Volunteer report from Alexandra Werner
Truth be told, I still cannot believe how refreshing it was to escape the grey and cold Swiss winter, diving into a complete different reality – far away from stress and everyday worries – into the colourful world of Ghana and meeting the most friendly people I could have ever imagined. If you want to free your mind or gain new perspectives, overcome your (eurocentristic) views or if you just need a break from your everyday life, go and visit Ghana!
When you travel to Tamale by bus as I did, you will be impressed, how nature but also culture changes the more north you go. Accra and Tamale are two completely different places. To give you just one example: In Accra people will call you Obruni (means white person), while in Tamale they will use the Dagbani word Seleminga, which is such a cute word. I always felt flattered when people called me Seleminga.
On my first day at Kpawumo, I was encircled by joyful children, they wanted me to take thousands of pictures… After my arrival I had to visit the chief and answer his questions in Dagbani. But don’t worry, everything has been translated to me and I was told how to behave. The chief is the king of the village and everyone shows him great respect.
Let me tell you something about Ghanaian time: do not expect punctuality or efficiency, you will only be dissapointed! But let’s look at it in a positive way: you won’t ever see anyone stressed or in a rush. That gives you the perfect feeling of holidays even though you are actually working.
As I am a primary teacher, the teaching part was nothing new to me. But of course it was sometimes a challenge to teach all the subjects in English. Luckily I had my phone with me and although the internet is sometimes very slow in the village, it normally works so that you can look up some specific words. So make sure you get a Ghanaian SIM card before you start working (it only costs something like one Euro). The challenging part was that I had to find out by myself (or with little help from the kids) what to teach or where to continue. And to be honest, I had the impression, that they already finished the whole book in some subjects, so sometimes I just decided to do something else… I have been lucky, in Accra I met a woman from Kenya who sold teaching books written by a female Kenyan author. Since I was impressed by that book I bought a few copies. So I used that book in Kpawumo. I also went to a local book store and bought some children’s books. It’s always great to support local writers. As well for the kids it is very good to read stories about Ghanaian life with caracters they can easily identify with. So if you want to do something good for the school, don’t bring books from your home country (they are too heavy anyway). Go and by local books instead.
After some time I started singing with the whole school in the morning. The children really liked that! So if you know any song or a litte dance or anything else you can do with them, they will be so happy 😉 If you want to be well prepared, don’t hesitate to bring material such as games, paper, pencils or colours, because that is what’s sometimes lacking. Also they are always happy to get new clothes. So whatever you may bring along, they will be grateful for it!
If you are flexible in planning your stay, consider that the first week after holidays is maybe not the best option to start with. Because there is normally not much school going on. Although I must admit it is somehow nice to get to know the teachers and the kids in such a casual atmospere. But to be honest, I was always expecting something more to happen. That’s the reason why I felt a little bit disapointed by the end of the first week. In the second week though I started teaching. It was a very small class and the kids were really nice. Basically you are free to try out whatever you like. Most of the time I was alone with the children, but I’m sure if you’d ask the teacher to come and help or support you, he or she would do so. You can also ask the teachers if you could visit their classes to see their teaching styles. Compared to what we are used to from our Western School System, the teachers may seem very slow-paced. Don’t hesitate to be a good example and go ahead teaching after break even though they just started eating… Notice that they are open for all kinds of new methods or projects, so the most important thing is: Don’t be shy, ask questions and be self-initiated. If you do so, your horizon will be expanding and you will have such a great experience and a lot of stories to tell back home.
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