Sara Barker - Teach IT in Ghana
During my flight from Brussels to Accra, I was stunned by the theatrical passengers and high-energy atmosphere. Since flights to Africa were located in a separate branch of the airport, I felt as if only the most ecstatic and passionate people filtered into Terminal T.
In some cases, some passengers allowed their excitement to get the best of them and resorted to a few aggressive elbow shoves to secure their seats. However, the majority of the people were compassionate, facilitated conversations with strangers, and genuinely cared for one another. This was very different from the laser-focused New Yorkers, who storm down the streets, wearing black, carrying phone in hand, and wearing headphones to eliminate "unnecessary" distractions.
When the flight attendant informed us that we were starting to prepare for our final descent, my heart dropped and my head became cloudy with a combination of zeal and doubt: "Do I really know what I am getting myself into? Am I fully prepared? Am I in over my head?" Nevertheless, when I opened the blinds and looked out onto Accra, I hoped that it was going to be a trip of a lifetime, and let me tell you, it was.
Arriving in Ghana
After gathering my belongings and triple checking that I hadn't left anything behind, I made my way towards the smallest conveyor-belt in baggage claim I have ever seen, but it was efficient and at the end of the day, my bag made the trip.
Once I had my bag and strolled to the pickup area, I made my way to the Pink Hostel to stay the night, since it was too late in the day to travel to my host family's home. When I arrived at Pink Hostel, the electricity had recently gone out and there was no water. That night, jet lag had gained full control and reading The Handmaid's Tale became the only option in order for me to keep my cool.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of my alarm, realising that I had only officially fallen asleep for about two hours. Regardless, I was ecstatic to start the day. After having a quick morning refresher (thanks to baby wipes) and spraying an excessive amount of bug repellent (looking back, I sprayed way too much), I headed downstairs to the lobby for breakfast and my taxi pickup.
Being the New Yorker I am, I was keeping a close eye on my watch while waiting for the driver, until he came around an hour later than planned. Nevertheless, it was an important lesson for me to learn upon my arrival, since I was now on "Ghana time." During my taxi ride to the tro tro, which would later take me to Cape Coast, I took a few pictures of Accra before the weather started to cast over.
I climbed over the rest of the passengers and pulled my duffle bag out from under the seats to meet with Eric, my supervisor. Eric was incredibly resourceful and comforting upon my arrival. I met my host family and roommate, who were major highlights of my trip. Later, I received a tour of the town in order to orient myself for my commute to the school I was going to be teaching at later in the week.
Eric, being the compassionate and outgoing person he is, knew everybody in town and supplied me with all the necessary tools and guidance to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. Since I was not in the High School Special volunteer programme, I had both full independence, as well as responsibility after my welcoming introduction. I was excited to dive into this adventure.
My free time
Since my roommate had already been in Cape Coast for a few weeks, I was instantly immersed into the social scene among the volunteers and most importantly, the Ghanaian culture. On the first night, we ate dinner at Oasis. Oasis is an incredible restaurant on the beach that has a healthy mix of foreigners and locals, along with great music and a dance floor!
Thanks to the team of volunteers, it did not take long for me to become acclimated to the new routines and lifestyle. Looking back on my trip, Oasis fostered some of the best memories of my time in Cape Coast. Long story short, Ghanaians are the most fearless and passionate dancers known to mankind! I am elated to have created amazing relationships with people both in and outside of the volunteer programme.
My Teaching IT placement
After the weekend, it was time to get to work. On my first day, I met the IT instructor and my supervisor, Evans. Evans was very accommodating. Throughout the day, I was flooded with kids who stroked my skin, grabbed my arms and hands, pulled my hair, and stared intensely at my small hoop earrings, all the while screaming "obroni!" with smiling faces. "Obroni" means foreigner or white person in the local language, Twi.
On the first day, Evans gave me a tour of the school and introduced me to their new ICT (Information Computer Technology) lab. Compared to other schools, St. Nicholas Anglican Primary School is one of the most selective, challenging, and advanced schools in the region. The lab was occupied by over 15 computers that were shared among the 30-40 students per class. In the lab, the Wi-Fi access was very unreliable and limited, which made lesson planning and downloading new software for the students very difficult. Nevertheless, Evans and I were able to find a solution.
During the practical classes, the students partnered with their peers to learn how to create, format, and print Word documents, and also how to use Paint Applicator for illustrations and graphics. The students, who ranged from six to 13 years old, were always excited to follow along. Throughout the class, I gave the students creative freedom, which was unfamiliar to them.
In addition to practical work, I also taught theory classes. Since computer usage was limited, the school organised classes where I taught the theory behind various manoeuvres, such as opening an application and saving and printing a document. Unlike the practical lessons where the students were learning by doing, the theory classes consisted of note taking and lectures.
Coming from a progressive high school, I found the practical lessons more rewarding and beneficial. Nevertheless, I was determined to make the theory classes interactive and push the students to participate, and even come up to the board to teach the new material to their own peers! I am also thrilled to share that I donated a laptop and mouse to the school's ICT programme.
During the first few weeks, I taught around eight classes a day, with a combination of both practical lessons and theory. In my last week, I was in charge of creating practical exams and proctoring the theory exams. Once the students completed their exams, I graded them and input their scores into an Excel sheet that determined if they would graduate to the next year.
In the afternoon, I taught dance to over 60 boys and girl of all ages. There were a few technical difficulties initially, but the students were thrilled to have an "obroni" teaching dance. They also loved having a period at the end of the day that was devoted to creative self-expression and empowerment. There were times when the class, due to the sheer size, became complete chaos, but I learned to embrace the disorder and unite the class collectively. One of my favourite memories is seeing kids practicing the dance moves I taught them - that was rewarding!
I want to thank everyone who made this trip possible and all the people who made the trip a success. I consider my time in Cape Coast one of the best trips of my life. I will be back, Cape Coast. Bye for now.