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The Voice of the Black Community

Opinion

In Ghana, teaching means learning
Focus is on sharing of ideas and cultures
 
Published Thursday, June 19, 2014 9:11 am
by Cidney Holliday

I have reached the half-way point of my trip in Ghana. I have laughed a lot, went out a lot, and have even shed some tears. I am certain this summer will be filled with memories I will tell people about for many years from now.


Most of my days have been filled with teaching at the Catholic elementary school not many blocks away from my home.


Each morning the students arrive at daybreak to clean the classrooms and courtyard. They sweep with handmade coconut tree leaves tied together for brooms and buckets of collected water from the daily rain to mop. After cleaning, students line in groups and recite the national anthem, the anthem of the school and morning prayers. There are student drummers who keep rhythm with worn snare drums and patriotically usher in the morning for their peers. Some students are pulled out of line for coming late, or not wearing their correct uniform, or not keeping their hair kept and short. They then march, with more enthusiasm for school than I had at their age, to their classrooms for their lessons of the day.


Their class change bells are done with drum rhythms, their uniforms are much like the Ghanaian print fabrics sold in market and handmade, their classrooms are sunlit, but they’re in school-just the same as I was when I was young.


I teach RME – Religion and Moral Education, in the junior high school. We focus on the three primary religions in Ghana: Islam, Christianity, and Traditionalism. A typical week will touch on issues like moral decision making, rites of passage and sacrifices. I also sit in social studies classes to learn about the culture and practices of Ghana as well as Fante language classes during my school day. Each day I am able to teach almost forty students twice a day.


Most the time they want to hear me tell stories about Hollywood or Obama. Other times I am able to really tell them about how religion works where I am from and how that does or doesn’t mesh with religions where they are from. However on more days than not I learn so much from my kids.


Education systems in Ghana have been something I have had to learn as well. There are two main divisions – government schools and private schools. I work at a private Catholic school; they have uniforms, mass on Fridays and charge tuition for attendance. The government schools are different. Many of them suffer from the same type of corruption many nations’ governments face. Sadly, this affects the routine that teachers engage with the students and the school system itself. In hand, this affects with what consistency students are able to learn.


This is not to say that education systems here are flawed by any means. They are not. If anything they are just progressive, or imperfect, as what U.S. standards of education are. However, education here is mainly a product of the lack of ability to secure means of supplies and products, from paper to salaries, for teachers and students. The school I teach at is very different than the high school I graduated and even the private Catholic elementary school I went to.


In some Ghanaian schools flogging is allowed. In others teachers will go on strike for not getting paid which gives the students unexpected ‘vacations’. But these students are still students. Some will pass notes to friends, and some will fall asleep in class. But the hunger to learn is not diluted at all.


Still, teaching has reminded me of passions I thought I had forgotten. To see the glow in the students’ eyes is a blessing. To be reminded of the privilege I have as a U.S. student is also a blessing. I love teaching students multiple times a week. I love watching them learn and encouraging them to keep striving forward, to keep reaching farther, to be the(ir) best.


Teaching here has honestly made me feel nostalgic. I miss this feeling of loving something this much. I feel that there is a lot of love in classrooms, in the U.S. and in Ghana alike.

Learning is love. Teachers are love. There are a lot of places in my heart left empty while so far from my home. But there has also been so many places of my heart filled with love which I didn’t even know were empty. I have learned. I have loved. And I am learning and I am loving.  


Cidney Holliday, Davidson College Class of 2015, is on a six-week research mission on Catholicism in Ghana. She is a graduate of South Mecklenburg High School.

Comments

Excellent, Young Cousin!
Posted on June 20, 2014
 

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