Akwaaba! Welcome from Takoradi!
So what’s been happening with us over the past few days, I hear you ask???
Well, we left Bolgatanga on Friday to travel back to Accra, the Capital of Ghana and from there we took the bus 5 hours up the coast to Takoradi to stay with the Holy Child sisters at the teacher training college here. On our way, we said goodbye to Patrick who came back to the UK to work and met up with Monica, our accompanier for the last two weeks of our adventure.
There is certainly a great difference between Northern and Southern Ghana. For one thing, there are a lot more trees and vegetation. It’s also a great deal more humid! During the middle of the day, we’ve been pining for the relative cool of the North, but the fact that we are only a few short miles from the sea and its refreshing breeze is definitely worth it!
The SHCJ teacher training college is a wonderful place to be, and the students have made us feel most welcome. Although there is a Sister here from the UK, it is still a novelty for the locals to see so many “brunis” (white people) all at once, and so many of them have come to talk with us and ask us lots of questions about life in the UK.
All the young women studying here have a very intensive course, spending two years learning how to teach 10 subjects (!) before spending the entirety of their final year on placement in schools. Here, you learn how to teach all subjects to all ages (3- 15), so the students work very hard here! At the moment they are sitting some important exams, yet some of the students were generous enough to take some time out of revision to give us a tour around the campus.
The first and second years live on campus and attend classes from 7am- 5pm with an hours’ break between 9-10 and 2-3. Then they have compulsory study time between 5-7pm to complete their assignments and homework. The college provide their meals, but the girls must do their own laundry and cleaning. They certainly know how to work hard here!
On Monday, we went to the SHCJ practice school, which was set up to provide placements for the teaching students in their final year. It contains children from nursery to final year of junior school, and each class has a student teacher and a qualified teacher present all the time.
The children and teachers gave us a huge warm welcome and taught us lots of new traditional dance moves (called azonto) which we’re looking forward to sharing with you when we come back. In return, we taught them the Macarena-our dancing was certainly nowhere near as good as theirs! Sr Evelyn works at this school in the Juniors and we think she had the best dance moves of them all by far!
We also got to visit Sr Regina in her work as a midwife at the local hospital. It was really great to be shown round and to see what good things happen there. Every pregnant woman gets a HIV test and immediate treatment if it is discovered she is a carrier. There are antenatal classes set up to teach the expectant mothers how to take care of themselves while pregnant and the best ways to look after their babies once they are born.
The women seem to be getting a great deal of care here, which is fantastic because giving birth is still very dangerous for many women in Ghana. The staff at the hospital are hoping that through regular appointments, seeing the same midwife throughout their pregnancy, new antenatal classes and education outreach the infant mortality rate in Ghana will start to decline, and new mothers will be able to stay healthy too.
On Tuesday, we followed Sr Katrina to her place of work to see her lecturing at the Nursing and Midwifery College. We were introduced to the second year students, who had many questions for us about how babies are born in the UK and what it is like to study there. We were given a tour of the campus by some of the class, and it was fantastic to see their new practical lab (funded by an NGO) which contained many dummies of women and babies that they used to learn about and practice delivery.
Once the students have finished their course, the government will deploy them to work in any clinic in any area of Ghana for three years! Although they are not necessarily looking forward to being away from home for such a long time and potentially working in some really rural and isolated areas, the students are very aware that they are lucky to be receiving such a good education and are willing to do what they can to give back.
Living conditions at the college aren’t exactly ideal, with four girls sharing a tiny dorm with two bunk beds in it. And with 32 young women to 4 bathrooms, some students have to get up very early for a shower! But they are all so happy to be given the opportunity to study that it doesn’t matter so much to them.
It is really humbling to see how much people here really value their education and the opportunities presented to them, and how determined they are to succeed. We have learned a lot from them and have gained real inspiration from talking to them about their plans for the future. We know that if they study hard, these girls will achieve their goals.
It has been a fantastic three days here in Takoradi. But tomorrow is another day, and once again we’re moving on. It will be really sad to leave our new friends behind, but we’re glad to know that they will continue making such a difference to people’s lives long after we’re gone.
Christine et al.