11 April, 2006

Sun, Moon and Lightening!

Week 12

The Technical men came to finish the concrete roof/floor of the toilet block at the Centre on Monday, so Lawrence and Sly worked all weekend to complete the grid of iron rods that would hold the conctrete in place.

Early on Sunday morning we were summoned to look and take photos, and we know they were still hard at work late Sunday night. CEJOCEP have won so much respect in my eyes by doing a lot of the work themselves and therefore saving money at every step . For example – hiring someone to bend the iron rods, would have cost 2 million cedis. The hole that us volunteers and Culture group members are digging would have cost 5 million cedis in labour! This money can then be spent on what is really needed like bags of cement, trips of sand etc.

Setting a great example, these time consuming, sometimes tedious tasks have all been done by the very directors of the NGO itself. Lawrence is often the one sweating the most, but he gets a kick out of learning how it all works, having a go and then mastering every step of the building project. Sly puts in countless hours going around sourcing the cheapest (and best) raw materials and Theresa works tirelessly to feed everyone, collect water and oversee that the men as well as us are looked after in every way.

They work so well as friends and they work so hard for the benefit for the project. It's an honour to be part of it all.


A different sort of busy, but Caroline and I had been working over the weekend too – on the exam papers that Sly wanted us to give the children. As this week was EXAM WEEK!! With no real knowledge of what to do, we bluffed our way through a few questions and tried as much as possible to make the papers easy!

We got grossly overcharged for the photocopying, but the colouring-in was good fun and Ben came over to help with that.

Monday was the Oral exam, so one of us taught while the other tested students one by one. They were asked to recite the alphabet as well as count and various other tasks. We has to see how their singing was too, and Christopher made me chuckle with 'Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star' as he didn't seem to know when to stop and sang it four times in a row!

We both made up the marking scheme ourselves and were probably a little bit generous with the scores, but they all did really well in this exam.

Tuesday was written exams - much more difficult to guess how they would do...
To put things in perspective a bit – most of the younger children have never had an exam before and some of the older ones will have only tried a few tests in learning books that their parents have bought them.

The baffled looks on their faces was so cute. (They had the luxury of tables to sit at.) You could tell they weren’t sure what was going on! One of my younger students –Theo spent the whole time looking anywhere except the paper and found the whole thing very curious. Top of the class was Kofi with 94%, but at 7 years old, and having attended a different school before this one, he has a clear advantage over the others.

Exams have always stressed me out and being the teacher this time was no different. I was biting my nails on behalf of all the children and just hoping they understood what we were trying to ask them.

The Government Schools have been holding their exams too, and the situation up in Bawdie has been a stressful one. The School Governers had spent some of the exam budget on sports day instead and so couldn’t afford everything their students needed. Debbi has quite rightly been getting upset about this and has tried to speak to the (paid) Teachers and sort things out on the children's behalf. Her group are at a much more crucial satge of learning when it comes to exams and the mountain of work she has had to mark at the end of this week is now ridiculous!


The highlight of this week was the Total Eclipse which I have been talking about since before I came away to Ghana! I was even more excited because the path the eclipse takes goes directly over the area we are living in!! So with Wednesday off school (after much umming and ahhing about whether to keep school open or not) we headed down the beach with Sly Esther and the kids.

Irene bought us some Eclipse glasses to look through, which were totally black unless you look directly at the sun. We sipped on coffee and waiting for the event to happen. Once it started we were all in complete awe of the whole process and especially the speed at which it all takes place!

The moon covered the sun from the top right corner like it was biting a chunk out of it! We all took turns looking through the glasses to see where it had gotten too, and then this nervous energy started up when the sky began getting dark. There were so many people on the beach by then (mostly ‘Obrunis!’) and everyone let out a gasp as the moon completely covered the sun.

It was really dark and this pure glowing halo of light in the sky was immense! I was so impressed by how it looked and we figured out it wasn’t damaging to look at without glasses when it was total so we all took as many sneeky peeks as we could!! When the light came back it seemed so intensely bright all over again and the beach was full of people swapping photos and talking excitedly. I feel so lucky to have been among them and we didn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the day either!!


Another interesting day was Friday, when we were invited to the School where Lawrence teaches. His class are about 12-15 year olds and the day we were invited was also the day of Football match between teachers and some older students.

We had to get up stupidly early and travel quite far to get there. It was now we realised how easy it had always been for us to get to the Centre where we teach, from the house we stay at. Also just how far Lawrence has to travel every day before coming to the centre after School!

Once we had arrived at Biriwa (the village before) we had to wait half an hour for a cargo van to come along and give us a lift. We piled in with about 10 other people all bringing maize or other products to sell.

The village we visited is called Asofura and in complete contrast to Kakumdo it has no electricity and no running water. There are plyons being set up all along the main road to provide electricity sometime near in the future, although some of the older members of the village say it will be too expensive and not needed. The villagers are used to a small journey to the river that provides drinking water, a place to wash clothes and bodies too. But the town could really benefit from a bore hole or water pump.

The children seemed a lot poorer than those we has encountered before, and Lawrence has explained that there are severe problems in School due to some of the children skipping exams because they need to get the crops in for their family. It makes sense from a survival point of view, but hurts to hear when you know the child has already stayed back a year or so in school because of this and there is no alternative.

The football match was slightly difficult to follow as we had a crowd of children from age 3 to 16 all around us watching, giggling and daring each other to say someting to us. They went a bit more shy when the Teachers were around but were a good audience to my jokes and faces when they weren't.

Lawrence also introduced us to Palm Wine, which is abundantly tapped from the Palm trees in the area, and we got to sample some for ourselves the same day! Its smells rotten, but has a charming sweet taste as well as a kick, once it has had time to brew. We got given a bottle to take home and Caroline and I dispached it quickly in an evening! Nice!

(written by Lucie)

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