Posted by: rumnet | March 15, 2010

WING SCHOOLS LIFT COMMUNITIES UP

By Abdallah Kassim – published in the February 2010 edition of The ADVOCATE

IBIS West Africa, recognizing the pertinence and vital role education plays in the development of a nation and in the reduction of poverty, has adopt the Gushegu and Karaga Districts in the Northern Region in order to bring quality basic education to the doorsteps of their communities. The two Districts are among the most socio-economically deprived in Ghana.

Our children help us to look for numbers on our phones

IBIS is delivering accessible and quality education through its Alliance for Change in Education (ACE) programme and the Wing schools concept.

Wing schools are “schools that educate children in primary 1 to 3 in remote and scarcely populated rural areas. Such rural areas often lack sufficient children to feed an ordinary Ghana Education Service (GES) primary school. Administratively, wing schools are attached to fully-fledged schools that are closer.” The schools are community-based and managed by community teachers who are trained to use pupil-centered, context based pedagogical approaches.

Primary schools in Kpubo, Gbalga, Tuyini, Batae, Gingana and Gombonayili communities are among the 56 wing schools that the ACE programme has so far set up in the Gushegu and Karaga Districts. All these communities are far removed from the District capitals which are rural in the real sense of it.

Most of the communities are in locations and settings that most trained teachers don’t regard as sufficient enough to attract them. They lack some of the basic amenities that, as a matter of course, should be available to make life relatively worthwhile. So trained teachers are not willing to accept postings to those areas.

Community Teachers

But the ACE programme has found a way round the reluctance of teachers to go to remote and less endowed villages by recruiting senior high school leavers and giving them basic training before posting them. They are dubbed community teachers; they are committed and ready to live in the communities they teach.

Sharifa Abu-Safian is a 25-year old senior high school leaver who shunted the bustle and highlife in metropolitan Tamale to teach at Gbalga, in the Karaga District. She teaches primary two class. Gbalga, like the others, is a hamlet of about twelve households. It is without pipe borne water or electricity. When night falls, people snuggle into their beds as early as 8pm, as there is nothing to occupy themselves with, after that time. Sherifa lives in the community and does things in common with the community members.

“I chose to come and teach in Gbalga because apart from the fact that I was unemployed, I felt that I must help my brothers and sisters in the village such as this.” Sharifa said. “They have given me a place to sleep and they assist me with foodstuff when I need to cook. I have learnt to understand their situation and not to compare their condition to that of the city, Tamale. I feel at home.” There are nineteen other female teachers within the programme.

Sherifa’s colleague, Abdulai Alhassan Habib teaches the primary three class. “When we were employed we were given basic training in teaching before we were posted. Here, we teach in the mother tongue- the language of the communities- beside English language. This approach allows the pupils to pick up the lessons fast. By primary three, they are able to read and write simple sentences and work arithmetic. Some are slow but majority learn fast in the mother tongue.”

Habib spoke the minds of most of the community teachers when he said, “I think it is important to adopt the mother tongue approach to teaching at the lower primary level. That way, the children learn fast and are able to memorize what they learn. Our primary three pupils read and write sentences that their counterparts in the public school are unable to.”

Moreover, the pupils sit in groups rather than the plenary arrangement in the more formal schools. This, according to Habib, allows the children to concentrate and participate more effectively in class work.

Safura Mohammed and Fuseini Baba in Gbalga Primary school are aspiring to become a teacher and doctor respectively. They are in class three. They all used to help their parents on their farms and they are excited at the education they are going through. “Education is good because I can now read   and write. I can write my name. When I grow up I will become a doctor so that I can treat people,” says Safura. Fuseini adds that, “Education enables you to get work quick. I want to become a teacher to enable me teach others.”

Indeed in some communities, some parents are contemplating removing their wards from the public schools to the wing schools. The reason is that the wing schools, apart from teaching in the mother tongue, have more dedicated and committed teachers than in the public schools, hence the pupils perform better.

What’s more, the communities have various ways of showing their appreciation to dedicated teachers. For instance, in appreciation of Habib’s dedication to teaching in the Gbalga community, the people have given him a woman to marry! “The people said they have observed me and I am very committed to teaching their children and they like my comportment so they gave me a girl to marry. I am now living with her.” Habib said, smilling with  excitement.

Most of the communities are simply overwhelmed by the schools in their communities and the prospects education holds for them. Fuseini Wumbei, a sub-chief of Gbalga, says they treasure the school to no end. “Our parents did not send us to school, look at our situation now. Although we are farmers we don’t produce enough to feed our selves much more to sell and take care of other needs. Those who are educated have bigger farms and are well to do. So this school here is very necessary.”

Letters and Hospital Cards

Chief Wumbei adds that “Presently when we receive letters from our relatives, we travel all the way to Karaga, about 30 km away, for someone to read it to us. But soon, our children will write and read our letters to us. Even now, our children search for names on our cell phones for us, they write names of community members who offer donations and sort out our health insurance cards for us. We will ensure that the teachers are comfortable to make them live here longer. We are grateful to ACE.”

Education for the girl-child is highly regarded in all the communities so the attendance of girls in the schools is relatively high. Parents are eager to send their daughters to school for various reasons, as indicated by Madam Fati Alidu, the leader of Gbalga women: “Sometimes we gather our hospital cards in one place when we go to the hospital in a goup. When we return home we find it difficult to sort them out when one of us decides to go to the hospital again. So, she has to carry all the cards to the hospital for her to be assisted to select her card. It is no longer the case now,because our daughters are able to do that for us, as they can now read and write our names.”

“Sometimes when we go to the hospital, the young female nurses treat us with scorn and disrespect; they talk harshly to us. When we educate our daughters, they could accompany us to the hospital and assist or guide us to go through consultation without the insults that often go with it. Moreover they could also be nurses one day and treat us at home. One thing I have also noticed is that the children are now more respectful and take their household chores more seriously”

Morals

The morals of the pupils have also changed and their parents are very much aware of it. All the villages talked about it, including the leader of the women in Tuyini, Madam Adisa Jebuni: “The attitude of our children has changed significantly. Since they started school they have formed the habit of greeting their parents when they wake up in the morning and when they come back from school. The boys used not to do household chores but now they help out.”

Evidently,the Wings schools have brought not only education to the doorsteps of relatively neglected communities, but also improved the moral attitude of their children. So far,in its three years of operation, the ACE programme has mobilized community support for 56 Wing Schools and 162 community teachers in the Gushegu and Karaga Districts.The schools have a total of 2947 pupils, out  of which 1229 are female. Certainly the wing schools are veritable complements to achieving Ghana’s free, compulsory basic education-a quality one at that- and its match towards attaining the millennium development goal number…

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