Finally tutoring has started and it has provided a hands on look into the Ghanaian educational system. The school we began tutoring at is about a half hour walk from campus in a town called La-Babalweshi (a student asked me to spell this during the first day and the students had way too much fun at my expense during my attempts to spell/pronounce it). The school house is off a road less traveled and is in very poor condition. All the students are spread out in an open building with wooden chalk boards and benches. The school contains grades 2-6 and Jessica has been teaching grade 6 and I have been teaching grade 3. We are now teaching there every Wednesday and Thursday for an hour class period a day.
The educational atmosphere is a challenge to say the least. Jessica’s teacher seems to be quite strict and often hits a student’s arm with a wooden cane if they misbehave. However despite any conversation between the teacher and Jessica he proceeded to text her “I have fallen love in you” which is a very common thing in Ghana as most of the men will tell you point blank that they want a white woman.
Anyway, the background noise from the other classes and outdoors makes it necessary to speak loudly in order to get the student’s attention.
In my class it is obvious that my American accent makes it difficult for some of the children to understand so I try to communicate ideas in other ways as much as possible. There are also a wide variety of skill levels in my class and it makes it difficult to teach from a textbook when many lack the basic spelling and grammatical understanding required to grasp the basic ideas in the lesson.
Although the school is a bit grim in detail, the students seem to enjoy themselves especially when we arrive. As soon as I step into the classroom the children erupt into chanting “Mr. Stephen, Mr. Stephen…!”and it always puts a smile on my face. Jessica has been subjected to similar gleeful greetings and the students now look forward to playing duck duck goose (which they have misinterpreted as juice) with her ever since she taught them the game. It is also obvious that the students enjoy an hour of something different from their everyday endeavors and the teachers seem to appreciate a brief reprieve from what appears to be a stressful job.
Despite its challenges Jessica and I are trying to formulate lesson plans throughout the week in order to better engage and educate the students. Our focus has been trying to open students up to thinking outside the box because the rigidity of Ghana’s educational system discourages any kind of creative thought.