Nzulezu Village on Water

Sunday: Nzeulezu was one of the most interesting places I have ever seen. It is an ancient community which started because it was fleeing war. They started their community on water as a way to protect itself from attack and fires.

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While they have churches in their small village, they still practice ancient traditions. Each each, they sacrifice 30 sheep to the water god. If the sheep swim up to their boat they slice its throat and the blood goes to the god. If they drown or escape, they believe the god didn’t want it.

To get there, we had to drive almost 4 hours, hike through the mud, and canoe across a large lake. I found out afterward that there are crocodiles in the water… ummmm…

When I arrived, the first think I noticed was the poverty. There were unattended infants and a lot of trash. This community drinks the lake water and uses it for trash/restroom. The people in this village (built of wood and bamboo) are more exposed.

They have a small school through grade 6. The older kids canoe to middle and high school daily.

Also, they act as if we are invisible. The people and chief of the village made an agreement to get part of the proceeds, so while we are onlookers, they go on with their lives.

The water is low for 3 months a year, so it gives the kids a place to play for a while each year.

They just got electricity for the first time 9 months ago. It is run out there through rubber hoses.

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Kakum National Park

Saturday we went to Kakum National Park. It is a huge park in the bush. It had wild animals such as elephants, pythons, monkeys, etc. However, you can’t really see those during the daytime.

Their big attraction is the canopy walks above the rainforest.

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In the rainforest with Kat, my co-teacher in Ghana.

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Afterward, we went to a place where crocodiles live. As you can see below, I made some unwise decisions. Honestly, I didn’t think about how stupid it was until afterward. Then, it made me shutter a bit. The lady said she trained it. However, can a crocodile really be trained? What if I tripped on its tail? What then?

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Wesley Girls School

When we visited the Wesley Girls School Friday, the Jrs and Srs were taking exams. The government recently decided to only have 12 years of school (like the US) and not the current 13 yrs. therefore, both the 12th and 13th year students will graduate at the same time. This also means there is double the competition nationally to get into college. Colleges can’t take double the entry classes, so less students will get accepted. Even if they wait a year and apply again, the fear is many may be pulled into family needs and not go. Most Wesley girls will get I to college, but students from other, lower schools will face harder competition since more qualified students are applying.

All high school students declare a focus when they apply for high school such as business, arts, home economics, or the sciences. That is their focus all of high school. It is almost like a college major. It also follows you to university. Could you imagine deciding the course for your life in middle school?

Currently, there are 1555 girls at Wesley.

Student have their national exams on all areas over the next few months. They had the French and Home Economics exam Friday.

For Home Ec they have a portfolio and items they made for class. They also have to make an on demand garment determined that day. Additionally, other girls make a piece of jewelry using traditional methods.

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The girls politely greet us as we are introduced to our host teacher’s classroom. The kids in Ghana (even those less fortunate) are very, very polite.

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Here is the rest of the school including the cafeteria (they always have homemade meals), dorms, and library…

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They keep buckets full of water incase the electricity goes out and they need to flush the toilets or bathe. Remember, this is the top school in Ghana.

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This is Ralph, my host, with his family:

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Friday Assigment

Read over my blog (starting from the bottom up), and make a post (like an annotation) about one of the topics you found most interesting. Please post about something I wrote and not only about a picture. In addition to your post, please ask any questions you would like answered (if you have any).

The comment area is next to the title of the post. Remember to sign your name to your post (first and last initial with due) so that I can give you credit.

You will receive credit when I return. Again, I apologize for the typos… I have no time to proof read due to spotty internet access, and I am typing on this tiny iPhone screen with weird auto-correct.

I hope you all are having a wonderful week! Only a few more days until Spring Break! Luckily, your English mid-term is over 🙂 Don’t fall behind on A Long Way Gone… just friendly reminder.

Feel free to keep reading my blog!! Maybe I’ll give bonus points for entries done next week!!

Driving from Accra to Cape Coast

Today was a travel day. It was about a 3 hour drive Accra to Cape Coast. Their main highway was only two lanes. I think if roads were better, it probably would have taken 45 min to 1 hour.

I forgot to tell my bank I was going to Africa… So, they blocked me from taking the amount I needed from the ATM. Due to amazing technology, I FaceTimed my sister and spoke to the bank over speaker phone. Now, they know I am in Ghana and am not trying some identity theft scheme.

After we arrived, we saw the school where I will be for the next week… Wesley Girls School (it is a boarding school with dorms). It is the #1 school in West Africa. All of the girls we met were so polite and respectful. Because of the teacher strike, the Sr and Jr students took the initiative to teach the Sophomore and Freshman. They have national exams coming up and want to do well. This is impressive for so many reasons.

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Below I will post a few pictures of the things I saw on the way to Cape Coast:

So… I’ll just show a few photos.

You can see traditional hut/houses in the first photo.

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Ralph is the teacher We are paired with in Cape Coast. He planned our schedule while here. He is awesome! We are staying at the University of Cape Coast in their guest lodging.

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The beach! It is beautiful! However, I’m not exactly sure it is safe for swimming.

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This says it is “Cheez fast food.” I don’t know what that means, but I like cheese. The pictures look like dairy???

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More random photos

When they vote, they use their thumb print. This occurs so those who can’t read can vote too. This also occurred in Iraq during their election.

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A mama carrying her baby:

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I have noticed that the Ghanaians seem to be pretty tolerant of the Christian-Muslim balance. A mosque:

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Merchants are all over the side of the street. This is a main source of income for families. Some families use the money to help pay for their child’s school.

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An Outer Banks sticker??? Say whhhhaaaatt???

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Inequality of girls in school

While Ghana’s goal is education for all students, this task is not yet accomplished.

There are several non-profit organizations as well as USAID that sponsor a program to get girls into school.

Many of you asked why the girls have short hair. The answer was pretty simple… to keep them from primping in school and keep them focused. Also, since some students are older (jr high ranged from 14-22), they have the girls shave their heads so they can tell the difference between younger teachers and older students. Some students may be older because they had family obligations, couldn’t afford school, or didn’t pass the national exam. One teacher said,”They can stay in school until they pass if they can ‘behave like a student.'”

These girls are beautiful:

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Why are the girls not in school?

– Traditionally they are suppose to be cooking and cleaning. So, education isn’t necessary. Providing is the man’s job.
– Some schools are a 3 mile walk. So, some girls were getting raped on the way to school, and parents wanted to protect their daughters.
– Some are betrothed to men as you g as 5-6. Then, they are married at 10-11. They are not to “waste” their child-bearing years in school. (Note, this is the traditional idea, there are many progressive women going to the university and marrying in their 30s).
– They can make money for the family working
– This is a bigger problem in northern Ghana but happens many places.

So, the non-profits go speak to young girls and their parents about the importance of education. They are told about scholarship programs from USAID so the family won’t lose income when their daughter goes to school.

Effect, more and more girls are in school. In fact, girls are consistently out performing boys in the sciences. More women are ranking higher than men in Law School.

The perception of female education is a social issue which is SLOWLY changing.

This all links back to our essential question for the year: How does culture impact perception of justice?

Lucky Americans

I think we are all aware of the fact that Americans are wealthy and more privileged than many parts of the world. So, this post isn’t really about how we should be grateful (though we should).

We are lucky Americans because we have free education, and in general, we have parents who support out education.

Today, I visited Katapor Jr High School (6-8th grades). This school is in a rural area outside of Accra. Below are a few photos:

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Students start school around 7 am and finish at 2:30.

They sometimes use a switch (small tree limb) to discipline the students. This is not as accepted anymore. However, if it does happen, the teacher who wants the punishment CANNOT apply the “cane”. It is documented and there are 4 other adults in the room for liability. One young teacher respect has declined in her classroom since caning was phased out of schools. They are caned over their bottoms (a spanking with a thin stick).

Wednesday mornings the students have a worship service and Bible . Yes, this is a public school. They believe is part of their moral development. In fact, every day they have Morality and Religion class. Today’s sermon was on being giving and thankful. Below are pictures of them dancing and singing their worship songs. There are “prefects” (student leaders) of all areas of the school (sanitation, worship, cafeterias, classrooms, etc). This worship service was led by the students.

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Do you think corporal punishment would help make more respectful students?

Here are some interesting facts about Ghanaian schools:

– The government requires kids to go to school from K-6. After this point, it depends on your financial situation, test scores, and desire.
– In Jr High, you take a test that determines which high school you can go to. Kind of like a test to get into college. It determines if you can go to the bests schools or not. Most high schools are boarding schools away from home.

Therefore, because kids are not required to go to school after 6th grade, they have less discipline issues in the classroom. Also, there isn’t really a welfare system. So, if you choose to drop out of school, you must work to make money to survive. Almost all kids who go to school then go home to work for their parents’ stores or in the house.

So, pretty much if you don’t go to school (and there is some help for the very poor but not a lot), then you go into more poverty. Some public schools do require equal to .50 cents a day.

This produces students in schools who WANT to be there… this also creates more poverty for those who choose or can’t go.

What do you think about this? How do you think America would be impacted by allowing kids to drop out if they want and go if they desire??

Today there was a “teacher strike.” Teachers want higher wages and more allowances (sounds like the US). The teachers came for our meeting… but kids were there too! Even though they got there and there was not school because of the strike, many of them sat in the library and read or studied. Their big “exam” to get into high school is coming up. Some other kids were chopping coconuts with machetes.

Here are some pictures of the students, including one of a teacher wearing a Myers Park t-shirt.

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This is their library:

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In closing, Americans should be grateful for the free education provided. They should not squander this opportunity because there are children begging on the streets of Ghana in effort to raise money to go to school.

Those children would give anything to be in your shoes.

Memorials and Markets…

This morning we went to Nkrumah’s grave site. He was the president to helped Ghana gain independence from the British in 1957.

His memorial is built on a British polo field. This is symbolic because blacks were not allowed entry. In the photo below, it shows a statue of Nkrumah. This is the exact spot where he declared independence from The British. He is buried in the big structure behind the statue. He is a pretty big deal since he brought independence to Ghana. He met MLK, the Queen of England, Nelson Mandela, and several Prime Ministers.

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After the memorial, we went to the local textiles market to buy gifts. The vast majority of these items are handmade. You can see one man hand-sewing the beads to the elephant he carved. We saw many people making their products in the market.

It was a little overwhelming and stressful. People were in our faces trying to get us to buy their products. I was able to barter my items for a lower cost. I bought mainly jewelry made from cow horns and coconut seeds. All the merchants were very friendly and kind.

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After the market, we went to Afia Beach. It is taboo to swim on Tuesday, so no one was in the ocean really. Why is it taboo? No clue. It is an old rule and people just follow it. It has something to do with respecting their ancestors.

I had ground-nut soup for lunch. It was much spicier than I had anticipated!! It tasted kind of like spicy peanut butter soup…

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A menu…

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The beach:

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I don’t know what “hawking” is… but it isn’t allowed on the beach.

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Spelling and grammar

Just a heads up… I am doing the entire blog through my iPhone.. with limited Internet. So, I have a few minutes to write and post… then I have to hope it doesn’t drop connection before I post (otherwise I lose the entire post).

So… my apologies for the auto-correct and lack of proof reading… I’m just trying to get posts up when the Internet works 🙂