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Teaching, learning and living in Ghana
In August 2018 I boarded a plane taking me to Accra. This adventure was not my first trip to Ghana. In the past I had visited the country with friends and family to travel and stay with my relatives. The “Joyful Learning School” has always been a part of my life. Yet, this time it should all be different, nine month teaching at the Joyful Learning School. My adventures experiences can be found in this article.
The School project was founded in my early childhood. When I grew up I was able to see how through work and support the idea of my parents developed into the institution it is today. I am happy to say that a lot has happened in the last few years!
The typical day at the school begins with a morning assembly. In front of the big school building students and teachers gather. The headmaster speaks, reminds everyone of the following exams or the due school fees. After that an older student takes over. He or she begins to chant the school anthem. When the other students join in a march to the classrooms commences.
„Joyful Learning School our Alma mater
Together as one is our motto
May god bless us all to achieve our goals
God bless Joyful Learning School
We lift O’high the name of our nation
We study hard to bring our dear school higher
We learn across the ocean
To God be the Glory
May God help us to gain a brighter future”
Discipline and respect are important values in Ghana. Nevertheless, there is no lack of humour. I have been lucky to be able to experience this with one special class.
Walk up the stairs, along the corridor and turn left there you will find the Junior High School 1. The thirteen- and fourteen-year olds are eager to learn. Literature and creative arts are studied joyfully. Of course our fellow students are just as curious. On mild Fridays everyone is playing football. The teams “House 1” and “House 2” compete enthusiastically. A scored goal sparks immense joy! Rainfall or scorching sun are disturbing the game? No problem! The competition carries on with a quiz. It consists of a set of questions from all kinds of subjects and it is judged by the teachers who are not allowed to pick teams. The winning team receives points and earns a special price at the end of the school year!
Beforehand, I had thought about strengthening the African identity of m students through creative work. In Europe our view on Africa is blurred. Luckily things are changing. However, Africa and the diaspora are not being represented accordingly. Movies like “Black Panther” make clear how these stories and perspectives are on demand.
I was shocked to find out that geography and history are rarely part of the Ghanaian syllabus. Large parts of the country and the rest of the world remain unfamiliar. Given that even in Ghana there is a lack of representation. Still many dream of Europe as the holy land without considering their on potential where they already are. With this lack of knowledge I realised that my idea would not work out. So I had to rethink.
I have been lucky to be able to travel throughout Ghana and visit the neighbouring countries Cote de Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Traveling expanded my horizon on the diversity of the continent and its many different cultures. Landscapes, cities, habits and food all of it is different and individually valuable. When I got back to Sunyani I tried to teach the students what I learned. I prepared presentations using big posters. In the library all classes gathered to listen to what I experienced.
I am sure I inspired one or the other to travel and explore.
Being a Ghanaian-German volunteer at our school made me realize the importance of this exchange we encourage at JLS. The partner- school- project extents the children’s worldview. I hope just as many Germans come to Ghana to volunteer someday it will be the same the other way around. “We learn across the ocean”. Imaging a Ghanaian student being able to teach at a German school and getting to know Europe as it is with all its difficulties. Her new experiences will surely improve her work when she comes back to Ghana. In reality we first have to improve. Through my work with my Ghanaian students I learned that it is important and necessary to encourage these possibilities.
All in all, my time in West-Africa has empowered my identity and perception of this rich and complex continent. Working alongside the children at the Joyful-Learning-School was a lot of fun! It inspired me to carry out my ideas pragmatically. This travelogue is only a glimpse into my time teaching, learning and living in Ghana. Still I hope reading it sparked joy!
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