Thursday, March 21, 2013

Was a dictation exam so the question about birds is meant to be about air! Birds? Air? Same difference!

Caning mission.

So I haven't written for a while as the week has just flown by and it has just carried on relatively normal. Well as normal as it gets. Yesterday though was when I had another one of those cheesy epiphany 'this is why I'm here' moments.

It had been a pretty normal day except it was way too hot! In the afternoon, the teacher who is the one I share classes with, Samuel was ready for an afternoon of caning as be returned the midterm science tests back to BS5. Now I will post a picture of an example of one and you will understand somewhere along the line, this education system is an absolute nightmare. From experiencing it I think it's a chain of disastrous events. First, they are learning in their second language which they are never actually taught properly. Secondly, they are scared of learning in case of the cane all the time. They are caned for not understanding so how they expect them to learn I have no idea. Thirdly, the quality of teaching is shocking. There are no qualifications except completing school necessary to become a teacher... And finally, they do not know how to revise because they have never been taught and there are so many distractions with stuff at home like their chores they leave homework very night until 9pm and don't understand that for a test you can just study 2 months of work in one night.

So, anyway, yesterday when returning the tests out of a possible 15 most kids were getting 0 or 1! Pass mark was 10 so for every mark under 10 they got a cane. Not just a bit of a cane, they had to bend over and put their hands on the ground with their bums in the air. It's really sick. The teacher after we had called a meeting about reducing caning on Monday (fuelled by our boss saying he agreed that the caning was not helping the learning and should be reduced) Samuel asked me what I think he should do. This is how the conversation went:
Me: 'I think they need help learning. If they understood what they were being taught they would have retained something. I'll do extra help classes and if they choose to come then they are trying. If not they should be punished but caning isn't going to help them when they quite clearly dont understand'. Now after speaking to my friend who lives here I realise I could have got fired for this but I wasn't going to sit there and watch kids scream literally and cry in pain.
Samuel: 'But don't you think they are not learning and studying at home so they deserve to be caned'
Me: 'They deserve a chance to prove to you that they want to learn and want to understand. Caning is just going to scare them off'
Samuel: 'OK if that's what you think then I will respect it.'

So, this is where it gets sicker. I understood it as he had agreed. He then proceeds to make a child bend over in front of him and swings the cane back right behind his head, the kid is shaking in fear, Samuel turns around to look at me, I stand up to go over and he brings the cane down missing the kid. Sick sick man. I sit down thinking thank god he didn't then he goes to bring the cane back again right behind his head except this time he brings it down with the loudest whip right on his bum. Now the kid is SCREAMING and crying and on the floor. I get up to which Samuel turns around and says they all just get 2... So well done Siwan you saved them from 8 of these each but you can't do anything else. Each child gets 2 and I can't do anything. It makes me feel so helpless and like I want to take all the pain away from the kids when they're crying but if I do anymore than I'm doing I'm going to get fired. I've already more than overstepped the mark especially standing up for the kids and undermining the teacher in front of the class.

But then for the final part, one of the kids can not stop crying. Samuel tells him to be quiet and he can't. So he gets caned right on the back of his head. Excuse me for swearing but holy shit there were tears in my eyes and he was trying to grab the cane. So I got up and moved to protect him and tell Samuel to stop. He had his 2 and took them with no problems. Let him cry, he's in pain.

I can honestly say, I am doing everything in my power to hp these kids but it's so deep rooted in the system and these teachers that there's only so far I can go. You still feel helpless watching it though. I want to take every cane for them because there is really no need especially when the teacher is completely useless.

And so last night I felt a little emotional but pleased that I had done something to make it better.

Over and out,

Siwan Emily

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Me and the boys.

So fast and little Cindy

As the title suggests, this week has gone ridiculously fast! So fast in fact that this morning I told Kirsten a solid 15 times it was Wednesday as I did not believe her it was Thursday! Just been a normal week with a lot of caning from midterm exams. You realise how lazy the teachers are at teaching when you see the answers on exams. Pleased to see the stuff I taught coming out alright. Will post an example of an exam today!

Today however, was another normal day until after school when we went to visit one of the kids from one of my classes who has been ill for 2 weeks. She left school a couple of weeks ago literally after squirming on the floor in pain.

So we went to the house, all her teachers and some of the kids and saw her in one of the wraps they all wear and all I could look at were her shoulders and her little chest. She was the definition of skin and bones. I mean I could literally see her heart racing through her skin. So we all prayed for her which was more like a chant with all the kids praying. Very odd. And then we spoke to her and left.

As we left we asked one of the other teachers what was said about her going to the hospital and whether there was any problems with money or anything. We got told that she had been to the hospital and they had given her some drips and a 'blood drip' so we're not sure whether they meant blood transfusion or what but basically she's meant to be better and back at school on Monday.... That isn't what I saw. Unfortunately I may not be a doctor but I really didn't think based on what I saw she'll make it to next week but I really hope she's going to be ok. It felt like comic relief where the children dies was playing before my eyes. I think if she's not at school on Monday I'd like to go back up and see if she's getting better so I'll keep you all posted but everyone please send good vibes because she's an amazing and beautiful little girl called Cindy.

Love to all and I really hope you're all healthy!

Siwan Emily

Monday, March 11, 2013

Canoe trip. No pics of the stilt village on my phone so I'll post some soon

The lagoon


Well since the Independence Day parade was Wednesday, this left us with the rest of the week off. And how we made the most of it! Each day was a different place so we'll go through in days...

Kirsten and I had promised the kids we would take them swimming as they know two hotels nearby where you can pay to use their swimming pool. So at 8:30am, Kirsten, me, Sylvester, Steven, Philo, SK, Effia and Freda jumped in a tro tro, well piled. We took a huge Tupperware of rice that our ma had made us and off we went to the 'Hans Cottage Hotel'. For us all to go swimming it cost 30cedis which is like $15 so felt very expensive for us but actually really wasn't. And the kids went wild! None of them can swim but I don't think most people can here so the pool provided loads of float things which they wrapped themselves in and were swimming away in their clothes. We did have to wear clothes being with the kids as they would have thought we were disgracing ourselves and them if we were seen in bikinis. They loved going to the deep bit and then realised now scary it was and screaming for me to come and swim them back. There was nothing better than seeing them all completely forget chores and responsibilities and just have fun for a few hours.

Then after eating our rice we put them on a tro tro home and got one in the opposite direction towards Cape Coast. It's about an hour to Cape Coast from us so when landing in Cape got. Taxi to Takoradi tro tro station, then a tro tro to Takoradi (another hour but was beautiful along the coast if you see on a map), then another tro tro to Axim (another hour). Of all that transport, one tro tro burnt it's tyre out so we went flying down the road with out a tyre. Did very well to stop! Another tro tro we were sat on the back row which was tied in as it was hanging out the back. And the last tro tro broke down from over heating but we jumped straight back in after throwing some water over it. But we did arrive in one piece at the Ankobra resort right on the sea! Felt like absolute 5 star. Shared bathroom but a hotel which provided sheets and a towel and was right on the beach. Other volunteers we were meeting had been there since Tuesday so we found them in the sea in the dark. Had a lovely relaxed evening eating what we thought was very expensive food before persuading ourselves it was ok because it equated to just $12.

Georgia organised for the 9 that were there to go in the morning to the stilt village of Ghana called Nzulezu. Was fab! Took us about an hour to get there by car where we arrived at some marshy fields. We got walked about 10 minutes to an even marshier place. Shoes off and a walk through extraordinarily brown water to the big wooden canoes. The canoe ride was one of my favourite things we've done all trip. It was so beautiful! We canoed across the lagoon to get to the village. I asked the driver of our boat what lived in the water. Crocodiles? Yes. Fish? Yes tilapia etc. Piranhas? Yes. Ok! Luckily we didn't fall in or see any! Bets you would have loved it...not! The stilt village was very cool and amazing that they can survive like that. Constantly needing repair and when you see it you really question how it's still standing! Couple of hundred people live there and we visited the school which was actually almost identical to ours with wooden walls and a blackboard in each classroom. Amazing to see though.

Then we returned to the hotel for a splash out meal of a burger and a swim in the sea. Doesn't get much better!

We decided to return to Takoradi where a lot of people are on placements to just have a cheap and relaxed night so had some rice and my favourite drink! Alvaro is a non-alcoholic malt drink with passion fruit! Imagine a more flavoury appletizer. So good! And then I had a few more creature comforts as in Takoradi they can buy Nutella! So got to eat some peanut butter and Nutella. Made me realise being at my placement is so secluded and we have access to so much less than everyone else. Nice to have it occasionally but I really appreciated my placement seeing the others.

A solid lie in, peanut butter and Nutella on bread breakfast thanks to Chloe and then off to the tro tro station. Tak to cape coast and cape to home!! Was so pleased to get home and see 7 gorgeous faces running towards us and taking our bags! This is home!

Lunchtime so will post some pictures and let you know the next exciting thing!

Siwan Emily
Our host mam ready for the parade. As you can see she is amazing!


Morning! It's Independence Day!

Independence Day - 6th March 1957

So it was last week but I haven't had time or have been too tired to write so I apologise for it's lateness and will do another blog post about my weekend next.

But as the title suggests 6th march was Independence Day! Instructions before the day - wear a white top and a black skirt and smart but comfortable shoes. Ok I can manage that. We assumed it was normal time to start so got up and dressed and walked out onto our porch. Awaiting us outside our house and our host family's house which are connected was the entire marching parade from our school! Good morning Siwan! They were all dressed in the smartest uniform which included bright white socks and black shoes for everyone. Bright white doesn't exist when you live somewhere where the ground is made of sand! So that alone was shocking never mind the mass of kids. All the teachers were there all in white top and black skirt or trousers. I have to say we presented quite a tidy school! Then on mass we made our way to the towns 'park'. The sight when we got there was quite something as we appeared all the schools in the area were lined up ready to march and so we lined up with our flag and Ama Benewa International School looked pretty damn good! When all schools had appeared and were ready some man screamed commands and every school stood to attention and then began to march. Our school drummed away for the entire parade and marched beautifully! Then one by one each school peeled off and began the parade through the town. It was great fun as all the town were out shouting and cheering on the kids. But Blimey it was hot. One of the hottest days we've had. Everyone was dripping. I mean dripping. Then we got to this big field where we met other schools and they all lined up once again to wait for the dignitaries. One the dignitaries were there each school marched around and saluted the dignitaries in their own spectacular way. We watched each school until it as our turn. Little did I know that I was being dragged into this! The kids had practices for weeks and expected us to join! So the white girls went with the school and everyone cheered, well laughed but I'm pretending it was cheering! I can't deny I loved it though. In front of hundreds of people i made a complete fool out of myself but the kids loved it so I loved it!

By the time we were done marching we were all almost passing out so we went home and tried to cool under out little fan in our room. Then everyone who had come for breakfast came to our porch once again for some meat pies and Malta Guinness (a non-alcoholic malt drink that they LOVE here)

And so ended our Ghana Independence Day!

Will post some pictures

Siwan Emily

Monday, March 4, 2013

That's Mr Nkrumah on the left! His posh outfit for the graduation

Freda, me, Rachael, Kirsten

Conversation with Rachael


Thought I'd give you a little taster of a weekend at home! Was a pretty fantastic weekend! Can't really be faulted!

So, after our 2pm finish we decided to make our way to the nearest town as Kirsten needed a trip to an Internet cafe and we needed some essentials ie bulk buy biscuits! So, it's about 10 mins and you take a shared taxi which is a great concept. When you see a taxi coming depending on which hand signal you use you can get a shared or stopping taxi. Stopping taxi is like want we know, they will take you directly to wherever you want to go. Sharing taxis are taxis which go along one road up and down so you w when you get in you'll be going along that road as will everyone else who you pick up but they're dirt cheap so it's all good. The nearest town is called Twifu praso. It isn't that big but is packed and you can buy anything there. Including as we found out tomato ketchup...Heinz. So we have a bottle which I am extremely happy about! Also found baked beans (resisted since I am putting on epic amounts of weight anyway) and digestive biscuits (couldn't resist due to our lack of a thing sweet). Also found a sketchy Internet cafe down a very smelly path but all in all a successful trip! Our evening then was dark! We have a power outage at least one day and Friday was no exception! We had 'lights off' as its called here all night so we ended up outside with the kids taking pictures with kirsten's camera as it has an amazing flash. When I return you will all get to see literally the hundreds of pictures of us all doing jumps, acrobatics, piling on top of each other. It was the most fantastic night!

EARLY MORNING!! The children woke us at 4:30am to go with their pastor and church group for an early morning run. Early morning is correct. But it was a lot of fun! They had like a cowbell and we all ran in a line of pairs and the whole way they clapped and sang. Felt we looked a little crazy but was so much fun!

Then we returned, had our bucket shower and got ready for a day out with our boss. Mr Nkrumah took us to cape coast for the day as an ex pupil of the school had completely his degree at the University of Cape Coast top of his class so was graduating and being offered a scholarship for his masters. The outfits alone were amazing! Didn't see the graduation but waited outside for them to come out and then we went for pictures..little awkward. We had gone to his graduation, was never told his name, then were included in the family graduation pictures! Even had a solo picture with him, Kirsten and I!

We then went for a lunch and went to a supermarket to buy a bag of treats for Rachael, Mr Nkrumah's eldest daughter who I only just found out about! She is 18 and doesn't live at home as she is at cape coast school for the deaf. So we went to visit her. Mrs Nkrumah goes and visits occasionally but apart from that she doesn't see any of the family until Christmas holiday and summer where she gets about a month at home. We went to this school which is huge and I have to say looks like a prison. I will put some pictures of what it looked like. We went to one of he buildings which had these huge dorms and there were loads of girls walking round. But it was so quiet! So, we met a member of staff who went to get Rachael who arrived and leaped at Freda (her younger sister who was with us) then have her dad an awkward hug and came and said hi to us. She's beautiful as you'll see in the pic and asked us to come and see her room which had so many people in it! I then managed to clumsily sign a bit with her from what I'd learnt at Camphill in my months there before Christmas. She then wanted to talk properly so she got out a notebook and we had an amazing chat which I took a picture of so I'll post it on here. She's an amazing girl and I think has quite a tough life. There were kids I saw there who most definitely had more problems like autism and it's hard to watch that and know there is no help for them. So much could be done but there is no staff and no education on how to help them. But at the same time, I have to think how fantastic that there is actually a school for them and they get to learn to sign. Left very moved especially after talking to Rachael. Will hopefully be seeing her again but I think it may just be in our last week when she comes back for the summer. Really made me miss Camphill as well!

So that was Saturday! Another pretty much life changing day.

Pretty boring, washing was done which hurt my hands as always and washed my underwear on a pile of bricks behind the house! Then the rest of the day was relaxing and falling asleep on a blanket on our porch with one of the girls called grace. Was very uncomfortable but so nice to sleep outside in the warmth!

Right over and out, still got to get my bucket out for a shower and then it's up at 6 tomorrow. Will update on thurs with pictures as it is Independence Day! Big march and parade!

Sweet dreams everyone,

Siwan Emily

Friday, March 1, 2013

Time flies, it's Friday

So, just a short one for you all. Thought if explain the picture I've posted of marching.

Friday, is an interesting day at the Ama Benewa International School! Starts with two classes which basically meant me writing some notes. Then it's worship! Which is amazing. Basically all the kids in the junior school pile into the biggest classroom and sing, dance and drum their little hearts out. I'll hopefully post a video for you all next week. It's the loudest, happiest thing you've ever experienced! Just what I needed to end the week. I spent the entire worship with a little 5 year old who was either trampled by the older kids in the classroom or couldn't see outside the classroom so I scooped him up and we danced and clapped for over an hour! Perfection! Then, as you'll see in the picture the kids then march for the remainder of the day which they love. Some kids drum which is like nothing you w ever experienced and the kids march. I watched and wound the kids up by trying to get them out of line and our of step so just ended in a whole lot of laughing. And then we finish at 2 on Fridays, so all in all a good day!

Kirsten and I are just in the nearest town discovering what we can get here including tomato ketchup...hallelujah!

Aside from that the only real news is that, I'm really starting to feel like the kids are trusting me. Had some amazing moments this week including some kids from the nightmare class misbehaving and me losing it and saying I was upset with them and I had had a game planned if they had finished the work and now they'd talked instead of writing the notes I was upset wih them. This was followed by kids following me out to apologise for being so disrespectful. Then a few came out later and asked to talk to me in secret where they showed me their cuts from caning the day before and would I help them (which they're meant to do at home rather than 'complain at school') but they never want to burden their parents with their punishment as they will assume it's for bad behaviour (these kids had got it for playing football in their school uniform) so I took them off and cleaned them up so I knew they were ok and ever since they have come up for hugs and chats so I really think they're beginning to trust me and means I can really help them I hope. Also the kids at home we're beginning to just be so close. It's so nice to feel part of a family out here which includes great snuggles. Had a great evening yesterday as the power went out all night (happens most days but not usually for that long) we played and talked then I sat down with Afia who is 6 on my lap and we both fell asleep with her lying on my chest. A snuggle well needed since I can't get any from anywhere else!

Right I'm going to be off as Ive been very blog happy this week!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Love you,

Siwan Emily
Marching! This is the school 'yard' view from my classroom. Look how close we are to the jungle!

Just in case you miss me :p

I'm a zebra!