Friday, 18 July 2014

Amaraba! (Welcome!) Summer is coming...

Welcome to the Summer School project! 

We are made up of 11 national volunteers and 3 international volunteers – we are quite a big group...big as our hopes for the project are.
That is not our official name as we are a pilot project, one which aims to equip children in primary schools with literate and numerate skills to enhance their performance academically.   We will be focusing on the years 1- 6 of primary school in select communities of the Tamale Metropolis. Our community partners are RAINS and the Create Change Foundation (CC); NGOs that have been working in the local area for a while and whose main aim is to keep children in education.

The whole of the Summer School team (from top left): Sowah, Sala, Hardi, Zarouk, Nat, Bawah, Ishaw, Ben, Damba, Alhassan (bottom left): Jade, Fatima, Pooja, Nii and Jamal. (You might realise why we didn't write an 'about us' bit on the blog now.)
Whilst Ghana has made significant progress in reaching gender parity in school enrolment, it is still estimated that that 48% of young women aged 15-24 have less than a lower secondary education, compared to 40% of young men. In the Northern Region of Ghana (our location) poverty rates range between 52-88% compared to 12-31% in the south.

Children living in the Northern Region are the least likely to go to school, stay in school and transition to junior high and senior high school. Hence, the summer project aims to employ a creative approach to education that does not rely on government but complements its efforts.

We are glad to say we have had a very productive week!

After meeting the partners on Monday, we have been looking at testing the students and formulating a standard test to measure what level the children are at. Whilst this is a huge challenge in the respect that UK volunteers cannot fully engage what kids at each level in Ghana are at (and whilst the national volunteers are too old to recount what they learnt at such a small age!), we hope to merge our test with Create Change to form one comprehension test to gauge what level the students are at. Soon after we will be formulating lesson plans, getting some training in classroom management and then finally going off to deliver lessons in three local primary schools.

Whilst the summer project is the focus of our stay for the three months, for the next two weeks every morning, we will also be focusing on another three aspects. Two of them are dealing with supporting Create Change in concocting fundraising and social media strategies to support them with their goal to become self-sufficient to be able to focus on  their literacy project. Last but not least, the third group has been helping at the Yumbass School for children with mental disabilities in partnership with RAINS. Here is a low-down on what we have been up to so far in each of the respective teams: 

The Fundraising Strategy Team

Hey all! My name is  Pooja   - I am a UK volunteer and I am part of the fundraising team for the first two weeks with the national volunteers Zarouk, Ishaw and Alhassan. We are working to support the fundraising strategy of Create Change (CC). CC has a mission to provide support for quality education and water to people living without them.

The Fundraising Team, hard at work!
Currently the organisation is financed primarily through donations from individuals and groups in Canada. However it has realised that this is not only unsustainable in the future but also limits the income bracket – it therefore hopes to explore other fund raising avenues both internationally and locally to help grow the income base of the organisation, which is where our team comes in!

This week the team have thought of a comprehensive list of ideas of fundraising strategies with the locals’ knowledge from setting up a communal labour to a community event. After sharing with the partners our idea of setting up a short code by approaching popular telecommunication networks in Tamale and radio stations, we decided to go about this avenue, as this is something realistically we may be able to explore in the next two weeks.

So after extensive research, we headed to the market and visited Vodafone, Airtel and MTN (three of the most popular phone networks in Tamale) and met with the respective managers to discuss the idea and the procedures for setting up a short code. We realised we would need to send in a conclusive proposal to the office which would be directed to the Accra office – so hopefully when we meet again with the partners on Friday, we will share our findings and go about writing the proposal with the support of CC. We hope this will feed into CC’s aim of establishing partnerships with the private sector and provide a realistic avenue for raising funds.

The Social Media Team

Hi, its Nii. I am a national volunteer working on the ‘Social Media Team’, alongside Damba, Sowah, Fatima, as well as Jade, who is from the UK ;-).

As part of our partnership with Create Change, we will be helping to re-vamp their social media image, with the key focus being to create a national and international image in order to boost the charity-and-sponsorship section of the organisation. In lieu with this objective, our job would be to work in conjunction with, and also train members of their IT and media teams.

Damba and Sowah interviewing a butcher,
who provided valuable insight into our research. 

As part of their current social enterprise plan, Create Change are seeking to decrease their reliance on outside donations through opening their own business. They are planning on starting with a new butcher shop in Tamale. Therefore, this week we have visited three main butcher houses in Tamale and conducted a small research survey on their day-to-day practices. Next week we will be talking to members of the public about their views on a new and more hygienic butcher shop opening in the area. Finally, we will collate our results in a video, which Create Change will use to attract funding for this project.

The Yumba School Team

Amaraba (welcome)! My name is Bawah. I am a national volunteer and I work alongside Jamal, Hardi, Sala and Benjamin (a UK volunteer). We have been working under the Summer School Project here in the Tamale metropolis, at Yumba School (a school for children with mental disabilities), which is sponsored by RAINS. Our aim of working on this project is to help promote the awareness of educating children with special needs.

Yumba School was established by the Government of Ghana (GOG) in 2004. The children attending the school have a range of mental disabilities and are aged 8yrs+. The school currently has an enrolment of 118 students, as well as, 13 teaching staff and 13 support staff members. Classes range from 1 - 6; alongside and after their academic studies, pupils also learn vocational skills. Their education and testing is mostly verbal.

On the 15th of July 2014, our team went to Yumba School and were warmly welcomed by the headmistress, Mrs Georgina, on behalf of the school and pupils, and everyone was very happy to see us. She told us how since the school's establishment the GOG has not fulfilled all of the school's needs, and therefore it has to seek funds from elsewhere, e.g. from NGOs. The general public are not very supportive, and due to the children's mental disabilities parents tend to leave the burden of care on the school.

Meeting some of the Yumba school staff - we had a lot of questions!
Mrs Georgina also narrated how the school needs a lot of assistance, especially in terms of teaching and learning materials. They also need a perimeter fence as the children can get lost and the school is close to a busy road. As well as this, they require computing facilities (PC, printer, photocopier), more classroom space, playing grounds, existing block maintenance, a boarding facility, electricity, and a veronica container for hand washing, to name but a few.

After our meeting with Madam Georgina, we engaged the children in extra curricular activities including "Ampe", "Kuraya Kuraya", catch, singing, dancing, discussing current affairs, needlework, painting and finally arts and crafts, which interested them most. We integrated with the children and it was lovely.
We hope to make a positive impact during our time at the school.

Ben, Sala, Jamal, Hardi and Bawah meet some of the children.
A word from our Team Leader:

Hi everyone, I’m Nat and I am the Project Leader for this hard-working team of 14 (15 including me).

We understand that as we are the first ICS volunteers working in this project, we need to try to keep to keep our aims reasonable and try to assess the possible sustainability of future summer projects (or even the continuation of this one, which would be incredible).

For the first week of our project work, they have been getting to know each other and have split into three groups according to their interests to do side projects for our partner NGOs, as you have read.  We were given the choice to do some evening classes until the end of month when the schools break up for good, but we have decided to hold on until we have developed a literacy tool that will serve as a control of the children’s learning since we will use it at the beginning and end of our Summer school. We have decided to focus on what we are going to teach when we go to the schools, and ways we can sensitise students, parents and teachers to the need for education in the Northern region. However, we will talk about it more in the coming weeks...

I hope you have enjoyed my team’s update. I remember I had trouble keeping track of everyone at first, so don’t worry if you are a bit dazzled by the array of names! Come back and get to know us some more – you’ll get to know us little by little. We promise to try our best to make it an interesting read.

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