I still remember the first time I went to be a tutor. There were five of us selected, but I was the only one who showed up on time. I had to take the whole class--40 junior high school (JHS) students, including students I knew from outside the program. I was feeling very shy, but it was also funny. Because I was so nervous, I wrote the wrong thing on the board: instead of “Informal Letter,” I wrote “Information Letter.” After I realized my mistake, I turned it into a joke, and once I had the students laughing I knew it would be okay. I spent the next two hours teaching English and math and have been with Expo ever since.
I now have the opportunity to show what I have seen during my time here. Antoa, where I am from, is between a village and a town with about 1500 people. There is one senior high school (SHS), a clinic and a police station. The people in Antoa are friendly, respectful and work hard to be successful. Everyone invests in rising students, because they are the future development for our town. My elders often tell me that they did not have the chance to go to school, so they encourage me to learn hard so I can grow up to be a lawyer and help people. Having an Expo program in Antoa has made a big difference in my community because it provides another opportunity for the JHS students to revise what their teachers have covered in class. When students can review the basics and cover concepts like fractions, decimals, indices, essay writing, parts of speech and test-taking tips to pass the BECE, they not only learn these topics, but they also come to me for advice about exams and life. I was able to help them develop good character and future plans. Having the opportunity to help my little brothers and sisters to develop their plans for the future made me so happy and proud. Now some of my students have passed the BECE and are going on to SHS. I am happy to celebrate their success and am proud of my students. When I think the impact this program has had on the community of Antoa, I am proud to say we have more students going onto SHS than before.
The teachers and the Expo tutors work so well together to teach the JHS students academic topics as well as taking good care of themselves, how to speak in a group and being a role model. Our SHS tutors also benefit. The Expo program allows students who are studying for their WASSCE (high school exit exam/university entrance exam) to revise basic materials that will appear on their exams. When I was a tutor, I won my first scholarship award. I was put in front of my school as an example, a role model. This created a competition amongst my friends to study harder so they could then beat me. For me, I also worked harder because I did not want lose my title. The second time I won the award, the others added an hour of studying to try to beat me. But when they added an hour, I also added an hour. I started to assist other students to be more serious – always being on time, studying hard, preparing better.
After I graduated from SHS, I have had the opportunity to continue to create competition among our students to inspire them. I am now an intern at Expo, where I spend my time training tutors to rise above my level and assisting with setting up new programs. Every time I get to train a new group of tutors, I challenge them to break my record. There is always at least one student who says, “Charles, I’m coming for you.” It makes me wish I could still be a tutor, standing in front of those 40 students on my first day, ready to teach and learn.