Three adventurous students swapped their usual lecture theatres at Edge Hill University for school classrooms in Ghana by volunteering to teach primary children.
Jade Craig, Catherine Hunter and Rebecca Maddison, all from Liverpool and aged 20, 21 and 21 respectively, travelled with the Original Volunteers organisation to experience Western Africa’s vastly different culture for the first time.
For four weeks the girls shared a room in a sizable house in the mountainside town of Asakraka with very basic facilities. The girls each created a very real connection with the community and spent time on outreach activities such as distributing water filters, new clothes and educational materials, as well as bonding with the children both in and out of school.
Jade, who studies Childhood and Youth Studies and Criminology at Edge Hill, taught science in the small-town Sunrise School. Talking about its hectic nature, she said: “In reception classes it was normal to expect around 60 children in one room with one teacher, and that was chaotic to say the least. We would equally distribute the resources we’d brought and at one point a mini riot broke out because of the rarity of pencils, paper and stickers.”
Ghanaian schools are dramatically different to those in the UK. Rebecca, who is on the Early Childhood Studies course, volunteered in Pitiku School by Lake Volta and recalled how pupils were physically exerted and often subject to punishment: “The headteacher would send the kids to the lake to fetch buckets of water during class time. He carried a cane to hit the children when they acted out, and society accepts this… parents allow other people to hit their children. This was such a contrast to our home life in Liverpool.”
The education system in Ghana faces a wealth of challenges. Catherine, who previously volunteered in Asakraka in 2012 and studies with Jade, taught basic Spanish at Sunrise School despite her unfamiliarity with the language. She described her experience of the curriculum she used: “The materials were awash with mistakes and poor grammar. Some of the lessons are in English, but the kids just have to recite key phrases rather than actually learning what they mean.”
However, groups like the Original Volunteers are making a genuine difference for these children and Asakraka’s townsfolk received these three volunteers with open arms. Children danced up and down the streets on their arrival, and those that couldn’t afford school would sit by the girls’ accommodation awaiting their return.
The experience was a life-changing one for these students, and each built strong friendships and kept in contact with other volunteers. Jade reflected: “We were so lucky to have the experiences and meet the people we did. It’s been an amazing journey for us and I’d recommend it to anybody. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Many other students have also found summer work abroad with Edge Hill University’s placement scheme. For more information, visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/careers/JobClub/SummerWorkAbroad.htm.