Visit to the City of Kumasi School
March 2010, by Julia Hammond, Head of Geography at The FitzWimarc School in Rayleigh
In February 2010, I was lucky enough to visit The City of Kumasi School as part of a personal holiday to Ghana. I had been thinking about the possibility of developing a link between FitzWimarc School and a school in Ghana. In the Geography Department, we teach about Ghana to Year 8, so it was agreed we should focus our link on that year group. I found Learning Link Ghana on the internet and met with Frank Nkansa-Dwamena and his wife Gladys in November at the RCS. We agreed to link our two schools and it was arranged for me to visit the school. Two of my classes wrote some letters to pupils at the school that were taken to Kumasi in December. During January, all the Year 8 classes were busy making resources to send out to Ghana with me. These were to be used as wall displays and as teaching resources for the staff at the school. The quality of the work was exceptionally high, and some of the Ghanaians were surprised that it had been produced by our pupils! The Science class were especially pleased to receive work about British wildlife, deforestation and global warming. The English class loved the booklet of rhymes and songs that helped them learn about our seasons and made up some actions to go along with it. Class 4 proudly displayed work on Rayleigh on their classroom walls - it appeared that it was the first wall display that they had ever had. It was wonderful to see how much pleasure they got from our students' work!
During the visit, I was asked by Frank to carry out a basic "inspection" of the school. It was rather daunting, but I put together a report for Frank and Osei, the school's Head. It was interesting to see how similar such a different school could be! For instance, they have a very strict behaviour code like ours and are expected to wear their uniform immaculately too. With limited resources, the teaching is enthusiastic, though not as interactive as at FitzWimarc; often pupils must sit and listen in silence before repeating what the teacher has taught them. I felt this culture of instruction hindered pupils' progress and didn't encourage them to think for themselves. I appreciate that it is hard for the teachers as they have less resources than we are used to in the UK, but even with the textbooks that they have, it would be possible to encourage more pupil participation and involvement. For example, I demonstrated that by varying the length of time pupils read aloud for, and the order in which readers are chosen, pupils have to listen more attentively in case they are chosen next - and weaker readers can be picked out and therefore supported more easily. Some teaching issues are trickier to solve - only one or two computers can presently be used in the ICT room as a result of power surge problems, meaning that pupils must observe rather than participate. I'm no expert, but perhaps surge protectors (available to purchase in Ghana as well as the UK) could resolve this issue.
Many of the pupils had been busy writing letters to some of our pupils. It was very interesting to see how many of them supported Chelsea Football Club, and amusing to read that they described themselves as "tall and fat". One of them even expressed a wish that his new pen pal become "the President of London"! All through the second day of my visit, Kumasi children kept running up to me with more letters! I've brought them all back, plus some video-taped messages for our students. The members of the newly created Year 8 Ghana Club at FitzWimarc School have already started writing letters back to their new friends. We are now exploring fundraising ideas for the school in conjunction with Learning Link Ghana. We would very much love to help to renovate and stock a Science Lab for the school, as they are in need of equipment to help them develop practical activities. I'm hoping to make a repeat visit to Kumasi in February 2011, and also to spread the word at the Geographical Association to see if other Essex schools might be interested in linking too.
The Uneven Renaissance
April 2008, by Frank Nkansa-Dwamena, MD of the City of Kumasi Prep School
Ghana as a developing African country presents a society which is uneven and often confusing. There is abject poverty everywhere with pockets of hardworking blue and white collar workers who do not seem to earn enough to make ends meet, a situation which can also to a large extent be applied to those who till the land. On the other end of the spectrum are the very rich, which includes officials and highly placed civil servants. This state of affairs when translated into the provision of education in the country renders a picture of a section of elite private schools that charge fees which are comparable with that pertaining in Europe and of course paid in dollars or pounds. These schools provide excellent facilities including science laboratories and of course air conditioned classrooms. In the middle and by far the largest majority of children attend the state schools which have little or no science facilities and staff which is only selectively committed to their profession. The third group of schools is the other group of private schools which though providing good education cannot provide science education for lack of facilities. This sorry state of affairs means that in the scheme of things Ghana will provide less and less science students as the years go by making the nation unprepared to embrace new technologies which unfold everyday.
What Price - Progress?
April 2008, by Frank Nkansa-Dwamena, MD of the City of Kumasi Prep School
The City of Kumasi School which was built on the outskirts of Kumasi provided a safe haven for children to walk daily to and from school without any semblance of danger to them from moving cars. However with time the rapid expansion of major road building has created a situation where the school site is now sandwiched between a busy dual carriage way and major city streets. This state of affairs means that most of the children walking daily to and from school are at risk of speeding cars driven often by irresponsible drivers. It has now become advisable to acquire a couple of buses which will convey the children safely between home and school covering a large catchment area. Acquiring these buses presents an insurmountable problem in that they can only be purchased with bank loans with a plan of making monthly repayments derived from fares or fees which most of the parents can ill afford. The answer seems to be to seek donations which can be used as down payments on the purchase of a couple of used buses. A scheme has to be devised for repayments which can be derived from exacting fares which parents can afford.
Going Back to Roots
May 2007 by Chris Sey, Trustee, Learning Link Ghana (Chris sadly passed away one month after writing this article)
My father Justice Quinton Sey was born, as his birth certificate notes, in Gold Coast (Fante) in 1922. His father, John Sey, was listed as Chief Railway Engineer. My father was an army officer in the Royal Transport Corps before moving to Lagos Nigeria to run his own transport company. I was born at the military hospital in Lagos and we all later moved to England in 1955 when I was 3 years old.
My wife Gaynor and I have travelled extensively throughout the world and last May we finally had our first trip to Ghana. We travelled with a range of emotions. Although having a Ghanaian father and having been born in Nigeria, my whole conscious upbringing has been in England.
I never really knew my mother and my father died within a few years of us moving to England. Although my English upbringing was very successful in terms of education and a professional career, there has always been a vital component of heritage which has been unfulfilled. Whilst we were excited about travelling to a new country, with the rich range of experiences always involved, we were looking forward to finding any information that would help to piece together the story of my father’s life.
We had no local contacts before leaving for Ghana and so booked into La Palm Royal Beach hotel in Accra for our arrival. The first difference we noted on the flight, from our previous travels, was that all the fellow travellers around us had an interesting account of why they were destined for Ghana. Some were aid workers, some church officials, some linking up with families, but almost no general tourists. We arrived at night and weren’t really aware of the full visual impact of this new country until dawn broke the next day. The La Palm Royal Beach hotel was splendid by any standards, but the environment surrounding showed an infrastructure in varying stages of development. We hired cars to take us around and about. These were invariably driven by ambitious and resourceful young people who conveyed a frustrated resignation that there was little that could be done to raise the resources to accelerate a greater rate of progress for that development, or the advancement of educational opportunity.
We called at the records office in Accra and were sent off to Elmina. We had no joy there in terms of records or contacts. However, we had time to look around Elmina, particularly the castle. This stunning World Heritage Site was a major embarkation point for the slave trade. The sign above the portal which represented the last step on African soil read “the door of no return”. The symbolism of those from the world-wide black diaspora who do come back generates joy and anguish in equal measure. On our travels we passed schools, university buildings, areas of obvious great affluence and others in developing circumstances. Our one lament was finding little opportunity to experience day to day lifestyles of the communities not living in 5 star hotels.
After our return, we heard about and joined LLG. The next time we visit Ghana we will certainly be able to link up with the work and families with which LLG is involved. We look forward to combining that with further research to find those elusive roots.