Written by Claire Laibstain, 2014 West Africa Grassroots Education.
After being on the constant go throughout this program, it was nice slowing down our pace and unpacking our bags at the volunteer house in Sandema in the Upper East region of Ghana for ten days. For the first few days, we relaxed, rode bikes around the city, got our hair braided, explored the market and began cooking meals together.
After we were all settled in, we started to get to know the boys at the Horizons Children’s Centre (HCC). The goal of HCC is to help orphans and vulnerable children reach their fullest academic and social potential so that they are able to live a successful life. Although there is a wide age range between the boys that live at the HCC house, they are all super close and consider each other brothers.
When we first arrived at the HCC house, our OG group performed a song for the boys that we had been preparing. We were showered with applause and the boys reciprocated with welcome songs and dances. I instantly felt welcomed and a part of the HCC-OG community. We all became quite close with the boys during our time at Sandema as we bonded watching World Cup games, playing football, working on homework, and just chilling out.
We also began the hands-on volunteer aspect of this program in Sandema. We all volunteered at different places including a kindergarten, primary school, disability center and one-on-one work with Joe, the Managing Director at HCC. We all played different roles during our time volunteering, had incredible experiences, and learned loads from our partners!
As an Education Major, I personally had an incredible experience volunteering in the kindergarten classroom at Adangbey International School. I had the opportunity to observe the teachers and their interactions with the children. There was definitely a lack of resources in the classroom (like books and pencils), but the teachers did their best to make the best use of the materials they had at their disposal. The teachers were very energetic and excited to teach and when the students answered questions correctly, the students would clap for each other and clap for themselves. The claps and cheers kept the classrooms lively and served as a form of positive reinforcement. In fact, the clapping was so much fun that it became contagious within our own group…we even did the cheers at the airport on our way home!
As I became more comfortable in the classroom, I taught a few math lessons and read story books to the students. The students were excited to learn from a new teacher. My favorite part about being in the Kindergarten classroom was the eagerness and thirst the children had for learning. They loved practicing their handwriting, reading, solving math problems, playing outside, and simply just being at school.
My experience was also unique because this particular school was owned by an individual and not the government. Students in the public schools of Ghana typically begin their education in primary school around the ages of 5-7, but the students in this kindergarten school were between the ages of 3-6. Beginning school at a younger age gives a child more time to understand the basics of learning while they are still young and impressionable. Younger children become more excited when they learn and hopefully this will encourage them to stay in school as they get older!
All in all, it’s been quite the experience to observe an educational system different from the one I grew up with and even teach a few lessons!
Claire Laibstain 2014 West Africa Grassroots Education.