First Day at Volta School f/t Deaf

Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
1
8
17
Trip End Jul 21, 2012


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Flag of Ghana  , Volta Region,
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On the first day of my volunteer placement at Volta School for the Deaf, I was waitin' for a taxi driver to pick me up. I will be transported by the taxi driver everyday.  It's not dat far from where I stay but it wudda take about 30-45 minutes to walk, I guess.  It was 8 o'clock in the morning and he wuz late.  I learned dat Ghanaians are known for takin' time and often are late.  I'm gettin' used to it and my patience still sustains.  Anyhoo, we picked up my interpreter, Gerard & headed to the skool.  Upon arrival, we were told to wait for the headmaster of the skool.  I believe we waited for almost an hour.  Many deaf students came up as they walked by. Their curiosity aroused when they saw a yevu (white person) but they really were thrilled to see Gerard.  Why?  He used to teach there for a couple of years but he quit 'cos he wanted to continue pursuin' his college degree.  They asked him if he's coming back.  Nope.  I told him dat they missed him very much and begged him to return.  Clearly he MARKed their lives!
At last, we were called to the headmaster's office.  He sat at his desk like a king's throne. I felt a lil' nervous 'cos he remained stoic but later when he started askin' me questions, I wuz at ease.  The first question he asked me was why I came.  I explained my reasons with enthusiasm.  He smiled.  He didn't seem to know about the length of my volunteer work and told him it's four weeks.  I suggested him dat I wanted to observe different classes and how teachers do with 'em for the first week before I jump in.  I also needed to know the students' abilities & skills, and where they’re at now in term of their readin’ & writin’ skills.  He agreed.  Gerard explained me dat some of students enrolled late due to the distance from home where they live in village, and their parents didn’t know what to do w/ 'em (no communication and they speak different dialects such as Ewe and Twi).  They leave ‘em to sit and do nothing at home.  Volta School for the Deaf has about 300 students, if I remember correctly.  In Ghana alone, they have about 14 deaf schools.

One of the teachers showed me to different classrooms from kindergarten to junior high school.   He teaches math.  All students wear uniforms.  Most of the teachers welcomed me and gave me their warm greeting.  Some of 'em didn't but it didn't alarm me.  I think I'll give 'em some time to get to know me.  After all, I'm a Yevu.  I especially was fascinated with the students and impressed dat they cudda introduce themselves and spell their own name.  They were very courteous:  good morning, hi, thank you, and bye.  They melted my heart.  So CUTE and adorable!  I REALly want to take pictures of 'em but the CCS has the policy about takin' pictures and videos.  Dat means I need to ask the headmaster for his permission.  Wish me luck!

I expected the unexpected things when I came to skool.  I cudda see the students have a high respect for their teachers, but when the recess began, their teachers left the classrooms, and left the students alone unsupervised.  I don't mean to sound negative but it actually happened.  I asked Gerard about it (I don't know if he knows about his role as an interpreter nor does he follow his code of ethics) and he said the teachers need a break, too.  One kindergarten class has about 20 kiddos with a teacher (probably a nun 'cos she wore a habit).  I cannot imagine handlin' 'em myself!  All students use a notebook to copy work from the chalkboard and answer questions in it.  They don’t get copied handouts.  One example, one of the students wrote a passage from the textbook, which took him a long time to finish while the other students waited in their old wooden desks.  I recalled dat skool is funded by the Ghanaian government and they don’t get everything dat the U.S. schools have such as computers, copyin’ machines, extra pencils & papers, reading books, erasers, teacher’s aides, and so on. 

Students learn English at skool as it’s an official language of Ghana, not regional dialects.  Gerard said it’s difficult for ‘em to learn.  I believe ‘cos I had two Ewe lessons as they’re required for the volunteers to participate in.  For instance, ‘Mele nu fiam’ means ‘I am teaching’.  It ain’t easy…

The skool building is surrounded by tropical plants and stood next to the dirt road.  There are chickens, goats, and sheep roaming freely.  It blew my mind!  Again, there is no air conditioner.  All windows and doors are left open.  There are ceilin' fans.  I go there from 8:00 am to 11:30 am, so it doesn’t get hot until afternoon.  The classes end at 2:00 pm but staff stay to work until 4pm.

I was told students get caned by their teachers for misbehaviors.  I haven’t seen one incident yet, or maybe my presence changed their behavior.  I was advised by the CCS not to intervene nor disagree with their discipline. One of the volunteers who is placed at ‘other skool told me she witnessed the incident.  She said the teacher is allowed to cane the student no more than 6 times.  When I observed the English teacher durin’ her lesson, she used a long twig to read the passage word by word (in Signing in Exact English).  I suspect she’d use dat stick to beat. I pray it will not happen durin’ my stay and afterwards.

I encountered 4 of 5 deaf staff members.  One of ‘em is a new teacher who teaches ICT (Information Computer Technology).  Only ONE deaf teacher.  His name is Kwabena.   We met via Skype before comin’ to Ghana.  I visited his classroom where computers are outdated but he has knowledge of the technology.  The other staff members are janitor, carpenter, and the carpenter’s brother.  Before we parted, they said they wanted me to stay there longer than 4 weeks to help the students.  The students even said the same thing sayin’ their teachers, except Kwabena and Scott, don’t sign well. Dammit, it sure made me feel bad! 

I eventually met Scott in person as I mentioned him in my 4th entry ‘In Ghana…At Last!’  He showed me his arts and crafts classroom filled with batik fabrics, kente weaving looms, beads, yarns, and more. So lively and colorful dat caught my eyes.  He’s kind-hearted, down-to-earth, tall, thin, and has long hair in a ponytail.  I admired him ‘cos he genuinely shows his care for his students.  He even has a small shop in town called ‘Our Talking Hands’, which I stopped by yesterday.  I bought 3 things:  a bead bracelet and two small batik sheets with a ‘I love you’ hand shape in the middle.  Deaf students make things in his class as well as other students from different deaf school and sell ‘em in the shop tryin’ to earn money for necessities that the deaf schools need.  It’s amazin’.  You shudda try to visit his shop at www.ourtalkinghands.com

I hope to take snapshots of Volta School for the Deaf, if the headmaster allows me.  I also want to videotape the deaf Ghanaian students, so ya get the idea.  I know I will cherish my memories of my visit and volunteer there when I leave the beloved Ghana.  Will try to continue writin' more as time goes by...

Hedenyule!  (Bye in Ewe)



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Comments

Patrick Titigah on

Yevu, good start oooo

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