· Some contributions from readers in year 2017
Happy New Year to all readers of this column, and many thanks for the feedback and comments. I particular appreciate contributions from readers who stepped away from the crowd into that intimate space where, driven by the need to share insights, have on occasion offered their personal experiences. The following contributions by readers are noteworthy:
Resistance from parents
“I believe our leaders and players in education will make notes to formulate policies that will steer us from where we are. I work with World Education as a District Coordinator overseeing Complementary Basic Education (CBE) Project in the Sene East District of Brong Ahafo Region. This project targets children who are in the age range of 8 – 14 yrs.
“Even after we have taken these children – who are school drop outs – through 9 months of preparation to get them transition to formal schools, we are met fiercely by the resistance of some parents that they are only to help them trade, farm and fish. As for formal schooling, it is not part of the reason for their birth. At a time you are discussing 4th industrial revolution in digital technology, there are some teachers, pupils and students who are clearly not aware where the world has gotten to.”
Using smartphones in schools
“Thanks, for your contribution to Ghana’s educational system. I agree with you that the use of smart phones and tablets in schools will enhance teaching and learning and reduce the burden on teachers. Fifteen year olds in the US are developing apps and employing adults. We don’t have to stifle the creativity of our teenagers.”
On that same subject, another reader wrote: “Good morning: my take is that teachers may be disconcerted with the amount of knowledge available to students per smartphones which they themselves don’t command. I however think the issue of equity is real for rural schools. How do we address this divide? That said, I don’t think our youth should be left behind in this digital age. In any case a good number of these kids already own smartphones. Will the provision of good computer labs help?”
How to handle mistakes
“When I started using pen in my primary school, and I made a mistake, I would try hard to erase it before submitting it to my teacher. Sometimes, I used chalk to clean my mistake but it later reappeared. So I began to use saliva; it worked, but only to leave holes in my books. My teachers then used to beat me for being outrageously dirty. But all I tried to do was cover my error.
“One day, a kind hearted teacher who loved me so much called me aside and he said, ‘Anytime you make a mistake, just cross it and move on’. He said further, ‘Trying to erase your mistake would only damage your book for nothing’. I told him in protest that I didn’t want people to see my mistakes. My loving teacher laughed and said, ‘Trying to erase your mistakes will make more people know about your mess, and the stigma is for life’. Have you made some mistakes in life? Cross it over and move on. Don’t expose yourself by trying to cover your mistakes. Better things are ahead of you. Good Day.”
Weep not. Rejoice
[I recall a column in which I wrote that the very sight of run-down public schools – without suitable toilets for the nation’s children – even in the regional capitals, made me weep. And I asked if this is what Ghana’s so called independence over the past 60 years has come to! Such horrific experiences have brought me to tears. From my village Tutuka school of Class One – in the mid-1950s – to St Peter’s, Kumasi, up to Form Two, there were no toilets. And to think children were still so deprived of the very basic human needs! A reader must have felt my pain, when they wrote:]
“Weep not my brother. Each word you write etches your soul into the eternal fabric of our national consciousness. So rejoice I say. Rejoice!” [Frankly, that assurance was a great relief. We are only human, aren’t we?]
Empathy for the victims
“Thank you for this straight forward plea for empathy for the victims of Ghanaian greed and misery. I know how hard it is for African politicians and their bureaucrats to take the plight of our youth and disadvantaged groups in our society seriously! We shall continue to patiently remind them until we die! I know why you continue to write. It’s one of the few options left for compassionate people.”
“A very big problem affecting this country is that most of our leaders send their wards to high schools abroad without even visiting the schools in this country. They visit the schools occasionally (to be tokenly visible on the first day at school, speech and prize giving day, world teacher’s day, etc). So how can they identify the obstacles affecting the schools? They don’t copy what they experience better into our country to foster improvement and development.”
Need for electronic lesson notes, etc
I recall the benefits of my first personal computer in the mid-1980s when I taught in Los Angeles, California. Not only did it help with my schemes of work / weekly forecasts, and lesson notes, the ability to save and retrieve work effortlessly made me a much better and enthusiastic teacher. And the results showed when I was asked to coordinate a Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program.
In training teachers, I stress that if computers were being used by some teachers as far back as the 1980s, what excuse do we have to not use them today, in this digital age?