September means back to school, and in Ghana it means lots of changes. At the beginning of last year, the Ghanaian Government introduced free SHS (Senior High School) for all students. Some see it as a poorly thought out piece of electioneering, while others see it as a brave first step to creating equal access to education for all students. Only time will tell how the scheme will work out, whether schools will be able to cater for the influx of new students, or whether standards will slip and schools will be forced to cut back on educational quality in order to accommodate an influx of new students. At Expo we support any move that promotes access to education, and works to eradicate the inequalities caused by a system which forbids access to those without financial means. Regardless of one’s opinions, what can be said for certain is that it has caused seismic changes for all those working in education, with a huge increase in student numbers.
This increase in numbers has lead to the Ghana Education Service introducing a radical new calendar for high school students in 2018/19. Form 1 students (Grade 10) will now attend a double track system in which half have three 41 day terms and the other half have two 81 day terms, with both sets staggered to allow twice as many students to use the same school facilities. Form 2 and 3 students have switched from 3 terms to two 81 day terms. As of yet the GES hasn’t given us a final timetable for the year, but it is clear that this is going to have some major impacts on the landscape of the school year. We have a strong relationship with the GES and trust in their support, as well as our relationships at district and school level. We're not worried though, at Expo we pride ourselves on staying adaptable! In one of Africa’s fastest growing economies nothing stays the same for long!
Back to School Bonding!
Back to school means new staff and new programs. In August we have been training our new PAs, not only focusing on preparing them to deliver programs, but also to work together as a family for the year. Our four new high school graduate PAs took part in a team building day which started with Kumasi Quest, a scavenger hunt in West Africa’s biggest market (pioneered by Peace Corps Ghana). Our PAs were teamed up with the management team and given a list of items and challenges to carry out, anything from finding a plate with an animal on it, to getting a selfie with a goat. While all our PAs schooled in Kumasi, for Pokua it was her first time in Kejetia, and a great way to learn that somewhere in the market you can find anything! After Kumasi Quest we retired to the Antoa HQ to eat some well earned Emotuo (rice balls). Expo is a family, and families spend time together.
Bonding isn’t just for new staff members, its also important to us that our senior management gets a chance to relax away from the hectic term-time schedule. We are a multicultural team, and a weekend away is a great way to learn more about each other, about our dreams, anxieties, ambitions and learning goals. There is nowhere more beautiful to do this then on the edge of a grey rainy lake Bosumtwe (with big thanks Elodie at Green Ranch for being such a great host and friend to Expo!).
Back to Business - What’s coming up in Autumn
September is a flurry of meetings with new administrations, selection of students, collection of baseline data, training of staff, hiring of interns and establishing a foundation for the years program. While this takes up all of our time and energy, there is always room in our reserve tank for exciting new projects. This week we are proud to be starting our partnership on the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protections HeforShe public advocacy campaign. This week Grace will be taking part in the first of a series of radio debates on getting men involved in working towards gender equity in schools and society. It is hard to overstate how important it is to have these conversations, and how valuable it is to do it in such a public way. Radio is a medium that reaches everyone in Ghana, and at Expo we are all about mainstreaming conversations on Gender issues, not just in schools but across the breadth of society!
We are also excited to finally start on upgrading computer facilities in Junior High Schools that we work with. Yasme and our LUV team will be working on a pilot program with two of our partner schools to install Raspberry Pi based systems into schools. These systems work with an OS designed especially for teaching kids the basics of coding and computer programming. Being small, simple and robust, these computers are also ideal for schools, being hard to break and easy to fix! We will also work on putting in internal networks, using the Rachel platform to create networks in schools and communities, giving anyone with a smartphone the ability to get access to resources like Wikipedia and Khan Academy without any data connection. We will be working closely with teachers on the pilot project to make sure that students and teachers are getting the most possible from the infrastructure.