Students who inspire

Since I started working in Ghana, the greatest obstruction I have come across as a teacher of Literacy and Numeracy to trainees with 'disabilities' at Edwenase has been their inability to assimilate new material. Teaching people who have had little or no formal education, and what little formal education they have had has been in overcrowded classrooms with few learning facilities, has been the greatest impediment for my students progress. Despite the fact that many of the students have intellectual learning disabilities, the fact that the Education system and society at large has all but given up on them has been a far greater obstacle for the development in Literacy and Numeracy.

Many of them have the capacity to learn a lot, and they have, I am happy to say, learned well the material they have been exposed to. When someone has not been able to write their name or numbers properly in October and they can make a great effort by June, I'd call that something they should be very proud of.

Their enthusiasm would put many of us to shame. As someone who was got in their fair share of trouble at primary and secondary school, sometimes having to be dragged out of bed to face Irish language lesson on Tuesday morning, at Edwenase Rehabilitation Cente, motivation to learn is not an issue. In fact, I almost have to drag them away from the table so they can continue their vocational skills training.

Whether I'm going to or coming back from the toilet; heading for a bite to eat or returning from lunch; at 6am or 6pm, I have countless encounters with students whose first gesture is to show me they want to write, look at a book or use some of the other educational resources we have built up since starting last Autumn. They want to bring their copybooks and take up where we left off. If you show them for a split second that you are not up to your eyeballs in muck and dirt from farming, or ink from writing reports, or chalk from conducting lessons, they will try to nab you and await a nod of the head - the all pleasing reply from a teacher signalling, "Yes, I can check your homework now, even though I only gave it to you 3 hours ago and its 3 days early".

But there remain many obstacles to some students ability to progress, to becoming a good tailor, dressmaker, shoemaker, trader. Ghana wiped four 0's of it's currency, the cedi, 2 years ago. Almost every body still says 2000 ( old cedi) for three oranges rather than 20 (pesewas), one hundred of which make a new 1 Ghana cedi. So teaching students to convert from old to new, and add/subtract mentally and in written form in both has been a difficult task. The fact that few of them have their own money to spend or opportunities to leave the school and buy something hinders their chance to assimilate the knowledge they are attaining in class.

However, all in all, the students I have had over the past 8 months have been really inspiring. Maybe I'll pick up my Polish books again and apply myself with similar discipline. Maybe I won't always have to be medicore on the guitar. Witnessing others make great steps despite all the odds is a great way for one to kick their own education into action.


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