15 Jun Understanding Education in Ghana and the Power of Volunteer Travel
Written by Travis Rumney, 2014 West Africa Grassroots Education.
The power of six students uniting together as a group, meeting their leaders, and setting their feet in Ghana for the first time was largely underestimated upon the arrival of our West Africa Grassroots Education group. It didn’t take long for our group to realize that the power of volunteer travel was the common denominator of the excitement that we all felt, and more importantly, the passion we all shared. Coming from all different branches of education allowed us to see development from many perspectives and forced us to see our previously limited ideas from a different light. Though we all had different reasons for coming to West Africa, the purpose of our being here was all the same: to find the answers to the different questions that our formal education prompted.
From the time we arrived, we’ve met with many various NGOs and organizations in Accra and all across Ghana. Hearing the issues of the education system and learning the disadvantages of those being brought through it, our eyes were opened to the lack of capacity and the interconnection of the issues that cause the shortcomings of schooling. But this was just the beginning of our journey. From here, we shied away from looking simply at those shortcomings that we have found, and focused more heavily upon the potential. This transition did not happen overnight; rather, it was through many talks with NGOs and many long night conversations that lasted for hours on end coming from all streams of education.
There is a certain hope in seeing potential rather than shortcomings. It might be from the drive of the students studying vigorously all hours of the night or the connection between Ghana’s young democracy and the distribution of education. The struggles that Ghana currently faces are complex, and will not be changed with simple monetary aid. The country requires training for teachers, materials for the students and staff within schools, and infrastructure to help students get to school. The hard part of development that we’ve learned through this experience is that there are regional differences in the educational system here in Ghana. It is misguided to generalize educational problems as a single Ghanaian problem when the solution requires regional research.
No, I, as someone who has only been here for two and a half weeks, cannot glorify myself enough to say that I am an expert on these issues nor that my time here will have an immediate change within the education system. But now I know the significance of spending meaningful time with the people to understand their customs and culture, trying the food that you may never be offered again, and understanding that the fact that our presence is a fruitful beginning.
In the eyes of the world – especially in the eyes of development – we are specks of sand. The enlightening part of being such a thing goes back to potential. Every day I wake up here, I have potential to be somebody’s speck of sand, somebody’s study buddy, and most importantly somebody’s reassurance that there is not much of a distance between the “developed” and “developing” worlds. This experience has reminded me the importance of perspective, and though this blog does not show all aspects of volunteer travel – it shows a piece of the power that it can have in such a short amount of time.
2014 West Africa Grassroots Education