Antoa Final Ceremony

Today is Monday, the 9th, and the only big thing on my list for the day is the Antoa final ceremony. Spencer is printing out the awards and bringing them with him. The morning goes like normal and I leave at 07:00 to reach George Bush’s on time. Even if I get there early I have a good time talking with Bush and his brother, Owusu Ansah. When I get there, Bush tells me that he has something for me. Then he hands me a book titled, “How the Mighty Have Fallen!” by, Godswill T.K. Mensah. Names like Godswill are actually quite common where I’m staying in Ghana. Many students have the names Miracle, Precious, Comfort, Christian, Perpetual, etc. I’m not sure if all of those are related to religion, but they sure sound like it. Anyway, the book looks really interesting. It’s all about temptation and how it leads people away from accomplishing their ultimate goals in life. It’s very short too, so it’s right up my alley. Unless terrorists are being hunted down by an off-the-grid assassin, I prefer the books to be below 200 pages. That’s unlike my sister, who for some reason enjoys reading one book that could swallow up ten of my books with room to go. I thank him for the book and the three of us chat for a bit while Bush gets ready for work. Bush tells me he’s ready and I grab his bag as we head out. We get to his work place and chat for a little longer before I head home to prepare for the Expo ceremony.

 The ceremony starts at 13:30 and Spencer is coming over a little before hand, so we can fill out the names on the certificates. This means that lunch is either going to be pushed up or back and I certainly hope not the latter. I decide to investigate the fuel tank in the kitchen again to see if I can figure out how to turn it on. There are no directions anywhere on the nozzle or the tank itself. I try to look up the model number on the Internet and have no success. I turn it back to the off position and then start to mess with the dials on the burners. I click one on and I can hear gas! I couldn’t figure out how to turn the tank on because it has been sitting in the kitchen on the whole time. How silly of me to think that they would turn the tank off incase something happened somewhere along the line before the terribly made burner stops it from leaking. I suppose I’m a little too cautious when it comes to these things. Now, I’m determined to get some food from around town to cook. Since this is my first time using these cooking devices, I decide to keep it simple with rice and eggs. The store across the street, which is normally my go-to, is closed. I walk around to a couple more small market tables and for some reason they’re all closed. Suddenly I think that I have my days mixed up and today is actually Sunday and not Monday. I check my phone and confirm the date before trying the last place that I know of in town. When I get there the woman is open and has everything I need to cook up a simple meal. I get one cup of rice, two eggs, and an onion.

 Back home I start to cook the rice and realize that I have no oil for the pan to cook eggs. Contradicting my earlier statement about being cautious I leave the compound to go down the street to get some cooking oil from Andrews. Nearly running, I hurry back home to make sure nothing has exploded or burned down. Now that I have the burners figured out, the rest is pretty easy and I go into autopilot with the eggs from my breakfasts when I lived on my own at school. Spencer arrives right as the food is finishing and we eat before getting the certificates done. I don’t know about their cup size measurements, but the one I got fed both of us and left another meal for later. Spencer and I sit down and quickly fill out all the names and sign all of the certificates to be given out. We head out early to get biscuits before we get to the school. I go back to the same woman to support her further for being the only shop open in town. After we get the snacks we get to the school early and sit with some of the teachers to chat with them and pass the time. One of the teachers, that I meet here often, is complaining to us about his student’s performances. He is saying that the highest score is something like a 4 out of 60. He starts to complain about the students not being serious and we all contemplate the issues. Avoiding the obvious reason, that he’s just not teaching well, we talk about the situations the children of these small towns, like Antoa and Wonoo, face. It’s difficult to teach these students when they don’t have any reinforcement from home. Most of the children’s time after school is filled with doing chores and when they’re done with that, the last thing they want to do is more schoolwork. It doesn’t help that many of the parents don’t have much of an education themselves, so they don’t understand or preach its importance. It seems like the first things these schools need to do is to have a class for the parents to teach them about the possibilities for their children if they are serious with school. Then we can fold that back on them and tell them that when they are successful, they will be supported when they can’t work any more. It also doesn’t help that even the people in town who don’t have children make them do their menial tasks, like fetching water or doing their wash. That’s a big reason why I’m so adamant about not letting the children do any household work for me. Even if they’re playing and not doing their own chores, each child has their right to play and the less time they get to play, the less time they will be willing to do their homework. Especially if they already have to fetch the water and do the wash for their own household early in the morning or after the sun sets. I think the classroom is important, but not the first step to solving this issue with education in Ghana. I think the easiest thing to do is to blame the quality of the teacher, like I first thought when speaking to this Antoa teacher, but after our talk I realized that it’s really much more complicated. I really believe that all of the shortcomings are a reflection of the infrastructural integrity. When many of the people in the government are corrupt and don’t invest fully into building the country from the ground up the other institutions, like education, will suffer indirectly. I don’t know if any specifics I’ve listed are really true, but I sure am learning that poverty is a very intricate issue. It seems like there are many paths that look like solutions, but I can’t help but go back to improving the basic infrastructure. Every specific issue that I study and investigate can be traced back to the basics, like transportation. There is a great public transportation system here, but when it takes all day to get from Antoa to Kumasi and back, there is a problem. Antoa isn’t even that far from Kumasi, I’m sure the effect is only magnified for those places that are further away.

 After some more conversation with the teachers, the tutors show up to the school at exactly 13:30, when I asked them to be there. I talk to Tio and ask when he thinks the students will be done with their tests. He tells me they probably won’t be done until 14:30. Spencer and I take that time to talk with the tutors and ask them about the program and how we can improve in the future. After it feels like we’re pulling teeth, they start to speak up and give us some suggestions. People’s relationship to authority in this culture still baffles me. To me, it’s equally disrespectful between being rambunctious and siting there in silence as if someone isn’t addressing you.

 The students close a little after 14:30 and we go to the classroom to get ready for the ceremony. I plan to conduct this one very similar to Wonoo. I read the names of the tutors, most improved JHS students for English and Math, and then all of the best attendance winners. Then, I hand out the awards for all of those students who showed up to at least half of the sessions. For Wonoo, all of the students showed up at least half of the time, so that was much easier to determine. When each came up to get their award they got a juice box and a biscuit. Then, I concluded the ceremony with announcing Michael Osei as the second place tutor and Charles Amponsah as the first place tutor. They both won the big scholarship that will go toward their schooling in some way. With the ceremony over, I handed out the diversity forms to all the students and tutors to fill out so we can get a better picture of each of their lives inside and outside of school.

 After that Spencer left for Kentinkrono and the students for home. On my way out I greeted the old man at the other end of the road in Antoa, leading to Kumasi. He’s a really kind old man who teaches me Twi every time I visit him. From there I greet people on the way back home. I rest for the end of the afternoon and then leave again to get some food. After some walking around town I settle on cooked yams and contumeray stew. That’s definitely one of my favorite dishes from Ghana, which I’m definitely going to miss after I leave. The rest of the night is pretty quiet as I make sure I’ve closed out my Expo stuff and plan what to do with my vacation time. 

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