Thursday, May 14, 2015

ICT Classes and Attitudes to Education

The ICT lessons are over (kind of) after five weeks, and personally I don’t think they could have gone any better. At the very beginning of our time in the office we were a tad apprehensive about what we would even teach the children for the first week, never mind five whole sessions. Our aim was to organise ICT lessons at the local Resource Centre in Sandema town that included local children, in particular children who have disabilities and get them to take part in the lessons together. How we would go about doing this originally seemed like quite an uphill task. The overall idea of the LIFE Project is to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities into society and our aim was to implement this into our ICT classes. By giving these children knowledge of computers and their benefits, it will give them a helping hand in the working world and adult life.

Firstly, how do we decide which children should attend? We checked some data that we had in the office from the Ghana Education Service, which was admittedly slightly out of date, but which included names of local children who were listed as having different forms of disabilities. Because there was no comprehensive updated list of these children, we had to hit and hope that by handing leaflets out with some of the children’s names, we would have some of them attending our yet unplanned lesson. We did this for three different schools, letting the headmasters know that they could inform other children to attend too, not anticipating they would tell the majority of their students! Additionally we invited three ICT teachers to attend to hopefully continue the lessons when International Service eventually leave Sandema.

With our recruitment drive in full swing, we had to come up with some content to teach. Trying to think about what sort of stuff I wanted to learn when I was in primary school was only bringing up brief memories of messing around on Paint/Word Art/Clip Art; practically anything that involved colours. Everyone who was willing to help run the class put their heads together, coming up with a short lesson plan for our first session involving basic computer functions and an introduction to Microsoft Word. It was kind of difficult for the volunteers among us from the UK to conjure up ideas, because of different cultural perspectives on education in general.
First of all, if you asked a child from anywhere in the UK to finish school, and then walk for up to 30 minutes to a 40+ degree classroom, many of them would probably tell you to stick your inclusive ICT lesson somewhere unpleasant. The Ghanaian volunteers and the majority of young people in Ghana view education in a completely different light.

Education is viewed as a blessing here and is viewed similarly in many countries around the world where the amount of resources compared to certain Western nations is sparse in comparison. School in my experience, was a chore/social hub where you would occasionally listen in class to make sure you got the grade you needed to not get detention; extracurricular was more or less non-existent. Who wants to be in school when you have endless Xbox games to play on?  School in Ghana is met with a smile and 100% effort and extracurricular is met with exactly the same attitude. This mindset is something that should be the norm, not the exception back home. If we meet school with their sort of outlook God knows what we could achieve.

Leaflets handed out and lesson plans in our possession, we attended our first session not anticipating the barrage of children we would meet! It was quite overwhelming at first to have 40 highly energetic souls in such a small place, but gradually we became acclimatised to the phenomenon. Over the duration of the five sessions, we progressed through multiple aspects of computing, averaging at 39 children weekly (even during school holidays) with our last session fittingly having 46 attendants. We even got one of the local ICT teachers, Cephas, to come on down throughout the program and we’re currently in discussions for him to sustain the lessons in the coming weeks! Each week, all the members of the team would comment on one or two moments where they’d seen great interaction between the children or instances where one of the kids would take on board some of the information and it would make the sweating and heat rashes from the Resource Centre all worthwhile. Certificates and a ‘pure water’ for every child was a fitting reward for persevering right through the five week period.

I think more and more now back home, education is becoming more of a commodity; something that can be used to make money because it is a necessity and it has to be used. Children going to school and getting an education is a fundamental and vitally important part of life. By seeing how the local children here attend all aspects of schooling and learning, this has given me a different outlook on my own time spent at school. When I have children and they eventually get to the ripe old age where they put on their first school uniform, I’ll let them know about the children of Sandema and their unrelenting enjoyment of education in all forms.

Written by,
Josh Finn.

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