Almost home!

30 Mar


Road Trip!

26 Mar

On Saturday, I traveled to the Akosombo Dam on Lake Volta with Grace and Pam, the other two TGC teachers stationed in Accra.  It was a 2-ish hour drive, and the change of scenery was welcome after nearly a week in the city.  The forests and hills were beautiful, but the highlight of the drive were the baboons we saw feeding on side of the road!  As mentioned in the intermission, Lake Volta is the largest man made lake in the world, and the dam produces 70% of Ghana’s electricity.  Lower water levels have resulted in a reduced electrical output, however, and power outages are frequent.  The problem, our guide explains, is that there is not enough power to go around.  So if you want the lights on in Accra, they go out in Kumasi.  Additional power sources are being investigated and developed, including a gas pipeline from Nigeria, and Ghanaians are hopeful that the newly discovered oil reserves in their country will help to resolve this problem as well.  We joined a field trip of junior secondary students, and learned all sorts of fun facts.  I could bore you with all sorts of numbers and statistics, but it is late and I don’t know how much longer the internet will hang with me.  Here are a bunch of photos instead!

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After we finished our tour, we traveled downriver a little ways to eat lunch at the Afrikiko resort and restaurant.  Again, enjoy the photos!

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And now for the weather…

26 Mar

A few weeks ago, while helping Sara with a lesson on weather, I learned that humidity is the measurement of water vapor in the air as a percentage of the amount the air could potentially hold.  When it is hot, the body’s natural cooling mechanism is to perspire, but it is the evaporation of the perspiration that actually makes the body feel cooler.  When it is humid and the air is already saturated with water vapor, your sweat does not evaporate quickly, and it is hard for the body to cool off. 

Our visit to Ghana has seen temperatures in the 90s nearly every day with humidity in the 90-100% range.  This puts the “feels like” temperature in triple digits.  Those of you who know my well understand what this means: I’ve been a walking puddle since I arrived. How’s the weather?  Hot. Very hot.

More Reading…

26 Mar

For those of you as frustrated as I in the length of time between posts, I want to share with you some links to blogs of other teachers in my program.  All will be interesting, especially considering our host schools are scattered about the country.  Enjoy!


Odorgonno Senior Secondary School: Friday

26 Mar


Friday morning, Susanna, one of the directors of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, joined me at Odorgonno.  As on Thursday, we were enthusiastically met by Emmanuel, who escorted us to the assembly hall.  Already, students had started to gather and more continued to flood the large room.  After a few announcements, Susanna and I were introduced and each stood to give some remarks.  In short, I commended them for the self motivation I saw the day before, encouraged them to maintain their focus, and thanked them for the opportunity to share time in their school.


The hall was dismissed, and we made our way to the headmistress’ office.  Again she insisted we have breakfast.  Porridge this time.  It was grey, spicy, and had the consistency of thin yogurt.  Maybe next time I’ll visit her in the afternoon. J Emmanuel organized one of his math classes, third year students, to meet with me in a Q&A session about school and life in Ghana and abroad.  It was awesome, my favorite part of the experience so far.  We discussed many topics: school, sports, music, television, pets, family, etc.  They thought it fascinating that high school students in the U.S. change classrooms and the teacher stays in one room while in Ghana, high school teachers change classrooms and the students stay in one room.  For me, most interesting was the reaction to the latest change in structure.


Let me explain:  for years, Ghanaian students went through four years of senior secondary school.  Within the last few years, it was announced that students will take three years of senior secondary instead of four.  This year, there are two separate graduating classes: the last traditional form four students (think seniors) and the first class to finish after form three (the juniors).  The class that Emmanuel had assembled for me was part of this first class of students to graduate in three years instead of four.  Many were not happy.  I learned that it was only last year, the beginning of their second year, that they learned of the change.  It meant that their second and third years would move much faster, contain more material, and require extra classes.  Several students explained that they felt their first year was a waste of time.  The courses and content were more laid back, and time during this year could have been used to learn more material required for the exam.  Nonetheless, the majority of students said they felt prepared.

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Term exams for each subject consists of two parts.  For the core classes, there is an objective part (multiple choice) and a writing part (even in math!).  For elective classes (and in the science classes I’m told as well), there are still objective and writing parts, but there is also what they call a practical part.  In a foods class, you will have to cook.  In an art class, you produce a piece of art.  And in clothing and textiles, you need to design, dye, and print on fabric.  Above are some student practical exam products.


After meeting with the students, we were given a more complete tour of the campus.  The athletic fields, including the soccer field and volleyball, basketball, and handball courts; the dining hall and pantry; the computer lab, nicer than Laney’s…  A word on this, before I continue.  The building that houses the computers is unremarkable, except that you might notice it has glass windows and air conditioning.  Inside took my breath away.  Rows of tables held dozens of computers, and each computer had a large office chair at its place.  I also scoped out the dining hall, and was able to meet some of the dining staff, who were hard at work sorting pebbles from soybeans and preparing kenkey for dinner.

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And now I’m only two days behind!

Odorgonno Senior Secondary School: Thursday

26 Mar

On Thursday and Friday, I visited Odorgonno, my host school.  Emmanuel Kwarko, my host teacher and one of the nicest man I have ever met, welcomed me in the parking lot each morning as my taxi dropped me off.  Each day was very busy, but my lack of internet necessitates a condensation of my experience here.  I will focus primarily on the activities, filling in the appropriate “teacher talk,” where necessary, but I’m afraid the ins and outs of the school and system will need to wait for another post.  I can hear your sigh of relief across the world…


Odorgonno Senior Secondary School is a public high school of nearly 3,000 students.  Of these students, a little more than half of the students board (live on campus) and the others are day students (travel to and from school daily).  With the teacher strike going on, it is typical for the day students to arrive at school only to turn around when they learn that teachers are not holding classes.  As it is, however, the students are amidst their term exams and the final year students preparing for their exit exams.  With only the encouragement of a few dedicated staff on hand and their own self determination, hundreds of students were about on campus studying and working together in small groups to prepare for the end of the term.


Upon my arrival, Emmanuel brought me to the main office to meet Madam Headmistress.  The school was much larger than Katapor Junior Secondary School.  The campus was an enormous sprawl with many buildings:  an assembly hall, office, dining hall, dormitories for the boarding students, and several buildings with classrooms.  We met outside one of the classrooms for the morning assembly which, you may remember, was cause for distress earlier this week.  I was introduced, spoke about 4 sentences, and received a warm welcome from the student body.  Thank you all for your support, but in the end, I feel silly for my earlier anxiety.


After the assembly, I met the headmistress.  A soft spoken woman, the headmistress was very kind and patient.  I got the impression that she was well respected among students and staff alike.  Although she was very busy, she allowed my barrage of questions and responded thoroughly to each of them, but not before serving breakfast.  Without giving too many details so as to avoid a tangent, I made a fool of myself in front of her housekeeper when I poured milk onto my bread, thinking it was syrup.  Afterward, I rejoined Emmanuel in the chemistry lab, which was surprisingly well stocked after the picture I had painted in my head after Katapor.  We sorted copies for hundreds of exams and prepared to administer them.


The first year students were scheduled to take their English language exam, and without their teacher present, Emmanuel and I volunteered to proctor.  The testing atmosphere in Ghana is much like the testing atmosphere in the U.S. with the exception that there are fewer desks than students and the room is hotter.  Much hotter.  After the exam, we left to submit the student answer sheets, and I was surprised to see other first and second year students taking their exams in other classrooms.  Why, you ask?  Because they were not led by an instructor.  Instead, upperclassmen assumed the role of proctor to ensure testing continued as scheduled.  Not only were students self motivated in their preparation, they were taking responsibility for the testing itself!  Just like in the United States, am I right?




23 Mar

Apologies for the break in correspondence.. internet connectivity has been very spotty these last few days. Since I posted last, I have been in Odorgonno Senior Secondary School for two days, and have much to report! Unfortunately, I am catching a car to the Akosombo Dam on Lake Volta, the largest manmade lake in the world! Pictures to follow.