Hayleigh Ponting - General Teaching Projects in Ghana
Looking back, I think it was the smiling faces and tales of how welcoming the Ghanaian people are. I made my decision to go for just two weeks as it would have been my first experience of travelling completely by myself and so wanted to use the trip as a taster for future trips. I stayed in Koforidua and worked in a day care centre (Anointed Royals) and had the best time.
Once I returned to the UK, I really regretted my decision to stay in Ghana for such a short period of time as I felt that there was still so much I wanted to experience. For example, I didn’t get to try fufu! When it came time for me to choose a placement for my second year university placement module, I knew that I wanted to return to Ghana for eight weeks as I loved the experience the first time and knew that Projects Abroad would support me throughout the process.
First impressions of Ghana
As I left the plane in Accra, I was a mixture of excitement and nerves. Although I had been to Ghana before, I knew that I would be staying in a more rural location (Akuapem Hills) and so everything would be more basic. I did not, however, have any doubt about the kind heartedness of the locals and passion of the staff in both the office and in the schools I would be working in.
I was met by the lovely Nyame (a member of staff) at the airport who was keen to point out that his comment to me on my first trip came true: “you will leave Ghana and want to return!” I spent the night in the Pink Hostel in Accra, where the nervous wait to travel to the Hills began.
Arriving in the Hills, I realised that my nerves about the basic facilities were not needed. Although we had no running water, flushing toilets or electricity (what we did have had a tendency to go off), I soon adapted to the setting and in some ways came to enjoy living like a true Ghanaian. My first warm shower when I came back to England felt very strange as I had become so used to rain water and a bucket!
The locals also did not disappoint. The village children loved to walk me from the road side where I got the tro tro back to my house and the local shop keepers were very happy to talk to me about England and especially football. In particular, the staff and Home base, a local bar in Mamfe where the volunteers would meet every evening became more like friends to us and could often be seen with us in our free time.
My Teaching placements
Although I was very keen to get stuck in with the teaching of the children, I knew that the main purpose of my trip was to complete a research project for my university course, BA Honours in Education. Prince, the regional coordinator of the Hills, was very helpful in placing me in two wonderful schools.
The aim of my research was to find out the difficulties of teaching English as a second language from a teachers’ perspective. In order to conduct my research I had to carry out qualitative research, such as semi-structured interviews and class observations. This did not mean that I had no chance to interact with the children, but mainly that my research focus was upon the older teachers who could give their own consent, for ethical reasons.
Mamfe Presbyterian Primary is an incredible state funded school which spans from KG1 (4-5years) right through to P6 (11-12 years). I focused my attention on the teachers of KG2, as this is the age children in the UK start school so I felt it was a natural age for me to focus my research. It is also the age where all teaching is to be undertaken in English rather than their mother tongue (in this case Twi) according to a national policy called NALAP.
There were two teachers in this class who were both very helpful in showing me how Ghanaian schools are run, and one of the two teachers was especially helpful in letting me interview her a few times regarding her own education and how she runs her classroom.
Evergreen Blossom was the opposite of Mamfe Presby, in terms of its organisation. It is a brilliant little private school with less than 150 pupils ranging between 2 years to 7. Again, I was warmly welcomed here and all members of staff were keen to help me.
The biggest help, and a huge inspiration to me, was the head teacher Francis. A hugely passionate man, he started the school only two years previous to my trip and truly had made it flourish. He not only spent a long time ensuring that all the teachers understood my project, but also gave me a huge amount of useful information about policy during my interviews.
I cannot thank both schools enough for the help and support they gave me throughout the process and wish them both all the best in the future. The children are inspirational and intelligent young people who really made each day special and have given me memories and experiences I will never forget.
My host family
My host family mean a lot to me. Not only did they provide daily support and encouragement, they truly went out of their way to showing me what Ghanaian life is really about. From inviting me to the church that my host father is a Reverend at, to letting me help with the cooking, I was amazed every day by the kindness they showed to the other volunteers and me.
I honestly feel that I have a second family in Ghana, and any future volunteers that are lucky enough to stay with the Fianko family are truly blessed. I miss them greatly, and cannot thank Emmanuel and Elizabeth enough for having me stay with them, and Persis, Patience and Kwame for being the best host siblings I could ask for. Meda Ase and God bless.
During my eight weeks of being in Ghana, I was able to see a huge amount of incredible things which I never thought I would get to experience with the other fantastic volunteers. The beaches in Ghana are beautiful; Busua being a highlight with the yellow sand and fun surfing lessons. Culturally I got to experience a lot. Cape Coast Castle really opened my eyes to the struggles Ghanaians faced in the past and left me feeling a mixture of emotions, yet still somewhere I would advise people to visit.
You can also get the chance to walk over treetops and get friendly with crocodiles in the Cape Coast! If wildlife is something you are keen on, there are plenty of activities. Mole National Park was definitely my favourite. On my last weekend (and Easter Sunday) I got to wake up to the view of my favourite animal, elephants, right outside my dorm window. It was breath taking and a lovely end to an incredible trip.
Back to reality
Once back in the UK it was time to knuckle down and write up my findings. It was a bittersweet moment in handing in the assignment as I was so proud of what I achieved and the support I was given by so many inspiring individuals, yet it felt like I was finally closing a chapter in my Ghanaian adventure. I did well in my assignment, which I owe to each and every person who I interacted with during my stay. I have decided that once I graduate, not only will I return to Ghana, but also pursue a career in teaching abroad in schools similar to Evergreen Blossom or Mamfe Presby.