At the beginning of March, Christopher's wife, Esther, took me to one of the primary schools in Kongo, Kong-Gorug, to introduce myself. She was a teacher here before she gave birth to Bertrand, so she knows the teachers and headmaster well. One morning, as the sun was getting hot, we walked about two miles out into Kongo, away from the market square. Up until this point I had not gone to any of the schools in Kongo (there is one junior high and two primaries), so I was eager to get out and do something. I met the headmaster, Martin, and went around to all of the classrooms to greet the students and teachers. They have a nursery class, KG (like kindergarten), and P1 through P5. They don't have a P6 class yet, but they are in the process of building three more rooms that will house the nursery, KG and P6 classes. Currently, the P1-P5 kids are in big classrooms, but the nursery and KG kids are cramped in another small, old building.
The next time I came to Kong-Gorug, I discussed with Martin some ideas I had of activities to do with the kids. On my bike ride over, I passed some students going to class and one of the little girls ran alongside me for a while, so I stopped and let her hop on my bike and I took her to school. Martin and I came up with a few sessions for me to do: the importance of girl-child education, HIV/AIDS, daily schedules and community mapping. They also do not have a library, so I'm working on collecting books to donate to the school. They need a place to put the books though, so I need to have a nice place to put the books before I even give them any.
For three weeks in March, right before my training group had our Reconnect Training at the end of March, I visited the primary twice a week. I decided that I would work mostly with the P5 students because they would understand me the most, but I also talked with the P4 students as well. The first session was on the importance of girl-child education, but also the importance of education for all children. I asked the students why they come to school and why it was important for them to get an education and stay in school. Many responded by saying they come to school to learn to respect eachother...not quite was I was getting at, but I was happy for the participation. So I explained that going to school will help you gain more skills so that you can have a good job that you like and will be able to support your family; also going to school will teach you about staying healthy so you can care for yourself and others; lastly, I said school will teach you discipline and responsibility so that you are able to do well at your job in the future. Then I had the students do a goal-making activity. I told them to think about a goal that they want to achieve, who will help them along the way and why their education is important in reaching this goal. I told them to complete this at home because it took a lot longer to explain the activity than I anticipated, and I needed a lot of translating help from the teacher.
The next time I came to the school, I had the students tell me what they wrote. A lot of them just repeated what I said about getting a good job, supporting their family; but two of the students had completely different, unique responses. One said he wanted to travel, and another said he wanted to be like me and help the people in his community and elsewhere. I was pleasantly surprised by these responses since most kdis assumer they will grow up and do what their parents do- go to farm, have a store, sew clothes, cook food in town, brew pito. Then there are also a few students who want to teach, which requires a lot of schooling. Unfortunately it is hard to get students to aspire to get a job that's different from what is available in the village; they don't have many opportunities to get out of town and find a different, better job. But sometimes the students really do want to go to farm, adn that's ok, it just does not present much opportunity to better their lives.
The next session I did a small activity on the facts and myths of HIV/AIDS. I wrote down a few true and false statements about HIV transmission on pieces of paper, then handed them out and had the students work together to determine whether the statement was true of false. Then they taped the pieces of paper up on the chalkboard under where I wrote "true" or "false." Of the eight statements I gave out, only two of them were put under the wrong column. I pretty happy about that, but then again I was not quite sure if they came up with the answers that they believed in, or just put them in the columns based on what they've been told, but don't necessarily believe. There's a big difference; lots of people think very interesting things about HIV/AIDS and its hard to convince people otherwise once they have heard false information.
The next time I visited, I told the P4 and P5 students to go home an write down their dialy schedules . I was curious to see what chores the kids to at home and when they do their homework, and I wanted to compare the boys' and the girls' schedules. Well, it didn't go as planned, should have seen that one coming. I came two days later to see what they wrote but most of them didn't do it and copied other peoples work, so I ended up reading the same schedule over and over. Maybe I need to start bribing them with candy... But at the same time as I was reading their schedules, I split up the boys and the girls of the P4 and P5 and had them draw a map of Kongo with crayons on a big piece of white paper. This activity went fairly well, although again I did underestimate the time it would take to explain what I wanted them to do. Once they got started, the kids seemed to enjoy it, and for how many of them there were, I thought they worked really well together. The maps weren't finished in the short amount of time I was there, but next time I visit I'll see what else has been added. I took my camera to take pictures of the students drawing the maps, they loved it!
Before I do my activities with the kids at about 10 AM, there is a small break for the kids to go play around. I sit down outside, and within seconds I have a swarm of little kids around me. One day I started giving a few of the little ones high-5s, and it caught on quick. Soon I had a big group of kids trying to get me to give them a high-5, it was really cute. Even the older students became interested and joined in. I am always amazed that the simplest things are so entertaining for the kids.
Now I'm trying to think of more activities I can do at the school. I might try to work with the girls club, maybe do some environmental awareness sessions, start a reading club...maybe more HIV/AIDS lessons, and I definitely want to do a geography lesson since most children have no idea where Bolgatanga is in Ghana. (They don't have any books at the school but they do have a big world map in one of the classrooms that was left by a previous volunteer from Estonia, so I have to take advantage of this.)
I also introduced myself to the other primary in the village, Kongo Primary, and I have yet to go there do do any activities but maybe once the school is back from break I'll try to go help out there as well. But Kong-Gorug is definitely in need of more help and resources, so I may just focus on them for the time being.