This next set of blogs is turning into that pesky second album. The first album came out to (almost) critical acclaim, thousands of people (my dad) are clamouring for a follow up and it keeps getting pushed back with empty promises! Only time will tell if this set is a masterpiece or if I fall heavily from my pedestal!
Have given up in trying to keep up my blogs week to week as don't seem to have the discipline! So have come up with three very witty titles to my next three blogs that will cover everything I have done and have missed out since I have arrived and I can flit between them and write a paragraph or two whenever I have the time/when something interests me and when I get to a 1000 words or so I will publish it and then continue. The three blogs will be called;
Ø Work...... (This one should be self explanatory, even for you Milton Abbey boys)
Ø Rest..... (What's going on in Tumu, quirks in daily life and my 'very' active social life!)
Ø And Play! (My adventures outside of Tumu!)
If I remember I will try and separate entries with a subheading (subtitle? As a primary school teacher I should probably know the correct name for this!)
So far I think I have given only a brief introduction to what work is like and what I do and having been constantly badgered by everyone (well, my parents and a few others) in the next 1000 words or so I will bring you up to speed with everything that has happened work wise in the past few months.
When I first arrived at work, the emphasis was to meet everyone and get to know how the office works. This was slightly rabbit in the headlights as you feel like a kid on his first day of school! So many names and jobs and extended family stories to remember!
The next few weeks are spent just absorbing knowledge (just wondering around asking questions), building relationships (sitting outside in the sun on benches trying to keep up with the conversations that switch between about three different languages, quite often in the same sentence!), turning up to any meeting you can (whether you are invited or not!) and learning the local greetings (mostly getting laughed at for my bad pronunciation).
The local greetings are confusing, there are quite a few different varieties and the pronunciation is a nightmare, but the one saving grace is you can say 'o zomo' to almost any question (it means fine!) and it normally pans out. (How was your night? How is the weather? How is your sickness? All very common questions and all can answered with 'fine'!).
After the first few weeks/months (with time out for motorcycle training, education meetings, VSO conferences), every VSO volunteer has a JIM (Joint Introductory Meeting) where you get together with as many important people as you can muster and two of the local VSO staff come along and you talk about what you have done so far and look at the broad objectives you have and tweak/change them based on your first few months in placement.
Planning this was slightly more trouble than I had originally anticipated! Despite trying to plan it a week in advance, the day before I was still minus a place to hold it, participants and refreshments! But in true Ghanaian style it all came together. We transformed my office into a presentation room, borrowed a flipchart holder from 'some friend of the office'and done a quick ring at around to see who was available and grab a ringer or two last minute who were rather excited by the prospect of a free lunch for sitting in a meeting for a few hours (only one of the ringers made it through the presentation without falling asleep!)
So, with the JIM out the way and some proper objectives down it was time to start proper work. Well, that's what would happen in the Western World. There was plenty of that of that over the next few months (giving lectures to head teachers, visiting schools, monitoring, giving talks about Kindergarten teaching, helping sort out the new computer room etc)but there was also an element of a couple of degrees of separation from my objectives to some of the tasks I was asked to do.
'I am travelling tomorrow, can you pretend to be me at a Sports Day and give the closing address?' 'Can you help he write my Dissertation for my Masters?' and 'I need a A2 map with all of the schools in the district to go on my wall and a smaller A4 version to photocopy and give to the Local Government,' being some of my favourites.
And then there were the completely random tasks and favours that pop up day to day. Off the top of my head a few examples are:
a) 'The planning commission need a free-hand drawing of my new house that I want to build. I want a large kitchen with a storeroom, two greeting rooms, 6 bedrooms, a washroom, a bathroom and an open space when you walk in. Can you draw one for me?' Three drafts in, 'any chance you can add a veranda?' (Although saying that I was taken to the Planning Commission's Office so the Officer could meet me in person to compliment my'outstanding work'!) I am only 85% confident the house is going to work. There was a distinct lack of load-bearing walls around the centre of the house. Only time will tell!
b) Barely a day goes by where I am not asked for help getting an email password back, setting up an email/facebook account, installing anti-virus software and taking photos with my camera of either members of staff new dresses or their children and then putting them on facebook. (See my photos for a few examples).
c) Babysitting, of any age group! At this moment I am writing this blog and teaching a 7 year old to draw at the same time! (This girl can also throw and catch a ball better than most teenagers in England!) Child-care in Ghana is bring your child to work and then let them wonder around. Is always a nice distraction to a day's work to watch a child walk into a door, fall over, shake its head and then wonder off with my bin.
d) And my personal favourite, being called into the Directors Office to give him (exceptional) advice on which business card he should adopt. I chose business card three with minor adjustments, that I gave to the manufacturer over the phone.
These daily quirks make life here so much more interesting and my life in Tumu would be a lot less fun without them!
So, what do I actually do and what is my plan for the next two years?
VSO over the last few years has started to try and veer away from Direct Service Training (going into schools and teaching, going into training colleges and giving lectures) as they are not very sustainable and you impacting a small minority of teachers in the region/country.
The two areas of education that I will be focusing on are INSET training and KG (Kindergarten/Reception for us English People) and then have a little side hobby in ICT.
In the next few weeks (funding permitting!) we will be hosting all the Curriculum Leaders (an INSET representative from each school) for a workshop where we explain how INSETs work, demonstrate INSETs and generally help out. The idea is that they go back to their schools and from next year will run three INSETs a term. I will then travel with a team to schools to help them prepare and give INSETs and to help introduce Cluster INSETs (where groups of schools get together). Having just re-read this paragraph I realise that not everyone who reads this will be in Education! INSET stands for IN-SErvice Training, where a teacher will give a two hour training session on a subject they specialise in. Now read the paragraph again and it should make more sense!
We will be doing something similar with the KG teachers. We will get all the KG teachers in the district, give them a two day workshop and then head out with the KG supervisor and help the schools in need. On the side I will be giving computer training (mainly in PowerPoint to members of staff) and doing other odds and ends.
The idea is that I train up other members of the GES to take my place and so these practices can continue after I have left.
So that is the game-plan for the next year or so, although in Ghana nothing is set in stone, by the time you get my next blog I could quite possibly be touring the country giving advice to University Lecturers or building schools with my bare-hands!
I think 1,467 words are enough for this blog! Until next time.
PS Despite what you may have heard, I was not mugged at knife point for three minutes, I have not lost my phone, passport and wallet, I am not and have no intention of visiting Spain now or in the near future and I definitely do not need 2,843 Euros right now! (Although any donations towards James buys himself a small electric oven and a standing fan will be greatly appreciated!)
Sorry for any hassle you guys went through. If it makes you feel better, changing all my passwords on a basic internet connection in Northern Ghana was no picnic and a real pain in the arse!