English is Ghana’s official language. I have limited exposure in the south but generally, people speak it or understand enough to help us foreigners get by. The north feels like a different place (Tamale aside). I am not so far from my district capital, yet almost no one in my community speaks English and my main counterpart struggles with it. In my village, it is the high school students that I see have learned it OK. I still would not say well but they are able to grasp more. I hope this is a sign that as generations go by, the people’s English will improve. I have wondered since my service began why PC Ghana’s Education program does not include teaching English. Maybe it has in the past and there must have been a reason to remove it when revising program goals but the quality of English I have seen in public schools, need it. It is not a good enough plan to require kids to speak English and beat them when they are heard speaking ‘vernacular.’ They just keep quiet and not engage while the teacher rambles on in English.
It makes sense that Ghana, a country with tens of languages (claims of up to 70 languages and 250 dialects) select one language to unify, be the language of business, government and education. But in school, why does the local language equally used or taught? Or used as the main language in primary school? Language is tied to culture and research shows that learning to read in one’s first language is best.
Definitely it is a problem that there are not books in the local languages so how would a child ever practice reading? And a language like Mampruli, which is not standardized, how could a kid ever write his native language properly? Mamprusi children are, in fact, taught Mampruli using Dagbanli text books. Whilst they are very similar dialects, they are still not the same, even having a letter or two that exists in one and not the other. So then what? What can be done? Should we forget about trying to improve their English? Forget trying to give them a leg up in their own country that insists they speak English?
We try to get them books. English books, that are age appropriate. We try to give the teachers more resources with which to teach. I say ‘try’ because we need your help and I say ‘we’ because this project is funding books for libraries in 30+ communities across Ghana where there are PCVs. Funds still need to be raised. We decided to source the books from a local company in Tema, rather than having books shipped from abroad.
We are almost there! The particular school I am working with is a small primary school where I have done a few sessions on English grammar and spelling, malaria education and enrolled the primary 6 students in a nationwide pen pal program started by a PCV. Their headmaster has impressed me with his commitment to all his students and his belief in the importance of education is evident.
This last summer he graduated his first group of primary kids to junior high and with the parents they decided which school to send them to. Mr Sule, the Headmaster, went to meet with the Headmaster of the Junior High School to inquire about his kids attending. An entrance exam was required which Mr Sule had no doubt they would all pass. He was right. Two weeks into the new school year, he already went back to the school to check in on the kids and see how they were adjusting. I wish more Headmasters/Principals across the world were like him.
The way Peace Corps grants work is that all the requested money goes into the community and local businesses. Peace Corps does not take administrative fees and of course none of it goes to us volunteers. Peace Corps projects are rare in that you know exactly where your donation is being spent and for what. So please, help us reach our target of $10,000! And give boys and girls across Ghana, some books!
At the time of writing, we had raised $7,887.
Please follow this link to make a donation: GHANA GET SOME BOOKS
If you are unable to donate, please share the link! THANK YOU!