There are several types of schools in Ghana. Some are state schools and some are private, and many are affiliated to a faith. The schools are arranged into year groups. First, there are kindergartens, where the children’s age ranges from three to six year olds. Next, there are primary schools which take children from age seven to twelve, which is first grade to sixth grade. After that, children transfer to junior high schools for the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade level, and on completing their final year, take examinations in a range of subjects. If they pass, they qualify to attend a senior high school for tenth, eleventh, and twelfth year. The higher education is universities and colleges.
For some years Ghana has been working towards providing an effective state education for all children. However, it was only in 2005 that a basic education became free to all, something Dr. Yeboah from our class at KNUST said she wished she had when she attended primary school. While there is some very good teaching and there are some very good schools across Ghana, there are many barriers to providing a good basic education, and also to ensuring that all children attend school.
On Monday at the Louis Marie School, Sister Grace, the teacher who I am assisting and who is only nineteen years old just like myself, told me that the children would be having their midterm examinations for the rest of the week. It was also this Monday that I started to notice my confusion towards the education system. The conflicts that I will be discussing are from witnessing it myself or from the information that Sister Grace told me.
There are problems with inadequate numbers of teachers. The teaching profession has low status and teachers are poorly paid, so it is hard to attract people to teach. Motivation generally is very low and many teachers do not turn up regularly. Some teachers have had no formal training and are learning on the job, being in charge of classes. For instance, today I asked Sister Grace what the headmaster does after receiving all of the grades for the students and she simple answered “I do not know.” After noticing my puzzled face, she added, “He does nothing. He just makes them do a rewrite.” The fact that it is not mandatory for the private school teachers to get some training in educating the students is shocking. Thus, the quality of teaching and learning is variable as a result. I cannot help but feel bad for not advocating more in the children’s education. I am still trying to figure out how I can contribute without trying to implement America’s education system.
Another problem facing the education system is the treatment children sometimes receive from teachers. The use of the cane is still legal in Ghana, and many teachers continue to use it to this day. Around the second week of attending the school, Saidah, Maribel and I suggested to the assistant headmaster to that there should be another discipline method for the kids. We ended up making two posters that had a behavior tracker in each for all of the students in the two trial run classes. We drew a green smiley face, a yellow straight face, and a red upset face to indicate when they have been behaving or not. Coming back from our week of excursion, I walked into the classroom and saw that some pins (children’s name on it) were moved to different parts of the poster indicating that it was in use. I hope that Sister Grace will be able to use only this discipline method in favor of the cane in the future.
I believe that there is a great need for high quality training in the leading and managing of people, raising teaching and learning standards and working with finance. Because Ghana’s education system is very different from America’s, I have been struggling to understand the way teachers act and the way children are assessed in school. However, the kids at the school are unbelievably full of energy and charisma that I can forget about the conflicts with the education system to just be their friend. Reflecting about my time here in Ghana with just two weeks left makes me realize that I will really miss the kids. I will miss being a kid with them.