Bits of Ghana

Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
Trip End Jul 21, 2012

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Flag of Ghana  , Volta Region,
Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's been 5 days since I wrote the last blog. There are so many happenings since then, but as always, I try to keep up w/ it.  It’s my intention to continue sharin’ it with ya back home and for myself to reflect.  Today is Ghana’s Republic Day (independence from British control in 1957-yeah, dat’s not long ago!), so I have some time to catch up w/ my blog.  Here it goes…

I am anxious to wait for the schoolmaster of Volta Skool f/t Deaf to approve me to take photos and possibly videos of deaf students, teachers (only one deaf), staff, classroom environment, and school itself.  I asked him on Friday & he said he wudda let me know next week.  My friend, Scott, said he thinks the schoolmaster wants the skool to look good & cleaned first.  It doesn’t matter to me if it needs to be in order as long as I want to include some media in my blog.  Ya know sometimes a picture says more than 1,000 words.  Things I see at deaf skool is no comparin’ to the deaf skools in the U.S.  I need to be careful what I say in 'tis blog but what I say is true.  It’s not only from my observation, but deaf Ghanaians and one former teacher explained me, so I understand better.

A few days ago we had a meetin’ w/ a man who presented on educational system in Ghana.  Ghana follows international education system.  Ghana has 6-year primary school, 3-year junior high school, and 4-year senior high school.  They speak regional dialect first before learnin’ English as their second language.  I admit dat I felt relief so I can understand everything in print when I’m here, or I’d have a communication barrier.  I have no problem communicatin’ with the Ghanaians by writin’ except some of ‘em only know their dialect (Ewe or Twi) and they rely on English-speakin’ Ghanaians to help me. In all public schools, all students take core courses:  English Language, Integrated Science, Mathematics, and Social Studies.  Each student also takes 3 or 4 elective subjects: vocational such as woodworkin’ and home economics; technical, business, or agriculture. They also take Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and they must pass in order to move up to the next grade.  The man said some students don’t come to school due to the remote village where they live, and some girls get pregnant. 

At the end of the presentation, I asked the presenter about modified curriculum for students with disabilities. None. I wuz told they’re workin’ on it and hopefully it will happen 10 years from now.  Ten years from now?!  I am not sure if it’s Ghanaian time (takin’ time), if it's a slow process in change, or if they need help.  No wonder I see teachers not makin’ modifications or usin’ accommodations to meet deaf students’ needs. While I observe in English classes (primary & junior high school), I sometimes offer the teachers my help with modifications:  addin’ visual aides, role playin’, gettin’ students involved in class for interaction and participated in activities.  I feel dat the teachers don’t know how to do ‘em, so I need to set examples for ‘em.  I’m not sure if they get trainin’.  They use SEE (Signing Exact English) & they sign differently in Ghana, which is pretty difficult for me to follow.  I sometimes get lost but I do ask the teachers for clarification.  When I jumped in, I cudda see students followed me OK.  I use their Ghanaian sign language and ASL for their comprehension.  I do see they have a desire of learnin’.  One of the girls talked behind their back sayin’, "I want ya to teach.  My teacher doesn’t sign clearly." 

I had a question how the teachers get hired.  I wuz told they’re selected by their government officials.  They are hired with a college degree and by interview.  I questioned about their signin’ skills.  Just last week, the deaf skool got a new hearin’ teacher, who is learnin’ sign language.  Is dat so?

There is so much work to do and I do sometimes feel sad.  I sometimes cry but not in front of the
teachers n’ students.  It’s only the end of my 1st week of 4-week volunteer work and I already cried.  The two hearin’ volunteers, who ended their volunteer work last Saturday, wept, too.  There is not one day without thinkin’ about the deaf students.  So, I think I need to make an impact on the teachers of the deaf as well as the students and hopefully the teachers will use my given examples after I depart for my homeland.

It’s interestin’ to note dat mostly teachers wear the same clothes everyday and so the students in uniforms.  The Ghanaians scrub their clothes, and I doubt they wash ‘em everyday nor they have a washin’ machine in Hohoe.  The female teachers wear pretty African-printed dresses and some of ‘em are long to their ankles.  Durin’ the faculty meetin’ dat I attended with the schoolmaster and other teachers, one of the teachers brought her baby to the meeting.  I tried not to look shocked when she breastfed her baby in front of the meetin’.  It seemed very acceptable in Ghana.  When I asked my interpreter about it.  He said the teachers do bring their baby to school but leave the baby with the babysitter in ‘other place while they teach classes.  Ya can say it was a culture shock for me.

I’m accustomed to the class schedule, or fixed schedule.  Comin’ to classes on time is mandatory and bein’ tardy is not accepted.  However, it doesn’t happen at deaf school, from what I’ve been observin’.  Sometimes I get confused w/ their schedule.  For instance, the class should have started at 10:30 a.m. and I waited for about 30 minutes, or so.  Again, I don’t know if it’s the Ghanaian time.  I didn’t have an orientation about the skool, their class schedule, policy, and etc. on the first day of my arrival.  So, ya can see it’s pretty frustratin’ for me.  I keep askin’ my interpreter when the next class will be. The interpreter was a teacher himself, so he knows the routine.  Even, durin’ the class time where I observed, some of the students popped outside the classroom when they had a recess.  I think they’re curious to see me.  They peered through the open windows.  What an adorable sight!  The teacher just ignored and proceeded with her class but her students still paid attention to her lesson.  They didn’t distract the other students, just glanced.  I asked them if they have the class at the moment and said they’re free (recess) without their teachers accompanied.  If it were me, I wudda tell the students to go to their class, or shoo ‘em away from my classroom.  SO different!  I wuz warned by the CCS staff dat the first week might be rough for the volunteers ‘till ya get used to it.  I can’t deny dat!

Lots of Ghanaians don’t own a car.  They walk from home to school, town, or wherever they go.  They go in distance.  Some deaf students I saw at deaf skool came barefoot.  Mostly wear flip flops.  If they afford, they can buy a bicycle, motorcycle, or an automobile (mostly foreign).  They also take a small taxi, which I see lots of ‘em.   They usually take a bus (in Ghana people call it bus, but to me it looks like a van) dat holds 9 or 10 passengers.  Sometimes I see it crowded, or squeezed together.  One time I saw numerous peeps waitin’ for the taxi, & when it approached, they raced to ‘em and jumped in together, like musical chairs.

Back in the U.S., we heard about HIV in Africa.  It’s a matter of fact, when I arrived here.  In Ghana people (not all) do have it and there is AIDS awareness in schools.  I have seen posters on the wall in classrooms at the deaf skool, distributed by the Health Department. ‘Alert and Proud’ is the campaign.  One of teachers showed her deaf students visual aides (clear pictures with captions) of high risk of gettin’ HIV, low risk, and no risk, when she reviewed ‘em with the students.  Some of the high risks are related to Ghana: mutilation and tribal scarrin’, which I never thought about.  They even have interestin’ signs for HIV and AIDS.   The teachers do talk about HIV/AIDS to the students as it’s is not a taboo, when I first thought.  There are clinics and hospitals for Ghanaians to get help but they are too ashamed to go and they die from it.   I’m impressed how much awareness the Ghanaians get and the deaf students get information on how to prevent from gettin’ the HIV.  People in the U.S. seem to have the wrong concept, or myth, of Africans w/ HIV/AIDS.  When they bring up about dat topic, I will clarify it what I learned. 

My next blog would be focused on the trip to the mall in Accra, Cape Coast Castle Museum, hotel on the beach, Kakum National Park, & Cape Coast School f/t Deaf.  Again, there is no skool tomorrow.  I dunno why but I will find out.  We’ll go to Afadzato Mountain for a hike.  I’m more than ready & eager to go!  On Wednesday, we’ll be visitin’ yo Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary.  We do have activities relatin’ to Ghanaian culture and trips to places provided by the CCS almost every day except weekends.  Sometimes we get presentations, meetings for feedback or concerns, or just scrub our clothes.  Most of the volunteers write their journal, check Facebook, or upload pictures in their laptop.  The weekends are our free time.  We can make trips to other towns at our own expenses, just like we went to Cape Coast last weekend.

So much to write about!   Maadjo (Good night)!
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Carla Holmes on

Hi Mary,
You are helping the school situation just by asking questions, offering suggestions to the teachers on how to reach the students and being friendly and interested in their culture and way of life. I can certainly identify with your frustrations as a teacher knowing a better way to impart knowledge and above all, signing well. You are making a difference! God bless! Carla

Patricia A. Hetzer on

So glad your back with us and well! I knew your schedule would be a busy one but never dreamed just how busy and emotional this trip would be. Thank you for your insight to these wonderful people. Oh! Went to Our Talking Hands site and placed an order. It's a pleasure to know of Scott and his work in Ghana as well as yours.

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