A student posing in the middle of a chaotic JHS classroom.
One evening in Antoa, there was a crowd of children on our doorstep. They were ready to play, to laugh, and to dance. And they did, filling our compound with giggles until well after dark. We sent them home and they left, all except for one. 10 year old Gottfried remained behind, with his notebook tucked under his arm. It contained his math homework for the day. “Its time to go home, Gottfried,” we told him. “You can do your homework at home.” But the power was out, and it was too dark to see his homework at home. His mom is a tailor around the corner, and all the table space is covered in fabric all the time. At least here there was a solar lamp, and a table and chair for him to use. And now that all the kids had been sent home out of our compound for the evening, there was a small corner of Antoa that was quiet. So Gottfried stayed while Julie and I made dinner, looking over his shoulder every once in a while to help.
Although Gottfried isn’t a student in one of Expo’s programs, he and the students we target still face similar environmental challenges. The space available to students in Ghana often times works against them, instead of fostering a productive learning environment as it should. Unreliable electricity, a workspace that is in disrepair and full of disruptions, and noise that is difficult to escape all add layers of complication to the Ghanaian student's life.
The programs designed by Expo aim to address many of the varied challenges that students in Ghana face. Some are very straight-forward, such as offering tutoring to students who are at risk to fail their exit exams. Others are more nuanced, like letting their peers teach in order to influence and transform the atmosphere of learning and instill a sense of personal ownership of their education, instead of a figure of authority (like a professional teacher) or a stranger to their circumstances, education system, and culture (like a foreigner). Nutritional deficiencies can prevent students from being alert, focused, or even being present at school, so to address this Expo provides snacks and water for all students and tutors. Our programs are not located in city centers or wealthy districts, but concentrate rather on rural communities and schools with students who struggle to pay their schools fees. These are just a few of the ways Expo works within its scope to make our impact as comprehensive as possible.
Josephine, a Girls LEAP participant full of joy, determination, and spirit!
These conditions that students must function and thrive in are not insurmountable. In the face of the unexpected power outages, unforeseen school closures, hot temperatures, and sickness (among many other things), Expo and the students both learn to be flexible and innovative. Ultimately, we are working together to make a better learning environment.