Friday, November 12, 2010

"I believe the children are our future..."

During the past couple weeks, I’ve visited all fifteen schools to check back in with the teachers after the workshop. I wanted to find out what information they’ve retained from the workshop and see if there are any outstanding issues—technical, logistical, or otherwise—that are preventing them from practicing and using the skills they learned. Thursday, October 28th, was supposed to be a day like any other, with a visit to Akosa JHS (Junior High School) in the morning and South Suntreso in the afternoon. But when I got to Akosa, I found out that they were having a dedication ceremony for their new kindergarten, which the head master of the junior high invited me to attend. The official title on the program was the “Akosa M/A Primary and KG Commission of Maame Abena Tabuah M/A KG”. Kindergarten (or KG) here in Ghana covers two grade levels, with kids starting at 4 years old. Two DJs from the local radio station were emceeing the event. Chris Rock’s younger brother —or his doppelganger—was the DJ out in front of the crowd, while the other guy manned the sound system.

As with any public event I’ve seen here in Ghana, there was a great deal of singing and dancing and preaching in a mix of Twi and English. The singing and dancing came from various groups of kids, some as young as the kindergarteners (KGs) for whom the school was built, on up through junior and senior high school. There was a set of three young boys who seemed to be channeling early 80s’ Michael Jackson in their dance moves. Many parts of the ceremony were like the school plays that parents are forced to attend on behalf of their children. Six KGs gave their presentation on the meaning of the word Akosa: A for Ability, K for Knowledge, O for Obedience, S for Submission, and A for Attitude. A bit different from what words might be used in the US. I found it both heart-warming and hilarious to watch the “Poetry” bit, in which more of the KGs recited short poems in the way only a 5-year-old can—in a complete monotone as loud as they could say it. Since I’m sure I can’t do justice to any of this in words, I’ve posted a few short video clips here.

The preaching came from Pastor James Boakye (pronounced “Bo-ah-chee”), who was there to encourage people to donate money to the new KG. He start off talking about “1 million Ghana cedis” and I was stunned to see anyone putting in money in those terms. As he kept going, I realized that he was using the old monetary units, rather than the New Ghana Cedi. [Side note: In 2007, Ghana lopped four zeros off the end of the Cedi to come up with the New Cedi. Many people still talk in the old units, which gave me a fright one day when I thought I would be paying 35 Cedi/yard to pay for linen to get a traditional dress made.] When the preacher got to “100,000 Cedi”, I asked the gentlemen next to me if the 2 5-Cedi notes I showed him was the appropriate amount. When he said it was, I got up out of my seat and joined the few people in the center of the crowd to donate my money. The gentlemen next to me ended up coming up at the same time.

Towards the end of the ceremony, the ribbon was cut and we were allowed to tour the new building. There was still more dancing to happen and the food hadn’t even been served, but I was late to visit my next school. Unfortunately, when I got there, the power was out and didn’t come back during the hour that I spent waiting for it. I’m afraid that I may have learned the wrong lesson for today—in the future, I may decide not to bail out on a fun event just because of another appointment.  Celebrations are such an important part of life that I should stay for the fun, as I’m sure that's what most of the local people would have done. When in Rome, right?

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