I volunteered at a local government-run school in Kokrobite for four days during my visit to Ghana. It was a culture shock and quite demanding but rewarding beyond words. The children are fantastic, eager to learn and an inspiration to us all.
On a personal level I loved every minute of teaching – it was an exciting challenge that put a lump in my throat when they grasped and understood what I was teaching them. I led lessons in English, Maths and Creative Arts, overseen by their teacher who I hope saw that it is possible to educate effectively without caning and mass chanting but using games and small group discussions to make an impact.
“It was an exciting challenge that put a lump in my throat”
Having never taught before, I too learnt a lot about controlling the class, planning lessons and communicating with the children given our cultural differences and accents. It was also eye-opening to see just how much the Ghanaian children love to draw – they couldn’t get their one pack of colouring pencils out quick enough!!
The main barrier affecting their education is the lack of basic equipment such as pencils and paper as many of their parents struggle to afford them and some students have to wait for a pencil from another student before they can write their work. Likewise, the infrastructure itself is not conducive to constructive learning as there were three different age groups, of around 70 children, in the one classroom. The walls are thin with a corrugated iron roof so if another class was singing loudly or it rained the students had no chance of hearing me teach.
Teaching in a local school was moving, enlightening and an absolute pleasure – I hope to do it many more times over as the smiles on their faces and the work they produced was priceless. When I come again I’ll ensure I bring plenty of scrap paper from home, pencils and rubbers as theses basic essentials are so greatly appreciated here.
Volunteer work: Chiltern Centre
Every Saturday around 130 children descend on the Saturday morning children’s club at the Chiltern Centre where they are fed, watered and allowed the opportunity to just be children. This is the highlight of the local children of Kokrobite’s week and mine. While the gates do not officially open until 9am, children start queuing from 7am in anticipation of the opportunity to paint, play with toys and outdoor equipment, play sports and hold educational discussions (deforestation when I was there).
As a volunteer I helped to set up and make the food and oversaw the different age groups with their chosen activities and learnt some local games and songs too. After two consecutive weeks the children drew me personalised pictures and were all huge fans of my digital camera! At first I thought it was because they were not used to the technology but actually it is because so few families have mirrors in their houses that they often go long periods without seeing their own face, if ever.
The Saturday club also allows the Founder and organiser Jane to see many of the local children on mass and distribute clothes, shoes, stationary etc. from donations to where they are most needed. As Jane and her husband are so valued in their community (I refer them as the Posh & Becks of Kokrobite given the following of children that cling to their side as they walk through the village) – when they are given toys or clothes from the Saturday club the children’s parents and older sibling know not to sell them as Jane and Martial will follow up to ensure the children get to keep their gifts.
What I really liked about helping at the Chiltern Centre was the huge part it played in the local community – knowing you have ensured the children have eaten at least once that day helps the parents out and means you can enjoy the local food yourself without such guilt. It is also the only place that children are allowed to be children, have their opinions heard and play games away from chores and the restrictions at school. Also, walking through the village the next day with children knowing your name really makes you feel like a local!
“The Chiltern Centre plays a huge part in the local community”
But the Chiltern Centre can be improved – toys do not last forever and donations of intact games, dolls, books etc. are invaluable. But possibly more importantly is the structure itself. The Saturday club currently takes place in Jane and Martial’s garden as the first phase of the actual centre has been built but still requires funding for a roof and fittings so the children can play and learn out of the sun.
Other musts when visiting Kokrobite:
Big Millie’s Backyard – backpackers’ lodge with live music, a bar, market stalls, evening entertainment, beachfront location and a fantastic local vibe. Big Millie’s is like an institution, everyone goes there and everyone knows it. It is also a good place to try out some more local dishes in addition to western favourites.
Local fresh fruit (mangoes, pineapples, watermelon, coconuts) – totally delicious.
Traffic shopping – when in a taxi make sure you stick your arm out of the window on the main roads and buy food from the street sellers: plantain chips (similar to crisps but look like sliced bananas for only 25p), Fan-Ice ice-cream in a sachet (20p) and sugarcane.
De Holiday Beach Hotel – it is free to sunbathe around their clean swimming pool, with music and just 2.50 to swim. They also have a bar and restaurant.
Ride a trotro – these are local mini busses that for 30p will take you with the locals, their chickens and drums to the main market areas. It is definitely an experience and the cheapest way to see the other villages.