I sat down gingerly in my desk on Wednesday morning. By now, the flat and hard desk had taken its toll on my rear-end and I found just sitting quite painful. When I told my classmates why I was having difficulties, they laughed and told me, “it’s because your buttocks isn’t round-round like ours!”* This is probably true.
Still, I sat. The Master for that day was late, as usual. I’d come to the hypothesis that Masters being late for class was just a part of the culturally-driven phenomenon of Ghana Time. When he did arrive, he sat right in front of me, at a student’s desk. I thought this was curious, but what happened next was even more astounding.
“Okay, group 4,” he announced, reading from his notebook, “it seems as though it’s your turn to present.” Group presentations? Awesome! It got even better from there, though. The group who was doing the presentation had set it up as a mock episode of “Good Morning Ghana”, complete with a moderator and several panelists to discuss the topic at hand: How to Upgrade Oneself at Work. After a brief discussion, the panel opened up for “listeners to call in”–i.e. for the class to have a group discussion.
Students asked challenging questions of the group, both in attempts to catch them off-guard and with genuine interest in the subject. Afterwards, the Master told the students that they need to work together outside of class, too, in order to be successful. He also told them that next term he’d be incentavizing group presentations with prizes for the best group. Then he announced that he’d be forming a student parliament to “give the students a voice” on key issues and that he was looking for motivated students. I was honestly dying of excitement/curiousity/nerdiness. Who was this teacher? Where did his excess of awesome come from? I had to know.
I grabbed his attention after class, introduced myself, and set up a time to talk with him afterwards.
Immediately after class had finished for the day, my good friend Emmanuel found me and told me that he was going to take me on a tour of the campus. Even though I’d already had one tour, I figured another couldn’t hurt. After all, I’ve been at the U of O for three years now and I’m sure there are still parts I haven’t visited. We got on his bike–me riding and him on the back, armed with a camera–and rode around for maybe an hour and a half. Some highlights:
We ended at the house of the Master from the morning in time for my meeting with him. We talked for about an hour and a half about his experience with teaching, the issues he sees with education and what he thinks a solution looks like. His passion was phenomenal. He told me that he goes to every in-service training they offer, because he values dynamism in his teaching and sees the benefits it has on the students. His devotion to the students was really amazing, especially in such a demotivating environment (we talked about that, too).
Our conversation had to be cut short because it was time to dine, but he invited me back to talk with him any time. His last message to me was a piece of advice: he told me that any solution to the issue of quality in Ghanaian education must be holistic. He told me that the issue is complex, and many things have to change before teachers will be motivated and driven in their work.
I think he’s right, and I can’t wait to pick his brain for more insights.
*Sidenote: in Ghana, if you want to show that there are multiple things, you just repeat the name. Ex. “one-one” refers to multiples of an individually-packed item.