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This year I traveled to Ghana for the second time, the last 2 weeks of my month was spent in Denu a small village outside of Aflo with the Atlantic Ocean in the backyard. A few days a week I observed at the local school. I met with the headmaster and he gave me free reign of whatever I wanted to do. Schools in Ghana love outsiders prospectives and will warmly welcome you to teach if you wish to and usually about any topic you want, but I decided to just observe rather than teach. Visiting the local school was hard for me this time and it brought out a lot of emotions in me that I wasn’t expecting.

The classrooms are set up with small desks, many are broken and being shared among 3 students. The windows are completely open with a gentle breeze coming straight from the ocean. The younger children learn more about their local language first through games, stories, and play, as they get older there is a focus on English, reading, and writing. They also have the other basic subjects like science, social studies, and math.  I observed almost all of the classrooms except the older children that would soon be graduating. This time it was much different. In this specific school, they still practice corporal punishment by striking the students using a thin branch, which they refer to as “caning”. I’m going to use the word whipped, not caned because that’s what it is, a whipping. The parents are aware of this and seem to understand that if their child was whipped that day then they probably did something to deserve it. I witnessed children being whipped to speed up their writing or for misbehaving. Usually, this was multiple times in the hand, arms or back. If the children didn’t remember what the previous days topic was about they all risk getting whipped, one by one. I saw this happen and I had to fight back the urge to grab the stick from the teacher. When you’re in a culture that’s different from your own there are certain things you can do and certain things you need to bite your tongue about. This is one of those things that I couldn’t do anything about. I should have walked out but I just froze and sat there in shock as I witnessed the teacher whip all 25 students.

One day while I was observing, all shoes were collected from rooms of the children that had taken their shoes off and were put into one pile in another classroom. Later I found out they had to go the whole day walking on the hot sand barefoot, this was their lesson in why they shouldn’t take their shoes off at school. Since the school is so close to the Ocean the entire school grounds are surrounded by sand so there is no escaping it and when the weather is almost 100 degrees the sand is hot like fire. Brooms that are used to sweep the classrooms at the end of the day were also collected and a man came in with a notebook announcing names. The children whose names were called went to the front board and he whipped them 4 times each in-front of everyone. I’m not sure why this happened but it was painful to watch. It was not a gentle whip, they were full force lashes like back in the slave days. I couldn’t help but think that the cycle is just continuing. The ones doing the whippings were once whipped themselves and the ones being whipped are likely to do it too if they become a teacher. Hopefully by that time caning will be a thing of the past.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness, the looks on the children’s faces were something I’ve never seen before. I locked eyes with one of them and it was as if he said please help me don’t just sit there, but I couldn’t do anything. The hardest part was seeing the teachers laugh after as if it were some type of comedy T.V. show. I began thinking about children in the U.S. and how lucky they have it. The worst that happens is getting expelled for a few days, which really isn’t a punishment. I spoke to a male teacher and asked him about the whippings. I told him how if that were to happen in America you’d go to jail and likely get sued by the child’s parents. He mentioned that they were asked to stop hitting the children but like anything it takes time to change the pattern that’s been going on for many years.

On a happier note, during one observation the male teacher was talking about the benefits of belonging to a good peer group versus dangers of a bad peer group. Some of the dangers he spoke of were the peer pressure of having sex before marriage, drug abuse, robbery, and prostitution. Although the children laughed a lot, many of the children in the class were anywhere between 9-15 and quite a few have already had sex. For them to stay on the right path it’s necessary to teach them these things because if they are on the streets they may easily get swept up with the wrong crowd. This was the only class I observed which didn’t result in any whipping so I was happy to see that not all of the teachers practiced the same punishment on a daily basis.

During break time the children step outside the classrooms and buy lunch from the women who are there daily to sell water, snacks, and food. They spend their break time eating, playing games and often kicking, punching and pushing each other around. Ghanaian kids love fighting each other and even if they are playing one of them always gets hurt.

If the teachers have babies, the women that are outside selling the food often watch them throughout the school day as if they were their own. That’s one thing that I really admire about African women, they openly take care of children that aren’t theirs for the sake of being kind and doing the right thing. Even Cha Cha’s mom has children that have been living under her care for years, none of them she gave birth to.

My second time in Ghana observing was hard for me and I’ve put off writing this post for a while now. I didn’t want to re-live the experience through writing it. I hope that in the future when I visit Ghana again, corporal punishment will be non-existent and another form of discipline will take effect.  Overall, it was a growing experience for me seeing the differences in both teaching and discipline styles compared to what I’m used to seeing in the U.S. It is a reminder that when mistreatment is happening toward anyone or anything, it’s important to stand up for what is right. 


In the Education section of the blog, I’ll be talking about my experiences in teaching or observing in different countries. My intentions are to work with kids at some point in every country whether it be in a school setting or small group, a one-time thing or multiple. Being a teacher it’s always really interesting to see how another culture educates their youth.

Many cultures have a way of life that as the children grow up, it’s very predictable as to what they will be doing, because it may be decided for them. Education is the source to breaking the cycle of poverty. English is a language that is being learned in even the smallest of villages. I wasn’t happy teaching in elementary schools in the U.S. so before traveling to Ghana I always questioned why I spent so many years in college working on a degree that I had no interest in anymore. Then I had the privilege of seeing what it was like to work with kids from a culture much different than mine. It all began to make sense, I spent 4 years of college to get a teaching degree so that I could travel and be guaranteed a job anywhere I went. Teachers are always needed and valued outside of the U.S, but I’ve come to find that children are the real teachers. I’m setting intentions now to attract all the right experiences to help me grow as an educator.

My first time observing was in Ghana back in 2013. In order for these children to have some type of success, education is key. Children need to be in school or they will be roaming the streets and getting into trouble. I observed at an elementary school right down the road from where I was staying. When I stepped onto school grounds a crowd of children ran up and surrounded me, touching my freckles while smiling and laughing. All of the children have to wear uniforms and are responsible for keeping track of and washing them. If they come to school without their uniform, they risk being sent home. Unless they go to a private school, their head needs to be shaved bald.

The classrooms have multiple windows on both sides so the air flows better because it’s often very hot when the sun is blazing. Daily there would be one or two classes being taught outside. I observed mainly in the primary classes, around 4-6 years old. The walls were decorated with hand-painted ABC’s and drawings and the back wall of the room was lined with food. There was one teacher per class and about 35-50 students. The teachers prepared songs that the students sang to me, welcoming me to their classrooms. It was the sweetest! When the children had break time they would all rush outside to bang around on the drums or play in the field with the balls. The children were generally well behaved and respectful.

That’s one thing I really love about Ghanaian culture, children want to learn and are grateful for the opportunity to.

I didn’t observe too much during my time in Ghana so I don’t know the curriculum that is taught but I do know that teachers do their best with what they are given. In one of the classrooms, there was one laptop that the children used to practice their typing, with 5 or 6 children surrounding the desk waiting for their turn. Understanding how to use the computer is an important skill to know and although they don’t have a computer lab with multiple computers, they make use of the materials that they do have. I definitely didn’t expect to walk into a room with a laptop, so this was a shock to me. There were no materials to use, but somehow there was a laptop at the front of the class which didn’t make sense to me. Later I found out that it was one of the staffs and they shared it between multiple classes. Children getting the opportunity to use a computer is very slim unless they are a bit older and can afford to go to a local Internet cafe, so they were very eager to get the chance to type. Depending on the money your family has and the resources the school has, you may or may not have books. In one of the rooms, there was one teacher holding up a book for about 40 students to see. I think the teachers have a harder time keeping children engaged due to the lack of materials they have to work with. This is probably why many lessons incorporate movement and song, because it’s easy and doesn’t require money. Children are given a notebook to write their homework and notes in, likely to be something that they have to purchase on their own. In between lessons they are often put into crowded cabinets.

We also took a short trip to Aklorbortornu, a rural village of 300 farmers and fishermen in Ghana’s Volta region. Currently, there is no electricity or running water. Other then the light of the sun, lanterns are used and water is fetched at the closest water source. If the children want to attend school they have no choice but to walk several miles to the closest village. This “nearby” school is falling down and lacks qualified teachers in addition to basic materials like pens and paper. Teachers are as unreliable as the government that pays their salaries. Sometimes they show up, and sometimes they don’t. Children from Aklorbortornu often carry their own chairs and desks on their backs on this long journey. Otherwise, they have to sit on the dirt floor. We came to the village with donations of school supplies to find that a local woman has been volunteering her time teaching the village children. They were learning under a wooden shelter created with sticks, logs and palm tree branches for the roof. If it rains, the children don’t go to school, which is a problem during rainy season. The materials donated were from the Western New York community, even the smallest amount of donations are appreciated in a place where they have very little. You can read more about the village of Aklorbortornu and other projects on the Ndor Eco Village website.

Getting the opportunity to observe was an eye-opener for me in many ways. Although I don’t agree with the American Education system, we do have many privileges that we often take for granted, mainly because of a lack of comparison. If all teachers, coaches, and school staff working in U.S. schools were to travel to a 3rd world country and experience education, their perspective on many things would change. One is how freeing it is to work with children that want to learn with more flexibility on curriculum and less paperwork. Secondly, how lucky we are to be given so many materials to work with and the ability to have access to anything that we do need. Many American teachers spend a lot of their own money toward items for their classrooms but I think after observing a classroom that has next to nothing, they would re-think what is necessary to have and what is a luxury. In my personal opinion, I would rather teach in a foreign country rather than a classroom in the United States. Teachers are not only respected more by students but also valued overall. I think our Education system in the U.S. is strong in content but lacks the human aspect of it all. I know many wonderful teachers that teach in American schools and they go above and beyond what is asked of them for the sake of the children. They are genuinely loving and teach kindness and compassion within their classrooms and as you can see by all the news stories, this is highly needed within our schools. Experiencing education in Ghana has revealed to me my own teaching path. I don’t think I fit in with a typical public school system, I’m definitely suited more for an alternative, think out of the box environment. I look forward to many other experiences in many different countries and am blessed to have been given this opportunity.

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