The African Awakening-Second Teacher Strike in Ghana

The African Awakening- Second Teacher Strike in Ghana

 

2011 was marked by the Arab Spring, a period of protests and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the world. The Arab Spring gained a lot of media presence and attention. Little known about has been the African Awakening, a movement marked by marginalized populations throughout the continent protesting for equity. From Zimbabwe to Sudan and recently Burkina Faso, African countries, often living through the legacy of colonialism and lackluster leadership since independence is rising against the status quo.

 

Ghana is among the countries experiencing the African Awakening. With rising inflation at 25%, according to the Ghana National Bank, the impacts of the unstable economic situation is felt across all sectors and overall development. This has been especially true for education. From October 20 to November 10, 2014, two teacher unions, Unions are the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) in Ghana have been on strike and this has been negatively impacting students in government schools. The strike is a result of cancellation of teachers’ pension plan.

Ashanti region students of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG, were asked to document and discuss the effects of the strike of them and their education.

marthaMartha Frimpong of Esreso D/A 2 says “we are wasting much time and we cant get the time back. It (the strike) can even let us fail the exams that are awaiting us in November/December”

 

bushira2Bushira Sumalia noted “ the truth is that the students will go around without learning… students will not get understanding of topics to be taught and teachers will rush getting nearer to exam times and students will not get the understanding of topics and their results will be poor.”

 

 

DSC_1812Harriet Osei states “foremost, the strike action has brought academic activities in government schools too a standstill. This has really affected the students in final year. The students are in panic for fear of failing their examination. Furthermore, it has also led to delinquency. Children are found to be loitering about in the streets during school hours.

 

 

zakiaZakia Ali adds “the students will not be able to go to school and for that matter put pressure on their parents.” However, “the positive aspect of this strike is that it will help the teachers get what they’re asking from the government. The government and teachers will go to the negotiation table and solve their differences.”

These insights from students are indicative of some of the hardships youth in Ghana and elsewhere on the continent face. I am especially impressed by Zakia’s input. While she acknowledges the difficulties posed by the strike on students, families, and society as a whole, she has the understanding of governance and civic participation and acknowledges the positive aspect of a trying situation. Reform for the education system and the country as a whole will stem from adequately prepared students who are civic minded and forward thinking regarding their futures and the future of the country, the continent, and the globe. This is what I hope GEIG programs will instill in our girls and community members.

 

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From South Africa to Ghana

DSC_0044For as long as I recall in my adult life, I have always been an advocate for equal access to education. This began when I was in South Africa in 2013. Since then, it seems a lot has changed but one thing remains I continue to seek to be a voice for the voiceless through education. Influenced and affected by the research study and course in South Africa, and since graduation in May I have relocated to Ghana my birth country to found the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG. GEIG’s mission is to provide academic and financial support for girls, including applicants with special needs, so they can access higher education and professional opportunities. We currently serve 13 students in the Ashanti and Greater Accra regions. Visit www. girlsedgh.org to learn more.

 

This platform will highlight some of my experiences in Ghana and highlight our students and programs. Im hopeful you’ll continue on this journey with me.

 

The event is now a process

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As I left South Africa in July I was moved by my professor’s final statement to the class. She said “you can make this an event or a process”. Well, with her help and the help of many others the event is now a process. Join me and others from the course as we fundraise for the Reinotswe special school and the Bachana Mockwena school, both in the Ga-rankwa district.

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What I’ve learned

After five weeks of traveling and learning in South Africa, the journey has come to an end. Now I’m left with memories and this quote from our professor:  “You can make this an event or a process.” I absorbed a lot from lectures and presentation from the professionals we were privileged to exposed; I additionally learned and grew a lot from interactions with my fellow classmates. However, my personal transformation is something I’m still sorting out. From my previous posts its apparent I grappled with the intersections of my identity while in South Africa. As a African, I was confronted by what I term as my ignorance of the continent. I realized that my African identity in some ways has been subsumed by my American identity. There were instances when I yearned to be easily identifiable as a Ghanaian rather than American. Of these were the gym incident with hotel staff giving preferential treatment and me singing Sarkodie songs word for word in a club to the surprise of people around me. In these moments I wished for Africaness to be obvious.
      Additionally, the trip helped me gain a better sense of myself. I was vulnerable several times when confronting my different abilities. I have a lot of pride and tend to shun asking for help but I was forced to forgo this on what seemed at times like a daily basis. In response to my professor I plan to make this a process. I realized this on a visit to Reinotswe Special School where I became fond of a young girl who is in a special school because she is tongue tied. This little girl’s situation impressed me and I’m trying to find some way to help. The process is in the planning and strategizing stages. It will come to fruition in the near future. Stay tuned!

After thoughts

         Today was the first full day of course work (lecture and field trip to Robben Island). While at Robben island I felt as though I wasn’t as connected emotionally to the history and legacy of the place. I’ve heard and observed people feeling extremely responsive, especially upon visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell. I almost feel guilty for not having more than an intellectual response/observation; prior to this trip I wasn’t as familiar with the history of South Africa. As an African it seems odd to me that I haven’t formulated a continental identity. I’ve been making an effort to fill in the gaps of Ghanaian history and culture that I’ve missed out on in my time in the States. This apathy toward the island revealed to me that for me to fully embrace my identity and African citizenship I must make more of an effort to be versed and conscious of the 53 other countries of the continent.

Following the tour we convened for a debriefing first formal lecture where the issue of identity was the overarching theme. I’m prompted to reflect on the facets of my identity. It is my hope that reflecting on my identity and its intersections as well as my interests will inform on my research topic. In a former life when asked to introduce myself in a group setting it always began like this “my name is Elizabeth. I was born in Ghana; my family came to the US in 1995….” Since 2003, the year of my auto accident, I almost feel compelled to say this instead “ I’m Elizabeth, my family came to the US in 1995, and I went to boarding school in Pennsylvania where in 2003, I got in a car accident which has left me hemiplegic.” I struggle with identifying myself as a disabled person as I strive to live my life as though nothing ever happened. But there are instances where I’m reminded that there’s been a shift in how I categorize myself and thus the way(s) I relate to others and vice versa.

Connecting this to the course, I initially set out to the research the gender and higher education opportunities for girls in South Africa. I wanted to explore the notion of gender being a social construct and how this at times informs a person’s roles in society particularly South African society. However, now I’m skirting around the idea of exploring disability issues in South African education. Are there accommodations made for special needs students? How are developmentally disabled and individuals who acquire disabilities perceived in South Africa? Are there institutions designated to these issues? The fact that I’m entertaining this is encouraging to me; its indicative of my coming into terms with myself and this part of my identity.

Thinking of Trayvon in South Africa

While on a safari this past weekend I realized how tiny I am in the world; I saw lions, giraffes, hippos, zebras and much more. I am thankful to have gotten the chance to see, hear, and touch God’s creations. For this I’m grateful. The safari experience made me reflective on my life and the gifts I’ve been given. A mere ten years ago I was fighting for a second chance at life.

The goodness of the safari was unfortunately shadowed by the news of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man charged with the senseless shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black 17 year old boy who found himself walking in a Florida suburban neighborhood only to suspected of bring “dangerous”. The unarmed teenager was shot and murdered senselessly. In a conversation with student leaders from the university of South Africa the parallels in race relations were highlighted. They too attested to racial discrimination; they have witnessed or heard of people being murdered on the basis of race. They confirmed that while the majority of the university student population is blacks, administration and school leaders are whites, Indian, or colored. As such they often feel their voices aren’t being heard. These young brothers’ and sisters’ intelligence and passion to bring change to the country impressed me. They’re a testament to the possibilities of education.

 

Processing Identity

Since my last post I’ve made several observations; firstly I had an Aha! moment. As Ghana is my only other African point of reference I’ve been comparing the South Africa and Ghana. It hit me after returning from a day of excursions to a township, Cape Point, and Table mountain that South Africa has only been a democratic state for 19 years. As a young post-colonial state South Africa has done well however there are clear demarcations of peoples and communities. For example at the hotel we are staying in a disproportionate amount of the visible staff are either Black or Colored (according to apartheid era definitions). Meanwhile walking across the area directly behind the hotel at night the majority of people I observed enjoying the Cape were White or foreigners. Some of my group mates have commented on how “cheap” food is here; we’ve been eating at restaurants by the waterfront. Although I’m financially prepared for this trip in solidarity with Black South Africans or impoverished communities I’m consciously abstaining from certain activities that I know a native cant afford. I’m certain that locals can’t afford nightly dinners of 40 rand. In another instance, one morning as I was working out in the gym when Black staff entered. We made eye contact, I greeted him and he proceeded to ask me if he could fill his water bottle. This incident made me uncomfortable; there’s a clear distinction between me and them. I, an American whose features don’t clearly relay her African roots and them, a people who have struggle for so long merely for their race. I feel that the mere fact that I like him are Black, regardless of country of origin should be reason to share a sense of camaraderie. I intuitively think our histories ought to be intertwined even if superficial.