Saturday, 24 September 2011

"Chopping" everything!

"Chopping" is the only word used here to describe any action with a knife or cutting tool. There is a lot of chopping going on around the town. Yesterday, it seemed  most pupils over about 10 yrs old were chopping high grass and weeds everywhere, wielding long sharp "cutlasses" expertly. Some groups were supervised by a teacher. There is a great deal of fear over snakes at this time of the year so they need to clear large areas and particularly around homes, schools and offices. Teams of strong school children are called upon for most tasks that require physical labour.

It will be "pay day" this week, so schools will be either closed for a day, or open without teachers whilst everyone travels to Wa to withdraw money from the banks. The queues will be long and stretch around the block. One day to avoid the ATM! Public sector workers are not happy, evidently, as the government promised them all a 20% pay rise and have chopped it. I was hearing that the costs of basic provisions are going up accordingly and the people are worse off than ever. Strikes are being mentioned for next week.

Teachers are still reeling from the shock of discovering, in February, that their new Single Spine Salary System did not include the expected rise for most of them. However, teachers are coming under some criticism for the dreadful exam results this summer across the country. Only about 50% of pupils leaving Junior High Schools (about Year 9) passed their BECE. This is causing problems as many want to come back and resit the tests. Not surprisingly, there is not room in the schools for these returners.

Happy Days, eh! Some of this may sound vaguely familiar to some readers.

During a conversation with someone this week, we speculated on the question..."How many years will it take Ghana to provide an education system anywhere close to the quality of the ones in our home countries?" Suddenly, from around the corner came a gaggle of chattering, young barefooted children chasing a rolling bicycle tyre, bowling it along with a stick. It struck me that this was probably one small clue to the answer.

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