A quick note before I start into the meat of this entry is to let everyone know that Josh and I had to head home early. Due to extraneous circumstances, we had to go home earlier than we would have liked, but on a positive note, since we realized this a month before we had to leave the country, we were able to get into overdrive mode and get A LOT done in the last month. This final post is just to give an update on our projects and what we were able to get done in our last month in Ghana.
I’ll start with my projects. I had a lot of big ideas regarding the library at Bishop Forson School Complex, but my ideas seemed to be much longer term than the time we ended up actually having. Fortunately, the director of the school freed up a staff member (Isaac) to become the school librarian. Therefore, during the last month of being at the school, I was able to have someone who could help me get the library in order and who I could also train to manage the library. The only thing I couldn’t get done of my original plans was the library mural, and since that was definitely the most superfluous of my plans, I didn’t spend any time lamenting its loss.
The first thing Isaac and I did was organize the library. I have to admit that this was my least favorite part as it involved lots of dust, spiders, and lizards. There were many shrieks heard from the library during this time when I would pull out a book and have a lizard drop on me. Fortunately, Isaac didn’t panic at the wildlife and would take care of any unwelcomed critters while I stood skittishly to the side. The organizing of the library took about a week; we ended up dividing the books into reference books, textbooks, fiction, and nonfiction. There were further divisions and organizations, but I won’t bore you with the details.
After organizing, we catalogued all the books that would be a part of the borrowing system. Since there were a number of reference books and other books that would not be a part of the borrowing system, we only catalogued the nonfiction and fiction. After creating a card for each book, we put envelopes in the back of every book and then placed the card in the book. By the time I left, all the books had cards, and only the nonfiction still needed a few envelopes in the back of the books. We even were able to alphabetize the different sections by the authors’ names. Therefore, by the time I left, I was able to have organized the library, catalogued it, and create a system for borrowing books.
Because I had Isaac to help me, he also learned the system in detail, so besides just having the print-out I made on the library and my verbal teachings, he also learned by doing.
This week will be the official opening of the library in which students can finally borrow books and be held accountable for their return and condition. Yay! Of course the library will only work if the school’s librarian keeps up with it, but since the director of the school is aware of the details of its organization and the borrowing system, he can check up on the library as a means of accountability.
The other aspect of my final month was the class I was teaching. While it might not have been a sustainable or long term effort, I was able to give the students in the English class a little bit of continuity and hopefully helped their reading abilities on a bit. We think that a new volunteer may be able to take up where I left off by mid-May.
Josh’s efforts were more widespread than mine, and he was able to accomplish some big things in the school. He worked at an administrative level, so he was able to implement programs and policies that would affect the school as a whole and make all of Bishop Forson School Complex a more effective place.
One of the things that he worked on was attendance and punctuality for both the students and the teachers. A big problem in the school is that of both teachers and students being absent or late to class. At times, students could be seen wandering the grounds when they were supposed to be in class. To fix this, the teachers are now required to take attendance each class period when class starts. The students also monitor the teachers’ attendance and punctuality to keep them accountable as well. These records are turned into the administration, so that the director can deal with any students or teachers that are absent or late too often. The students also are now required to have a hall pass if they do leave class for some reason. Therefore, if a student doesn’t have a hall pass, any staff that sees the student knows that he/she doesn’t have permission to be absent from class and can send them back where they are supposed to be.
Another project that Josh had was to address the issue of discipline in a teacher workshop. Josh and the headmaster, Emmanuel, gave a workshop on alternative disciplinary measures and classroom management so that corporal punishment might not be resorted to so often. Josh also created a detailed teacher evaluation sheet, so the headmaster could offer constructive feedback to the teachers on how they are doing. It also encourages creative and original teaching methods so that teachers might try to branch out and pursue a higher level of teaching in the classroom. It has also been suggested to use this in the end-of-the-year or holiday bonuses, so the bonuses become more linked to teacher performance.
Lastly, Josh worked on the sponsorship program. While he was unable to hire and train someone to manage the program in the last month, he was able to come up with a thorough system to manage and organize the information on each of the children to ensure that each child gets what he/she needs more effectively and efficiently.
Besides all these projects, Josh also managed to teach a special class for the students in upper primary and JHS that performed particularly well. He introduced them to topics that require a bit more imagination and thinking such as the size of earth compared to that of the universe, the wonders of the world, ect. Since he taught his class in the library, I would get distracted at times from what I was doing because the subject matter of his class was so interesting.
Lastly, we both worked together on our Airfield projects to bring them to a good closing place. The biggest thing we did was to work with other Pagus volunteers to create an incentive system to motivate the school and teachers since Josh and I would no longer be there to be a motivating force. Essentially, we now have a detailed system in place that has clearly defined rewards for particularly school achievements. For example, if the teachers are able get 1/3, 2/3, or all of the students to pass the BECE, they receive financial incentive from Pagus to be divided amongst themselves based on their performance (evaluated by the headmaster using teacher evaluation forms). The amount of incentive varies based on how many students they have pass the test. This system permeates more than the BECE though. There are other incentives that encourage the continued use of things such as the family system, the library, and the AR program.
All-in-all, though we are sad to have had to leave early, we believe that we were able to wrap things up well and leave both schools in at least a little bit better than we found them. We left our projects as complete as possible, and we were able to pass things on to the schools in the most sustainable ways that we could think of.