Update from Program Associate Georgina Paterson in the Volta Region
February 24, 2015
This is a dispatch from my outpost in the East of Ghana, from the town Kpando in the Volta region. As the lucky Program Associate expanding our program in a new region, I’ve been scoping out the way for new programs as well as settling into a new area and culture.
Kpando is a fairly small town right on the shore of Lake Volta, from which it can claim its importance as the local municipal and market trade center status. The fish and seafood sold here are delicious, and a lot is shipped down to Accra and other towns along the coast, and farms around and between the satellite villages bring fresh produce in for the central market, which takes place every 4 days. I am constantly counting back days in my head when I begin to walk home so that I can choose to either avoid the huge crush or nip in to pick up a cedi’s worth of groundnuts on my way!
Kpando, and the surrounding area, are much lusher and greener than Kumasi, and I benefit from a near-constant breeze and a much bigger selection of flowers along the roads- when the entire embankment isn’t coated by orange dust, that is. The occasional distant view of the mountains and the seriously impressive library add to my daily list of things to be glad about, as I didn’t even realize what I was missing in the Ashanti capital.
The Ewe people who live in the Volta region exemplify the typical Ghanaian friendliness and kindness that I have come to recognize from my small-small travels here, but I can also recognize the reason for their reputation within the country for honesty and reliability. Ewe, or Eʋegbe, is a much harder language to pick up than Twi although I am making some small progress. People are also much more likely to speak to me in English automatically, so I have less of a chance to practice and consolidate the phrases I’m taught- which are mainly kinds of greetings. My Ewe teacher warned me before I arrived that there are nearly endless greetings, each with their own response, which are hard to pick up although I can now greet according to age, number of people and time of day. I’ve also never been asked so many times if I’m Belgian in my life, or greeted ‘Guten tag!’ There are a lot of Belgian and German volunteers linked with the Technical college, it seems, although I haven’t met the present teachers. There are certainly fewer expats in Kpando, and although I’ve spotted another couple of yeʋu around, we’re still scarce enough for children to chant ‘yeʋu yeʋu kanda’ as I walk by the schoolyard!
Although the schooling system is nominally the same in Volta, we have experienced some setbacks because the municipality has voted that the children should take mandatory after-school classes; essentially the school day has been extended. This has meant that we have not been able to run the Peer-to-peer program in the same way as in Kumasi and also had to wait on the approval of PTA groups, Boards of Governors, and Executive teaching boards for approval to run the group at the weekends for 2 hours, rather than twice weekly for 1. This also means that training and any extra meetings for the tutors will have to take place at the weekends, taking into account school mealtimes and the heavy workload that the students tackle over Saturdays and Sundays. Sadly, for one of our chosen and very enthusiastic JHS schools, the partner SHS decided that it would not be feasible, so we are working one trial P2P program before possibly moving outside of the town to villages next term.
This has also put some obstacles in the way of our Girls LEAP program, which is similarly run after schools twice weekly with SHS girls in Kumasi. However, this situation certainly seems more like an opportunity as we have decided to work with girls who are not in school instead, and pilot a slightly altered version of the program with girls and young women who have dropped out of school. Pending approval from the Social Welfare Minister, who will hopefully prove less elusive than his counterpart in Education, we will be selecting a group of girls, who have left school for a mix of reasons and running the program during the week.
There will be coming many more updates from Kpando the next couple of weeks once the programs are up and running.