All the Programs Kicked Off

Wednesday, the 22nd, starts early as I prepare for the Wonoo session today and the Krobo program tomorrow. Right as the sun is beginning to illuminate the ground I leave the house to fetch some water. I enjoy fetching water in the morning because the town is still quiet. There are people out sweeping and doing other various chores, but it seems like no one is talking as they go through their morning rituals. 07:00 comes around, so I leave to get Bush and start the day.

 Today, at Wonoo, is the first day of teaching and I have done things a little differently from last term. I put Patrick with the grou of students who have struggled the most. I think he will be a good match qith them because he has always been very good about reaching out to the students and putting a lot of care into dealing with each of them individually. I moved Ben to the group in the middle because his group showed good improvement last term and I think he will be able to reach these students and show more improvement. I put Joseph with the smartest group because he is quiet and the smarter ones are more passionate about learning and will tell him how to reach them better.

 The session went by fast and I met with the tutors afterward to give them some feedback. Patrick did really well dealing with one of the worst preforming students, Boakye, when he answered Patrick’s question of 4 x 12 with a quick “12!” I waitec for the students to laugh at his obvious lack of effort and joking way to deal with a question he didn’t know the answer. Instead, Patrick quickly, with little hesitation, answered Boakye with a forceful “you’ve done well!” His response to Boakye shocked the room to silence and out of the joking mood Boakye tried to create. Then, Patrick continued and reinforced that the students are doing well when they try, even when they get the answer wrong. I stayed with his group for a little longer and noticed that the normally roudy group of students were taking the session in a very serious way. I also noticed that Patrick didn’t give homework, so I reminded him and the rest of the tutors to be giving homework every session. I told Ben that he needs to find a way to get the students more involved. Even though he is used to the teachers mostly talking, occasionally broken up by the class repeating some hardwired definition. If he changes and gets them to learn in a different way, he will become a front-runner for the next scholarship. However, he gave many examples on the same topic, really reinforcing the new skills. Joseph needs to send a students to ask me when they don’t have chalk. Instead, he left the group and the learning stopped while he went to find me and ask me for more chalk. I told him that he doesn’t absolutely need chalk to teach and one students leaving and not learning is better than him leaving and the whole group not learning. I also told them that I would try better to give them enough at the beginning so this problem doesn’t occur again. Then, I thanked Joseph for asking me to help him solve a problem. I told him it’s better to admit he’s wrong and get help than to be embarrassed and continue to teach them the wrong steps. Overall the session went well, but I still feel a lot of pressure this next term to get the students ready for their BECE tests, that will determine which high school they will enter.

 On Thursday, I finished placing the students with the various tutors and prepare for Spencer and the rest of the Expo staff to visit my program. Stephanie has ben here for a few weeks and the other three, Dara, Tasia, and Summer, have only been here for a few days. Stephanie, or Grace as everyone calls her, and I leave for Krobo at about 11:00. We get there very early and spend the time talking to the teachers at the school. There are about 10 teachers just sitting around doing nothing, still getting paid by the government. There are only three classes they can use to teach and far too many staff. The Headmaster was complaining to me about this issue saying that many schools in this area have a problem with overstaffing, while there are schools in Northern Ghana that have a shortage. Seems like there’s an easy solution to me, but I’m sure the issue is much more complicated then it seems on the surface. Anyway, we greet them and after I use a little Twi the energy of the group grately increases. Some of them are literally leaping and spinning out of their chairs. It’s really easy to learn a language when I get such positive affirmation like this, pretty much with anyone I speak to. Okay, this one is a little more extreme than normal.

 After some time, Spencer and the rest of the employees come and we all go to our own area to properly meet each other and to answer any questions they have about running programs. Time comes to start the program. To my surprise, Charles is the first tutor there. He is the only one that has school right before this, so I expected him to be the latest. Again, he is proving to me that he can jump over many obsticles to make this program a success. The rest of the tutors come right before the program is supposed to start and we all greet the class as we hand out the snacks. It looks like only half of the students are here, so I send one tutor to ask the teacher to get the rest of the students. As there is downtime while the students eat their snacks I count only 14 of the 20 that are enrolled in the Form 3 class. The teacher comes ot the class and tells me that the rest of the students were practicing football for a league against other schools and therefore won’t be attending the session. I’m all for students playing sport, but I think they should go to a full day of school before any of that happens. Some of the groups only have two students and I have one classroom less than the number of tutors, so I tell the two smallest groups to cmbine in one classroom.

 From there, all the Obronis split up to avoid us being in one big distracting group. I still think we were quite distracting, but it was also good to let the new employees see the tutoring in action. Time flies by and the session is over. We all meet in the open shady spot outside. I told Charles he did a good job when he asked the whole group if they agreed with one of the students answers. Once they said yes, he had them explain why. I told the whole group they need to get better with giving snacks as a reward for the students making an extra effort to participate. I gave a few other small positives and negatives to the rest of the tutors. From there, we close for home.

 Once home, Charles stopped by to help Grace and I fetch water. I’m now able to do three or four trips with the big black bucket, or rubber as it’s called here. Apparently “bucket” refers to a very specific container and rubber is the much more general term that I would call most of the things used to fetch water. Andrews told me to get Grace and bring her after we finish the water because he got some local banana for her to try. The local banana here is much smaller than the ones that I’ve seen in the U.S., but they’re also much sweeter. It’s starting to approach my bedtime, so we tell Andrews we’ll see him tomorrow. As we start to walk away he got up and started another topic of discussion. Now were are talking and half walking away. I could see the joy in his face from being with his two foreign friends, so I couldn’t pull my self to just leave. We stayed for a bit longer and talked in the street. Finally, we left and I went right to bed.

 The plan for Friday is to observe Grace’s program at Antoa with the other Expo employees. I went through the normal routine of visiting bush and after he is set up for work I leave to visit my Ghanaian Grandpa and Grandma, as they call themselves. They seem more  busy than normal and ask if I can watch their stand and sell their food for them. I’m here every morning, so I know the prices of everything and where the change bag sits. No one except for some of my friends visit. Grandpa Kofi comes back and gives me a papaya, or paw paw as it’s called here, to thank me for watching their stand. From there, I go back home to relax a bit before Grace’s program. She asked me where to get the snack and notebooks and I just pointed to the side of the street and told her that if she asks anyone they will be more than happy to show her exactly where everything is located. She doesn’t seem very happy that I’m not walking her there and helping her more hands-on. I’ll help her if she really needs it, but I believe the best way to learn is to go and figure it out your self and make plenty of mistakes along the way. I also don’t believe she is learning when she walks around town with me because everyone just greets me and will talk with her once I tell them to speak Twi to Grace and not indirectly through me. Then when she doesn’t understand the Twi I will tell her what they’ve said. I think her learning will come much slower if she has me to rely on, opposed to her out and trying to decipher what someone is saying on her own. She comes back and says the stores I pointed to didn’t have the materials, so I told her that I’d be happy to show her the various shops around town. We walked down the right side of town and there are more people than I normally run into. Some of them are aggressive, but nothing more than normal. We got to the end of town, only to see the shops closed. From there, we go to the other side and wlak back along the road, greeting everyone along the way. Grace loses her cool and tells me she’s just going to the end town to the store. She starts walking down the street and doesn’t greet anyone as she passes them. I’m in the middle of talking to someone and shocked by her reaction, so I’m at a loss for words as I watch her walk past the next few groups of people without greeting them. That’s not a very smart thing to do in this town, especially because they’re used to me greeting them all. People in Antoa see it as a sign of disrespect if someone passes them without greeting. I catch back up to her as some men aggressively call her, not letting her pass without greeting. After we continue walking I try to tell her that’s not an okay thing to do, for either of our reputations, in a way that won’t unleash her frustration on me. I tell her this is just a typical experience in Antoa and she needs to prepare for this to happen everyday. I think she got the point, even though she is silent. I don’t think everyone is a good match for the small town lifestyle, especially with the aggressive Ashanti culture. I really hope this is just a sign of her adjusting slowly and not a sign of her patience already wearing thin after only a few weeks.

 Spencer and the rest of the employees come to Antoa and it’s time for Grace’s program to start. Today, she is giving them the test and having an hour of tutoring afterward. While their doing the test, Dara, Tasia, Summer, and I are talking about program stuff and their expectations about Ghana. The divide up for instruction and we walk around to observe for some time. Everything went smoothly and everyone agrees that Grace has done very well for her first day of the program.

 From there, we all go back to the compound and Spencer’s Peace Corps friend does a quick interview of me for out promotional campaign. He asks me some simple questions about Expo presently and our expectations for the future.

 Spencer and everyone leave, so Grace and I leave to visit Andrews and share his mixed nut treat that he got us. I pull out the pawpaw that Grandpa Kofi gave me and we all enjoy. Andrews tells me that if you eat the seeds of the pawpaw, it’s like taking medicine to clear worms out of your stomach. Remembering that I drank some well water earlier in the day, I happily chew the seeds. They’re oddly spicy and not bad at all. We leave earlier this night, but again Andres is almost following us home as he gets in his last thoughts. I think he has been happy to have one good Obroni friend, but not I can clearly see he’s ecstatic to have two. 

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