Tag Archives: School

From the Clinic to Asofa

Today at school as I was getting ready to leave (around 9:30 AM because I didn’t have an exam today) I noticed that one of the kids wasn’t okay… He’s normally all smiles whenever I see him and he has two younger brothers, Christian and Luis, and a sister, Eunice. I asked him what was wrong and he told me his head was spinning so I took him to the teacher’s office to sit and then went to ask what I was supposed to do and they told me to take him to the headmaster so that we did. We walk in to the headmaster’s office and I tell him that Jackson’s head really hurt and he also said his stomach hurt so he pulled two pills out and a water sachet and gave it to him. Later when I called one of the other volunteers working in the hospital I asked what paramol was because that’s what the child was given, she said it was like a vitamin. Seriously? What is that going to do? This kid was sick. He had serious chills and was shaking.\

I decided I wasn’t going to sit there and wait for the Headmaster to get it together and told his teacher I was taking him to the doctor and then home. I also asked one of the other teachers to make sure his siblings got on the right trotro to get home because they live quite far away from the school. We go to the clinic in Pokuase (where I live) and wait… Eventually we get in and the nurse weighs him, gathers other information and takes his temperature. He didn’t have a fever so she said she was going to do a test to see if he had a malaria parasite. Most of the time doctors/nurses here just listen to the symptoms and diagnose malaria so I wasn’t sure what a test was going to entail until she opens up three different packages, one of them revealing a razor blade. I soon realized it was similar to a blood sugar test or the one before you give blood to determine if your iron is high enough… She says something to the boy in Twi and then I say, “This is probably going to hurt…” and right as I’m saying it she pokes him and the look on his face was horrendous. I just grabbed his hand and squeezed it—I’m not sure it helped too much but it made me feel better.

Sure enough, poor little Jackson had malaria. Uncomplicated Malaria—whatever that means.

The nurse gave him three different medicines and explained the dosages to me. He really wanted to go back to school to meet his sister and brothers, but I wasn’t sure that if he went back and took the medicine with him it would make it home so I wasn’t taking any chances. We got some lunch. Rice and beans for me and when I asked him what he wanted he said just rice… I asked the woman what meat she had and she opened a pot and there was the front half of a fish, eyes still attached, covered in a red sauce—I’m pretty sure my face scared the woman…

 The kid got the fish. Ew.

 It took two trotros to get to Jackson’s house and then a fifteen minute walk. Can you imagine being 12 and having three other siblings with you and doing that EVERYDAY?

Only his Dad spoke English so I explained what the nurse said to him. He was extremely nice. The entire family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) were all there as well. It was neat.

Eventually I made it back to ACP and sat down for a coke.

 Soo refreshing.


time flies

wow. the short time I have been here has flown by! i keep trying to soak as much in each day as possible so as not to miss anything…

On Sunday, myself and a fellow volunteer teacher were invited to church by the head teacher at school. We had no idea what we were in for… We were told he would get us at 8:30 and he didn’t come until 9 (this is typical in Africa) so we caught that tail end of the children’s service and then began the other service at 9:30 and were there for three hours and we left after Part I. Can you imagine being in church for six hours in one day? Craziness! The church was packed full of people and everytime the music began to play they poured into the aisles and danced with no inhibitions; I found myself gathering so much of their energy just by watching! The church service was a combine service both English and Twi and also French I think…so every time a scripture was read it was done in all three languages. Before beginning her sermon, the Reverend asked us to introduce ourselves. As soon as we mentioned we were from the U.S. they congregation erupted with “oooohhhhsss and ahhhs,” and “WE SCORED THE U.S. YESTERDAY! WE SCORED THE OBAMA BOYS!” People are still reminding us that we lost to Ghana…

School has been a little tiring these past few days just trying to figure out how we can make a difference… I spoke with the head teacher about beginning some sort of reading program which I think we will initiate tomorrow. A significant portion of the students have no idea how to read but yet they are still required to copy everything off the board; they have notebooks full of information but don’t know what any of it says–it’s a little disheartening. One of the teachers had been teaching for two weeks and thought the kids were picking up on things until she gave them a written assignment and realized that only two students of the 7-8 year old class knew how to read and the rest of the students were either copying or having those two students read the questions to them.

I tried explaining to the head teacher that no progress can happen until these kids know how to read and comprehend. You can try teaching them all you want, but all they are doing is memorizing the shapes and transferring them to their papers… Two volunteers don’t go to their sites on Fridays so I have roped them into coming to the  school to do some small group work with some of the students… We’ll see how it goes… There are about 9 students in Class 1 that can’t read, two in Class 3, and two in Class 5 that need significant help… I’m not sure about Class 2…

You can learn so much about Ghanaian culture just by sitting in a Junior High classroom and having a coversation with the students (ages 13-18). Today they asked me what would happen to a man in the U.S. if he raped a woman, I told them that the man would most likely go to jail for life and they were completely shocked… I can’t say that rape is culturally acceptable here, but the rules and opinions on it are much more lax. They also asked what would happen if a man slapped a woman and I tried explaining that he would be warned probably the first time and then after that he could continue to be punished more severely… They are full of questions; another question was, “Does the U.S. make condems?” And I told them yes… They then said, “Oh really? Because I heard the Chinese did and that they made them to fit their own penises and they’re too small for ours.” Wow. They asked if we had that problem and I told them we needed a new topic…

I am at the stage where I am giving tests to certain classes. Class 4 finished their citizenship book so I gave them a test on Monday and all I heard was, “Sir Sam this is too much.” I am sorry, but we have been talking about this for the past two weeks, no excuses. You would have thought I was asking them to recite the Declaration of Independence… The Junior High class has a test next Wednesday on two chapters from their book and I told them no multiple choice because they can just memorize facts and to expect about 20 questions and I got the same response… I’m not sure what they’re used to it…

Anyway, that’s all for now…I think I need a nap because today was soooo hot! and I just need to lay under a fan, fa’sho.



Yesterday I decided to whip out some of the school supplies I was able to bring and declared the day Mechanical Pencil Monday. FAIL. Well, it wasn’t a complete fail; At least now I know to give gifts at the end of the day.

I began giving pencils out early in the day and the kids were extremely appreciative. For every one I gave I received a “Thank you, sir. God bless you.” The children guarded them like treasure and had big smiles on their faces; it was nice to see something that we would regard as a simple gesture to be received and appreciated so greatly!

With that said, the kids fought and fought. “Godwin stole my pencil from my pocket!” or “My graphite is gone!” Well kids, figure it out… I am not the pencil police and I’m sorry. I eventually just told them to put them away or I would collect them because it was impossible to get anything done in the classroom with the disruptions.

I wanted the kids to be able to use the pencils so I told them that I would see about getting more lead or graphite as they say. On the other side of Accra there is Accra Mall and it is basically a western mall; there are a ton of Obrunis there and high-class Ghanaians. It saddens me to think that many foreigners come to Africa and see only this side of Accra—this isn’t Africa; this isn’t the way most people live at all. Also, this mall is the only place where you will see children begging and they aren’t even African children, they are Indian children; I swear it is like something out of Slumdog Millionaire. They see you, come up to you, grab your arm and say “Master, a bite to eat; some money?” And they usually hang on for about a minute and while it is heartbreaking and can also be a little obnoxious.

Anyway, at the Accra Mall there are two big grocery stores that carry a variety of products, one of them being lead/graphite. We got to the aisle where the school supplies were and graphite was like 8 cedis (about $7)—UNREASONABLE. Everything is much more expensive there because mainly upper-class people go there, but for me that was just too much. Even deodorant was around 10 to 11 cedis ($9).

Today (6-16-2010) I apologized to the students for not being able to get graphite; however, I was able to get a couple of storybooks which made today’s Creative Arts lessons all the more worthwhile. Yeah, today I taught Creative Arts; it’s beginning to look like I am just going to be a go-to teacher for when another teacher doesn’t want to teach. I taught two creative arts classes, one math class on probability, and a social studies class on Ghana’s Cooperation with Other Nations (basically on participation with UN, ECOWAS, & African Union). I was exhausted by the end of it; I just woke up from a 1 hour and 20 minute nap and I feel good J

All of my teaching is done on the spot because I don’t have any of the books to prepare ahead of time and often I don’t even know what I am teaching until I am teaching it. In one of the Creative Arts classes we talked about the necessary parts for a story (characters, subject matter, title, audience, etc.) and then I read them a story and we then answered questions about what we had previously discussed. The next Creative Arts class was several years ahead of the last class so the book would have not been as engaging. Instead, we also talked about the different parts of a story, but this time they were supposed to come up with one of their own that they could act out for the class. We came up with the subject matter and four characters together, the rest was up to them.

It is extremely difficult for these kids to do anything on their own, as in think creatively or for themselves. None of the plays include what we had talked about as far as characters or subject matter go. In addition, one group found a play in their book and read straight from that and the other teacher actually encouraged this despite my instructions—that was a little disappointing. I am going to make it my personal mission to get these kids to somehow think for themselves when it comes to their writing and creative thinking. I asked for examples of subject matter and everything I got was HIV/AIDS, Drug Abuse, Obedience, Disobedience, Death, etc. I’m not sure they completely understood me when I said that stories could also be about fun/exciting things (i.e. playing football (soccer here), cooking dinner, a birthday celebration, etc.).

I actually just finished reading PUSH by Sapphire, the book that the movie Precious was based on. This book was an excellent read, especially considering my new mission of teaching these kids to THINK. In addition, the book simply teaches you to love. I would definitely suggest you read it, but beware because it is graphic at times.

Sam G

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