Thursday, 2 February 2012

Who is in charge here?

I often worry that I portray too negative an image of my hosts in Ghana through my blog postings. I don’t know whether that is the way they are read. Differences are alternatives and no way of life is ultimately better than any other. The longer I stay here the more I am aware of the lack of pressure  and stress in my life, but then people here have huge pressures on them just to manage their large families on meagre funds and keep everyone healthy & safe. For many, life isn’t fair or just and the authorities cannot be trusted or relied upon. There is a lot of stress in the fragility of life for Ghanaians in the north. If I am critical it is usually a criticism of systems or of people taking advantage of their positions to the detriment of those less fortunate. It could be argued that it is the same at home but somehow it leads to far greater suffering here and people are resigned to that as the norm. They expect and are satisfied with so little. The education system leaves much to be desired and improvements, as I am finding, are slow slow and small small. Children deserve so much more.

I visited another school today, to plan some training in English for the teachers. The journey was short, only 20 minutes. I dodged the earth moving equipment along the main road and turned onto a sandy track (You must know by now, I dread sand). All was fine until I screeched to a halt at a steep descent into a dry river bed full of sand. The rest felt like a motocross trail.

 I arrived at the school as all the pupils were singing in smart regimented lines between the 2 rows of classrooms. By the time I had divested myself of the usual helmet etc they had filed into their classrooms. I peered into the first room and found all the pupils, aged from 6 upwards, sitting quietly in their desks, waiting. I could see no teacher and moved on. Alarmingly, this was repeated in 5 more classrooms. There were no adults in school!  I tried to imagine a school of 6 classes at home with no teacher at the beginning of the day. Endless playtime probably! These children had taken some initiative and organised themselves according to normal procedures. There was no sign of chaos and lack of control. They were sitting calmly waiting……and waiting. When you have spent your whole career putting children’s safety and welfare above anything else you find this kind of experience horrifying. 

A P6 girl brought out a chair from her classroom for me to sit on whilst I wondered what to do. So polite, wishing me “Good Morning”. After a few minutes the headteacher appeared around the corner on a bicycle saying she had been to the District Office. I think I might have checked some teachers were present before I had left to make that trip.

As I have said before, children are expected to do their chores and take a lot of responsibility. The pupils at this school did themselves proud today. I was in awe of their behaviour and how they supported each other. The eldest watched the youngest and everybody was calm and safe. A situation that a British school would aspire to. I wondered what the atmosphere would have been like by midday had nobody turned up to teach and supervise the children. I could have been surprised either way!

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