Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last Day At the School

Today was my last official day at Accra Girls Senior High.  Although I haven't had time to post anything today, I wanted to make sure I posted one of my own students' work on this site.   Logan Milway spent a day taking quite a bit of video footage of what a day in his life is like at Oconomowoc High School.  This can be seen in the two clips below.  I think Logan did a great job on this at it really paints a very detailed picture of OHS and addresses some of the students questions in the second part.  This will provide a great way for the students to begin interacting with one another.  Although at times some of the questions I have asked are quite a bit surface level, the really do provide a good point to begin a conversation about culture.

More to come tomorrow as I try to reflect on my experience over my 2 week stay here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fun Days in Ghana

Last night after a fun day of presenting to students I had the chance to go to dinner at my cooperating teacher's house in Ghana.  His wife prepared quite a feast as you can see below.  This was my first experience eating a popular Ghanaian dish named kankay.  Everyone here seems to love it.  The best way I can describe its flavor is that of mushed up straw and grass that has been fermented thus has a strong vinegar flavor.  It actually is pretty tasty when eaten with a spicy tomato salsa.

Today I had the chance to take a little field trip with some teachers to a town called Abri where there were a set of botanical gardens.  We ended up taking a popular form of transportation here called a Tro-Tro.  It is basically a 13 passenger bus that is packed with people.  You end up constantly changing your seat as people get in and out of the bus.

An Oconomowoc student produced the following video to show a typical day in her life.  This is something that I hope to be able to share with some of the girls in Accra tomorrow at school.

We spent the afternoon today back at the school.  A US Airforce band on an ambassador type mission chose Accra Girls School as a place to perform.  It really was an amazing concert.  It is these types of Amabassador missions that the Armed forces does that makes me really proud to be an American.  I feel  like they help build bridges between our culture and others.

The girls posted some more things about their life in Ghana.  They are relatively simple questions but what is interesting is to see how Oconomowoc students answers might differ from the Ghanaian students.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Tuesday in Ghana

Today I teamed up with the other two US teachers to put on formal presentations for most of the classes in the school.  We figured out a way to rig up a projector to show some pictures, and video clips from our own home.  Our hope was to teach our cooperating teachers how to use short video clips as a way to have our classes communicate.  Although we would like to by able to Skype, the little computer access that the students have really limits what they can do individually.  Below the girls say hello.

Several of the girls also had questions for Oconomowoc students today:

In response to yesterday's videos from the girls, several groups of Oconomowoc High School Students put videos together discussing their own lives.

One of the things the completely blows me away about the students at Accra Girls School is how hungry they are for any type of education.  I look around the school and see so much drive but so few resources.  It is a complicated issue.  Say for example that someone was to give the school 100 computers.  That would be great but if you even plug in 3 or four of them, it would be too much for the wiring of the school which is pretty basic.  Most classrooms don't even have working lights and the entire time we have been here the water has not been running other than from a pump in the middle of the school grounds.  I really think that the key to success here and in a lot of Africa lies in the utilization of mobile devices.  Most of the girls have such things at home but are not allowed to have them on school grounds.  Given the fact that Africa is smarter about using cell phones than most of the rest of the world, it is clear their is power here.  The problem though lies in the fact that the idea of using cell phones in school would in many ways be against the culture that many of the girls are brought up in.  Their parents don't want them to date an limit time spent with the opposite sex.  Many feel that cell phones in school would just provide opportunities for the girls to get distracted on their studies.  Since everything here is dependent on them passing their final exams (which are common to Ghana and 3 other Western African countries), anything to that draws away from the test is often seen as a distraction.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

More about Life in Ghana

Last night I was invited over to the home of one of my partnering teachers.  His name is Osman Omar and he is originally from the Northern part of Ghana which is traditionally an Islamic region.  His wife, Amina, cooked us a traditional meal from that part of the region.  Osman is an amazing human being.  HE has worked very hard to become a teacher and is one of the most dedicated educators I have ever met.  At one point, he worked for over 2 years without a paycheck for the school.  This is very common in Ghana.  Below he talks a little bit about the community that he now lives in.

  Below is a short video discussing the food.  This is something that even in the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, you are not likely to find. The reason it is so dark in the video is that the electricity in the area often goes out for long period of time. 

At school today I had a chance to briefly interview many of the girls at the school.  I asked them about what their aspirations were for the future and to pose questions to my US students.  Below are a few of the responses.  The first is a girl named Sheila and the second is from a girl named Naiipai.

I spent the afternoon today getting a detailed tour of the chemistry lab at the school  One lab for 1800 girls.  I also spent a great deal of time taking a detailed look at the national science curriculum.  In terms of content and theory, the Ghanaian science curriculum is much more intense.  Very similar to an IB Chemistry curriculum back home.  Unfortunately the lab possibilities are greatly limited.  Below you can see the type of equipment they would use to carry out a titration.  Pretty rustic.  As well, you will be hard pressed to find a pair of safety goggles.

In the afternoon today I spent some more time discussing questions with various classes about the differences between schools in the US and in Ghana.  The girls had lots of questions that they shared below:

Later in the class the girls wanted to teach me a fairly modern dance that is very popular in Ghana called Azonto.  Here is one girl demonstrating:

Here is my trying for myself.  Notice the fact that most of my dancing occurs from the waist up.  This is an affliction common to white Midwestern males of all ages.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life at Accra's girl school is busy.  There always seems to be quite a bit of movement.  What amazes me so much about the school and the staff is how much they can accomplish with so little.  The other day I had the chance to ask the girls some questions.  They were hoping some students could respond with short videos of their own.

Saturday I spent the day on a field trip with about 50 of the girls.  We traveled about 120 km to the Central region of Ghana where there is a Kakum National Park.  Given traffic and the poor roads, this trip actually took about 4 hours each way.  This is a huge tourist attraction but you really can't compare it to national parks in the US since the infrastructure is not too large.  I assumed we would be doing more hiking but instead the whole attraction is a 1/4 mile suspension bridge.  Pretty fun as you can see below:

After a trip to the National Park, we stopped on Cape  Coast Ghana.  This is an important city in Ghana in that there is a prestigious university here.  As well, there is a UNICEF historical Cite called Cape Coast Castle.  Here are the girls wishing Oconomowoc a warm welcome.

The significance of Cape Coast Castle is that it used to be a slave trading post.  The Fanti (a tribal group in Ghana) were in constant battle with the Ashanti.  Essentially the Ashanti were enslaved and then brokered by the Fanti to different groups looking for slaves.  It is depressing to me to think that one group of human actually owned another group as property.  Below is a video of the former slave dungeons.  This small area is where up to 100 slaves were kept for "storage" until they were sold and sent throughout the world (North America).  The video can't in capture the oppressive heat and smells the slave must have had to endure.  It was like being in a sauna with a wall as a bathroom.  This tour was one of the more human moments of my life.  The racism that is embedded in the structural fabric of our own society is rooted here.

This trip was an important one for the girls.  Although it took about 4.5 hours to return in very hot and humid conditions (no AC on the bus), there was not a single complaint to be heard.  I have to be honest in saying that even my best students would have been struggling with the travel conditions. 

Over the next week I am asking that any Oconomowoc student who can to produce a short video discussing their future hopes and dreams.  I will be videoing answers from the girls here and posting them on the blog.  They want to hear what USA students have.  As well, please feel free to post questions about life in Ghana and we will do our best to answer them.  The first group of students who do so will get a Ghanaian surprise when I return.  Either copy the youtube URL into the comment section or login to the following Youtube page and upload the video:

YouTube name:  OconomowocHighSchoolScience
Password:  ohsscience1112

Friday, March 9, 2012

My day at Accra Girls School started with me filling in for an English teacher.  Within about 2 minutes the lesson on "The Tempest" soon became centered on the students asking me questions about what life is like for American teenagers.  The girls were especially interested in learning more about the Free Masons (which I found quite odd).  It appears that many are under the belief that the Masons worship the devil.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Today was my first opportunity to attend my host school in Ghana.  For the next week I will be spending time in the classrooms of The Accra Girl's Secondary School.  It is a school of about 1800 students in grades 9-12.  Over half of the students actually board at the school which is very common in Ghana.  Next year will actually be the last year that the school will hold seniors because the state is transitioning to a 3 year secondary school model in the near future.  Below you will see me being introduced to the student body as the presented me with a ceremonial welcome garment.  Later tonight I will present my own garments (Packers hats) to my host teachers.

The school day always starts with an assembly.  An interesting difference is that there is no real separation between church and state so the school day starts with a prayer and the singing of the school song (yes this is a public school).

Welcome to morning assembly.

Here is a video of a typical physics class at the school.  Notice that there are easily more than 50 students in the class.

I had a chance to talk with the school lunch ladies today.  The food is definitely fresh and local but I think they might be pretty jealous of Chef Brian.

Here is the school media center.  It is pretty clear that all of the books have been donated either from the US or the UK.  They had more books in the back but no room to put anything and no real organization system.  A cool project might be to help them organize this part of their school as they need some help.