Wednesday, 27 July 2011

School Books

The school year finishes here tomorrow. I purposely don't say "Break up for the holidays" as the children here don't have holidays. Their 6 weeks will be spent farming and shepherding goats and sheep, finding them grass to eat. The officers at the GES are busy ensuring schools have exercise books ready for next term. These are allocated and need to be delivered, particularly to far flung villages. As I had not visited the most distant schools from here, I cadged a lift with the man from stores.

The plan is that one day I shall do this journey on Michael and deliver some INSET to the staff. I'm not so sure now. The jeep journey took over an hour at speed on the dirt roads. I estimate about 2 and a half slowly for Michael and I........each way!

Nevertheless, it was another fascinating experience. These children are poorer than those around Nadowli and very rarely see white skins. It is still rather unnerving to have a couple of hundred children crowding around just to stare at you. Their English is not good enough for much conversation and they are embarrassed when you talk to them. These were proudly showing me their craftwork and some young girls were very skilled with a crochet hook.

The process of handing over exercise books is lengthy and laborious. Up to P3 teachers have to write the names of all their pupils in a list and sign for the books they are given. From P3 onwards each child has to sign for their own exercise books. I asked one teacher how many pupils she was listing for her class. She responded with 93. This took ages, whilst the labourer counted the books out of the back of the jeep. Finally, the books were carried by children into the school, on their heads, of course.

The bulging file full of signed lists was carried back to the office where, when complete, it will be parceled up and sent to Accra, as evidence that rules were adhered to. I wondered, on the long bumpy, dusty journey home, how many of those lists will be scrutinised at all. This is one example of the excruciating, bureaucratic paper chasing that keeps people busy but wastes so much time & money that could be devoted to improving school provision. I imagine it will be a long time before the trust exists that allows officers to distribute stationery fairly.

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