Almost all the attendees were on time and we even started the program three minutes early. The importance that they all must have attached to this event was not lost on me. It wouldn’t have been feasible to invite all forty-five S2S program teachers plus the head teachers, so they settled for inviting the MCI Lead Teachers, the one from each school chosen to work with a US teacher in the school connections that gave rise to the name of School-to-School (S2S) Partnership Program for this project.
After an opening prayer, one of the ICT teachers was asked to introduce the new chairperson of the Head Teachers Committee, who would also be serving as emcee for the event. I wish I could remember how he phrased it, but he did an outstanding job of listing her many merits, from her educational attainment to being name Best Head Teacher. I knew that she was good at her job, but I didn’t know that she was that good or that other people had recognized it. During these proceedings, Director Gladys and many of the office staff who are involved in this program showed up. The Chairperson welcomed her and handed the program off to the Secretary, our esteemed, hardworking Eugene.
|Director presenting the gift to me|
According to the original schedule, I was supposed to speak next, but they decided to change the order and let Gladys speak. If I thought that Eugene had sung my praises, she gave me an entire concert of commendations. She spoke about how hard-working and humble I was and about my dedication and “real sacrifices” I made to leave my husband and my family and friends and my job to come over here. She talked about how much I cared about the future of the program, about how she could see that I wanted it to succeed after I left. My work with helping the teachers to use ICT for teaching had “opened our eyes on a whole new world”. She reassured me of how important the program was to Kumasi by saying that “as long as the Metro Directorate exists, the program will exist”.
At many points throughout her speech, I could feel the waterworks wanting to start up. I don’t feel like I deserve all the praises that she heaped on me, but I understand the need for her to make her appreciation public. I am glad that she is taking this program so seriously.
After her remarks it was my time to speak. I had had enough time prior to the program to prepare a list of talking points I wanted to cover, so I kept my notebook open to that list while I spoke. In the first minute, I almost started crying and even told everyone that I might, but I managed to pull myself together and make a professional yet emotional speech, if I do say so myself. I made sure to share the successes by thanking the MCI staff, Liz and Abenaa and Susan, and the Metro Education office. I spent a couple minutes talking about the Pulse program and how it was the only reason that I was able to come here. Kirby, my Ghanaian co-worker, made a cameo appearance when I mentioned how excited he was that I was coming here and, in turn, how happy that made me to come to Ghana.
We were then supposed to move onto an agenda item mysteriously titled “Presentation” but the Director was out of the room. Instead, the Chairperson asked if anyone else had any optional presentations of things they would wish to say. There was a silence so loud that my ears hurt. I have learned that people here are not necessarily the sort to be creative on the spot, so I was not surprised at the silence. But then one of the heads stood up and said something that I couldn’t quite hear that finished with wanting to sing a song from their primary school days. He began singing about sailing far away and wishing me well on my travels. During the second line, everyone in the room joined in, even Gladys, who had returned to the room. After the first line, other people in the room joined in until everyone was singing. That was the point that the tears really welled up in my eyes, making me need the tissue that I had pulled out from my purse.
|Kente cloth outfit|
We were supposed to finish up the program when Mr. Boakye passed a note to Gladys that prompted her to introduce the new S2S Coordinator, William (still not his real name, but the same “William” that helped with the first Head Teachers’ Workshop in December and again during the second one this past week). I was so thankful that she publicly announced him because it made it possible for me to start taking him to all the schools next week.
I came back into the room to general applause and good cheer—and at least 10 different cameras and camera phones, maybe more. Mr. Boakye was using my camera to take pictures again, so I was able to get a few shots me wearing the outfit. They also handed me a couple more small gifts from folks at the Metro Office. The program wrapped up and we were served the fancy lunch on actual china plates with real silverware, instead of the take-out boxes and plastic utensils more commonly used at events.
|My collection of going-away gifts|
I wasn’t exactly sure how I was supposed to eat the beef. It was in large chunks and we were not given any knives. I looked around and still couldn’t figure out exactly what to do until I finally saw Mr. Boakye stab a piece on his fork and gnaw on it. I decided to try the same thing. The beef reminded me more of beef jerky but it was rather tasty.]
I feel very fortunate to have been a part of all of this. Even with all the stress and struggles, I know how much my presence has meant to people here…and how much it has meant to me. Everyone keeps asking me when I’ll come back here. I’m still not really sure how to answer that question. If I got eight weeks of vacation a year, I’m pretty sure I might come back here every couple years. Since I get half that, it may be some time before I come back. But we’re in the digital age, right? I’m sure I’ll still hear from some people over email. And there are a bunch of people that want to be my friends on Facebook. Given the controversy over using Facebook in the schools, I didn’t want to accept any requests while I was here. But once I’m not in any official capacity with the program, I might take them up on it.