Today I went to a far away “Afrocentric” school. I go all the way to Africa and go to an Afrocentric school and expect some authentic Africanness, and what do I get?
African Americanness. I was shocked. It turns out that the school was started by a lady who grew up in The States, and the school has a twin in Detroit. Upon the walls were pictures of Sojourner Truth, Freddy D. and W.E.B. and such. There were, however, additional elements of African culture that I greatly appreciated. Instructors are called Mama and Baba (mother and father) to promote the idea of a family or village, there is a Circle or Umoja period (assembly) when students sing together, pray together, and recite religious axioms (from the Bible and Koran…in Arabic!), and there are instruction periods prescribed to teach the local languages. They do not follow the standard Ghanaian curriculum, but adopt material and get books from African American models, from what I understand. They teach math, science, social studies, English, and French too. I discovered that the teaching experience in Ghana is quite similar to that in the U.S. In Ghana, teaching is considered a “stepping stone” job until one can find a better gig. Both of the two teachers who I got to speak with at length today said that they intend move on from teaching in the foreseeable future. Both have graduated from the university, and one is actually the son of a Ghanaian Queen Mother and a father from the Ivory Coast. He originally lived in Ivory Coast, but moved a few years back because employment opportunities were so limited there, though he knows 5 languages. While I had the opportunity to lead a class in a lesson on synonyms, ,my greatest pleasure of the day came when I had the chance to watch Baba Isaac (a graduate of the University of Ghana with a degree in Political Science) execute a lesson on Ghana’s constitution. He was incredibly well-versed in Ghana’s detailed political history and gave an invigorating account of it to the class, actually waving around and occasionally (harmlessly) pointing an old rifle at students to illustrate the nature of anarchy and lawlessness. His lecture reminded me a lot of the young Joe Clark in Lean On Me, except less intense and more animated. It was quite a learning experience for me.