Readers may remember that Linda and Peter Davis recently spent two years working as VSO education volunteers in the north-east of Ghana. In a few weeks Linda will return for a short placement of three months to help establish a model kindergarten and to check on a few other projects. She explains more about the forthcoming trip.
BACK in February when VSO and the director of education for Bongo District asked to return in September it seemed a long way in the future.
Now, suddenly it’s almost time to go and I can’t understand where the last six months have gone. I had plans to visit all my favourite places in Shetland and to catch up with all my old friends. Well, maybe I’ve done half of it.
During our last few months in Ghana the government made nursery education compulsory and introduced a syllabus. This sounds good until you realise that that is all they did. No nursery classrooms were built, no teachers were trained and no equipment was made available.
Some nurseries have a spare room in a primary school and others are under trees. The vast majority have no trained teachers and none have any equipment at all. At best the local untrained volunteers are trying hard to teach the alphabet and counting, not what three year olds really need but better than the worse case scenarios where there may be up to 90 children sat on the floor of a bare room with two local ladies sat at the doorway waving sticks and shouting “Don’t make noise”.
The plan to improve this situation is to select one nursery and train the staff on the spot in implementing activities suitable for young children. I also have a small amount of money left by my aunt which I plan to use to buy some equipment.
It is important though that anything I buy should be available locally so that other nurseries, when and if they can find the money, can replicate it. There will be many things on the Bongo market which can be bought and used for water play, role play and other pre-reading and numeracy skills and I have been collecting pictures of educational toys, from well known catalogues, which the local carpenters should be able to make.
So far, so good, but this is only one nursery, what about all the others? Well, the plan is to make up a rota for the following term for other nursery teachers to visit this nursery and see good practise and to begin to train one of the office staff as a nursery advisor. I think I will have my work cut out.
I would like to make an appeal to readers to help with these projects and others, knowing that any donations would be used 100 per cent on the projects. I am also looking for story books about Africa for the library. It is difficult for young and inexperienced African readers to make much sense of many of the donated books which show, for example, children playing in snow or shopping in supermarkets, things completely out with their world.
Most people involved in education would agree that they have to spend far too much time on paperwork, but at least we have technology – computers and photocopiers – to help us. In the Bongo education office the staff spent hours copying things out by hand and this prevents them from doing the real work of visiting schools to offer help and advice.
Before I left the director said to me “Please, I don’t want to beg, but if only we had a few laptop computers we could do so much more”, and I know this to be true from my time spent there. VSO have volunteers who can install and fix computers and train staff to use them, but getting the computers is the problem. If anybody out there has an unwanted laptop computer I can assure them that there will be no better home for it.
So for the next few weeks I will be collecting together all the useful things that I can carry and enjoying Shetland. I will be trying not to think about the unbearable heat, the far from desirable food, power cuts and water cuts and leaving my poor long suffering husband and friends.
If you would like to help in any way please contact me on (01595) 830274.