Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pomp and circumstance

Ceremonies are a huge part of life in Ghana. In the US, we have a great deal of flowery language and picture-taking for events like graduation and weddings or the dedication of a new public arena, but here in Ghana, every event deserves appearances from key public figures who share their wisdom. Our first Friday in town, Abenaa (my manager here) took the four of us (Liz, Dorella, Steffi and me) to meet the Honorable Samuel K. Sarpong, the mayor of Kumasi. In many circles, he’s also referred to as the CEO of Kumasi, an interesting concept as it draws attention to the need to run a municipality with the efficiency expected of a profit-seeking corporation.

The mayor has already made another appearance in my Ghanaian life: at the closing ceremony for the “Basic ICT Skills Workshop”. Having a closing ceremony means that we also had to have an opening ceremony. When that came up at the meeting to plan these workshops, I was surprised that someone would ask. But I was happy that it turned out to be simply a member of the Ghana Education Service giving a welcome message to the teachers at each session of the workshop.

The closing ceremony, though—that was a real ceremony complete with VIPs and TV cameras. Religion plays such an important role in life in Ghana that the ceremony began and ended with a prayer. One of the teachers, Eben, had the honor of introducing the various speakers, beginning with the Chairman, Boakye, Assistant Director of Ghana Education Service (GES). Abenaa, the project manager, then took the mike—literally, since TV3 was at the ceremony to record the events. (I’m still not sure when or if it was broadcast. I can’t figure out how I would even look up the television schedule.) During her remarks, Abenaa put the mayor on the spot about ensuring that Kumasi Metropolitan Authority (KMA) coughs up the cash to finish buying a total of 15 PCs per school, 5 a year for the next three years.

Abenaa’s remarks were followed by a speech by Mayor Samuel Sarpong and the requisite photo op of him handing out a few of the completion certificates to the teachers. Given his busy schedule, he then headed off to his next event. These speeches were followed by comments from one of the teachers, John, on behalf of the participants and by Liz as the facilitator. Both Liz and John pointed out how much giving each school a projector would help the project.

Side discussion: the schools are being asked to teach ICT (Information and Communication Technology) without real examples of the technology, since funds for the schools are limited (must more so than in the US). Many of these problems could be somewhat alleviated by using a projector with a single computer, as it gives a way to show various softwares (Microsoft Excel) and pictures. As an example of the lack of ICT tools, yesterday on one of my school visits, the ICT teacher asked if she could bring her students in to see the “pointer device”, aka “joystick”, aka the little red mouse in the middle of an IBM laptop keyboard. I’m hoping that MCI and/or GES find a way to get funding for projectors for the schools. We now return you to the story in progress.

Certificate presentation started up again. Abenaa had all kinds of people handing out certificates, from members of the GES to members of the Steering Committee to Liz and me. After all the certificates were presented, Chairman Boakye gave some closing remarks, followed by Cynthia, another teacher, giving the closing prayer. Post-ceremony was the series of required group pictures. It reminded me very much of my wedding, because all I had to do was stand in one place while various groups of people were put around me. Fittingly enough, the Opoku Ware teacher taking the pictures, Marfo, runs a photo and video business on the side.

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