecture.... I love to talk but damn. Lecture and write on the board for 2 hours?


I know what you're saying.
This is what I asked for.

I'm not so much complaining. I'm just trying to think of how I can possibly do this without my "tools" and still provide a fair amount of knowledge to my class... When they wrote their "strength and weakness in English language" papers for me, I wanted to cry. These students really want to learn. They really want to make their mark in society. They really want to get the best education. And they are just determined to get it right. I just want to make my time here well served and I want them to see a difference in the way they learn and the way they teach.

I'm really thankful for this experience because I can see education from a new perspective. Teaching English as a second language is no joke! And studying how an education system effects a society, an economy, is so  eye-opening and thought provoking to me. I just hope I can remain positive, open-minded, hopeful, and observant through it all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pretty Pretty Abetifi

My tour guides:)
Esther and Jessica

When it's not storming, Abetifi has wonderful moments of awesome scenery and sunsets. Beautiful!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Home Sweet Bungalow

Here are pictures of my bungalow. I just like that word, it's cute... bun-ga-looowww... lol.

They really hooked us up here; it's my quiet oasis.

Sitting Room

The entrance to my bedroom



Bathroom Area

Our compound

The outer side of our bungalow

In other news, I've started teaching my first English class. I have a whole post that needs to be dedicated to this new experience of teaching teachers..... But overall, everything is quiet, comfortable, and cool so far. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's in a name?

Common to culture, the Akan people give their children names according to the day they were born and the child's gender. If you are to ever attend an Akan naming ceremony, you will witness the delicate approach the parents address the reason for naming their children. It is more than just naming their son "Kweku" because he was born on Wednesday but the "soul name" that comes after the day name has quite a large significance as well.

When I was on Sunlight Radio, we had a show on the relevance of a traditional Ghanaian name in a modern society, since it seems as if many Ghanaians are no longer giving their children traditional names as first names. Rather, they use the traditional names as middle names or do not officially acknowledge them at all. It was an interesting discussion and one that I hold very dear to my heart because my parents had a traditional naming ceremony for me but have never acknowledged me by my day name at home. I've always been Mabel. When I got older and became more attached to my heritage, I felt a need for my traditional name to bear more importance in my life.

I mean, if I was to ever marry and change my last name to a non-Ghanaian one, how can I let the world know of my true background? Or if I was to make a notable contribution to the world, how could I let them know I am a Ghanaian if my first name is "Mabel" and my last name is no longer Ghanaian? (I keep mentioning this because I will eventually marry a non-Ghanaian and will change my name and that puts me in distress (the name thing, not the marriage! lol) sometimes which you may possibly think is unnecessary and not a big deal and I'm sure you're right but... I digress).

So with little things, I began to include the fact that my name is Ama. Ama Kyeiwaa to be exact. I was named after my father's grandmother so that officially makes my name Nana Ama Kyeiwaa ("Nana" hints that I was name after an grandparent. At times it can allude that you were named after a royal). The funny thing is that I was not born on a Saturday as my name suggests. I was born on a Monday. So technically I am supposed to be "Adjoa" but my parents didn't follow the rules. It seems that the rules can be bent as long as you're officially named and/or named after someone...

So it brings me to my current location in Ghana where everyone seems bent on calling me by my day name. I don't mind, I like it. Even my roomie, Andrielle, goes by Yaa! But to make the situation even more interesting is that my name is the brunt of giggles and exclamation.

Kyeiwaa is the name of a popular Ghanaian movie character in the movie series "Kyeiwaa". I think it has gone up to part 10 recently. And as you can tell from the picture, Kyeiwaa is not a nice lady.... One person told me to absolutely reject my name because of this movie character. As if my great granny has anything to do with Rose Mensah's crazed acting.... anyway.....

And "Obinim", my last name. I share this last name with a popular Ghanaian pastor  bishop who has made headlines recently for his salacious behavior. He has openly admitted to having sexual relations with his junior pastor's wife. Ghanaians are getting a kick out of this drama. I came just in time to enjoy it all.

All in a name.

Click on the following if you want to read up on Akan day names or want to find out your own! There are many tribes under the Akan umbrella so there are variations to names and spellings.

Google "Rose Mensah Kyeiwaa" if you want to know about this dynamic actress who plays a devilish woman quite well. So well, she's won a Ghana Movie Award for it.

Click here if you want to catch up on Bishop Daniel Obinim's scandalous drama. I promise, it gets good.


Monday, October 10, 2011

IFESH- Ghana Volunteers 11-12

If ever you wondered if I am in Ghana alone, technically, I am not. 6 volunteers were selected for Ghana this year, all of us women except for one. He has been with IFESH for so long, he just kind of does his own thing. For the rest of us, this is a new experience for us all and I want to share them with you!

Wofa Kwesi: my country representative. He has worked with IFESH for over a decade and is absolutely wonderful at what he does. He's kind of like a daddy-boss, if that makes any sense:) I am very glad to have this kind, smart, focused man as my daddy-boss.
Auntie Julianna! Our wonderful program officer. She is so inspiring and knowledgeable. She's new to IFESH Ghana and I'm glad to have her this year

 Amy T. is at Bechem Training College in Brong-Ahafo. She is so friendly and observant, I absolutely love her presence.
 Amy S. is the lucky one in Cape Coast. She is at OLA, Our Lady of Apostles Training College and so far, probably having a good time. She is also a classically trained saxophonist, our very own Lisa Simpson:)
Sonia is our oldest candidate, but you can never tell with her energetic personality. She has always wanted to come to Africa and has been blessed with this chance. She is based in Sefwi Wiawso in Western Region.

Tiffany is also at Sefwi Wiawso with Sonia teaching sciences. She is from Louisiana and we have a lot in common (natural hair, interest in healthy cooking, computer stuff, etc...) and I am sure Sefwi TC is happy to have her.

All of us enjoying a busy Sunday at Labadi Beach in Accra.

There you have it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Upkeep of my blog

I really have so much to post and write about but slow internet makes it quite frustrating. So, bear with me when it comes to pictures and such... I'm going to Kumasi this weekend and it should be easier to update there since their routers work faster. I promise, better detailed updates will follow soon.


A is for "Abetifi"

Sunset; I hope to get better pictures for later
By God's grace I have arrived at my site. Okay, let me tell you a background story about my current location. Upon receiving acceptance from IFESH, I was assigned to at College of Education in the Western Region. Mid-summer, in July I believe, I was reassigned to Abetifi, in the Eastern Region. I was very excited about this change because Abetifi is closer to the capital, Accra; it is also not too far from my family's town in Kumasi. A lot people put the fear of God in me because apparently, Abetifi sits on top of a mountain. I think it is the second highest inhabitable town in Ghana. Some family friends commented that the drive the mountain was crucial; the mentioned boulders falling and the lack of road ramps. Not true. It is actually a bearable ride to the top. And absolutely scenic. The best of all is that the weather is lovely. We get a nice breeze all day and the evening it is considerably cooler. I have a few sweaters so I'm fine with that.
I've already ventured into town to buy food and household items. My school has spoiled me though, I have absolutely everything that I could possibly need in my bungalow. It's quite cozy and welcoming and I'm very satisfied.
Classes have commenced but I won't begin working with students until later. I was introduced to the whole school at this morning's assembly and that was.... interesting. They cling to your every word and hoot a lot when you spill out a little twi. I was beside myself with nervousness but overall, I think they are really friendly and I am going to enjoy working with them. For the record, IFESH works with teacher training colleges, now known as colleges of education. So my students are twenty-something year olds; I will not tell them my age however:)
What will make this assignment easier is having a roommate. Andrielle is a Peace Corps Volunteer from Philly; she will be teaching IT at the college. She's been in Ghana for 4 months already, longer than I have ever been on my previous visits. I will profile her later!