"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

-President John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First day of school...Ghana style

I woke up at about 630 and stepped outside to see that it sure looked like it would rain. I knew that not many students or teachers would show up the first day, but now with rain it would really be worthless. Sure enough, the rains came at about 7 or so. I cooked some eggs and kept an eye on the school from my porch to see if headmaster or anyone was showing up. By 8 the rains had stopped for the most part, so it was just a short morning shower rather than a full day of rains. I saw that a moto was by the school and figured it must be the headmaster’s. I decided to walk over and see what the deal was. All I took was my water bottle.

The headmaster was there along with several students and the kids were cleaning out the storage room. Headmaster Maxwell and I sat and chatted about Syria and other current events for about an hour, and another teacher showed up. Since the primary school is also on the same grounds, there were beginning to be a lot of kids running around. Most were primary, but some were JHS, I can tell by their differing uniforms. Another couple teachers trickled in (and by in I mean out, we were just sitting outside) by maybe 930, one being my counterpart Thomas. Maxwell had one of the students round everyone up and line up. There were actually about 100 or more kids that had showed up, but there are 300-400 total in the JHS. Headmaster instructed the students to sign a paper to show they were here, and then return home and come straight back with a hoe.

By the time most of the students returned, at about 1030, there were several of us teachers there and we were sitting under the tree at the teacher’s lounge. The students were told to begin weeding the entire area with their hoes, while the teachers sat there. Now, in training we were told that this was how it was going to be, and that no matter how guilty we felt not lending a hand, being a teacher we just couldn’t do the work they were doing. I so badly wanted to break the idea of teachers ruling over the students and not helping at all by getting out there and weeding with them or something but I knew it wouldn’t be right of me, ironically.

Maxwell said he was going to Walewale to the education office to retrieve supplies for school. It turns out that the district office didn’t have our supplies ready, only English books. We were supposed to get student workbooks, teacher workbooks, chalk, and more textbooks but it just wasn’t there. Who knows when it will arrive. He was gone for at least an hour, so for the time being we teachers sat around and talked. Well, what really happened is the men all argued about pointless things in Mampruli so I couldn’t understand much. They can all speak English fine, but they can speak Mampruli quicker and it is just what they speak the vast majority of the time. Sometimes I would ask or they would explain in English what they were talking about, and they were asking me some questions from time to time. There were about 8 teachers who showed up, I think there are supposed to be a few more. They are all male except one, and all in their late 20’s and 30’s. I look forward to getting to know them and hopefully be able to jump in the conversations and arguments like I belong.

Nobody ate lunch, I’m not sure what the deal is with that. When headmaster finally came back it was about 1230 or 1. The students were running around during some of the time, they didn’t weed that whole time. But then they were rounded back up and started round two of weeding, sweeping, moving desks, and other things. They sweep leaves and sticks into piles and then throw the piles elsewhere. And when they sweep, they use just the sweeping part of a broom and no stick attached, meaning they are bent over the whole time. No brooms here have the stick part to it.

Most of the teachers left between noon and one, and only a few of us were left for the afternoon cleaning/weeding session. Those few walked around telling the children what to do and supervising. I walked around a bit and just felt bad the whole time. This is just how it is. Maxwell asked me if we had students cleaning in our schools and I told him we had a paid custodian and lawns keeper who wasn’t a student. He knew it was all knew to me and that it isn’t like this in America, but he asked anyway.

By 2pm they were finished. They all gathered and Maxwell told them to tell their friends to come to school because we will be sorting people into grades based on their assessments from last term. I was officially introduced, although most of them knew who I was.

And that was day one. Tomorrow we will supposedly have a staff meeting if enough teachers show up, but no classes will be taught until Monday at the earliest. Quite different, eh?

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