October, 2021

Field Experiences in Ghana

In August Samuel traveled to Ghana for a Technical Assistance Trip (TA). In this blog, Samuel shares his work and personal experience during his time in Ghana.

Activities

As a contract deliverable for the Edukans Teaching with Impact Project, BlueTree Group was tasked with the Distribution monitoring of the Correctbooks and Pens in the 5 project countries. For this reason, BlueTree Group’s Book Chain Specialist Mr. Samuel Mbuto traveled to Ghana from 1st – 12th August to support Savana Signatures in the distribution of the Correctbooks and pens to various schools in the Northern Region. Contrary to the plan in the other project countries where the distribution was conducted by a Logistics partner and BlueTree, in Ghana, the exercise is being conducted by Savana Signatures and BlueTree. Mr. Raphael McClure Adomey is the Project Manager for the TWI Project in Ghana.

Photo above: Samuel & Raphael at one of the schools in Tamale. 

Among the activities carried out by the team include;

  • Distribution Plan Review & Delivery Notes Preparation: In laying the groundwork for the exercise, the first activity was reviewing the distribution plan and the preparation of proof of delivery documents. BlueTree has adopted one design for the delivery notes which is being customized per country and this ensures that on one hand, that the materials have been delivered to the schools, and on the other, the materials have been received at the school. The delivery notes have to be properly filled in and thereafter, reconciliation is done to ensure that the materials produced have all been delivered and this is an easy reference to the materials delivered per school.
  • Reallocation of materials: The team spent a considerable amount of time reallocating the materials to match the current enrolment rates. The initial allocation of the materials was done before the COVID Pandemic which led to schools being closed. However, once schools reopened, there were variances in the number of students that returned to schools. In some schools, the number of students was much lower compared to the materials allocated meaning that the materials were in excess. In some schools, the number of students was higher compared to the materials that had been allocated meaning that the materials were less and hence some students would not receive the materials. This reallocation exercise ensured that each school received the materials as per their needs.
  • Distribution to Schools: During the trip, 8,332 books and 16,320 pens were distributed to 26 schools in three Districts; East Mamprusi, Tamale Metro and Sagnerigu. The remaining materials will be delivered at a later date.

Photo below: Children at one of the schools eagerly waiting for the offloading of the Correctbooks and pens

 

Challenges

At times, during the TA trips, not everything goes as planned and sometimes there are a few drawbacks here and there. For instance, in Ghana, learning for Basic Education ends at 12 and this means that time for doing the distribution was minimized. In schools where the team would arrive after 12, the headteacher was called prior, to wait for the team’s arrival. In one of the schools, the headteacher was not at the school when the team arrived despite being notified and therefore the books were taken back to the storage to be delivered or picked at a later date.

The reallocation of the materials affected the original packing. Previously, the cartons were well labelled per school and the contents of each carton were well particularized. Some of the cartons had to be reopened and labelled for a second time affecting the original labelling.

Personal experiences

Besides the work experience, there are always some personal experiences that the technical team encounters when in the field. The experiences may range from the people, culture, climate, history, school infrastructure among others.

Well, for Ghana, the people are very friendly and welcoming as portrayed by the huge sign at the Kotoka International Airport that reads ‘Akwaaba’ meaning welcome to Ghana. The splendor of Ghana lies in the diversity and enthusiasm of both its people and of its food. Ghana has a rich culture and Samuel enjoyed the different aspects of it during his stay. Pepper is part of every meal, prepare to cry and cough as you eat if you aren’t used to hot food. The temperatures are really hot and you will not miss an air conditioner or a fan inside the rooms. There are beautiful beaches but Samuel did not get the chance to visit one since he was travelling to the Northern Part of Ghana, Tamale, which is extremely hot.

At the schools, both the teachers and children were exuberant to receive the Correctbooks and pens. However, Samuel couldn’t help but notice the poor infrastructure and conditions in some of the schools that lie in a state of despair. Lack of proper classrooms and lack of enough desks is a major challenge that needs to be addressed.  The poor infrastructure has made some learning institutions in the Northern Region of Ghana almost nonfunctional. The situation vividly paints a picture of just how inequality in the education sector is affecting children in the area and this affects their learning. The challenges have unlevelled the education playing field.

At one of the schools, rains accompanied by strong winds destroyed some of the classrooms and have never been repaired since then. They didn’t have any roofs and some walls were crumbling. In another school, the students didn’t have any desks to sit on hence they are forced to sit on the ground during lessons. Regrettably, children are forced to brave the harsh conditions in their pursuit of education under these deplorable surroundings that pose health and safety concerns to both the students and teachers.

Despite the difficult circumstances, the learners are eager to attend school and learn, with the perpetual hope that one day, the situation in their schools will be better. The strong winds blew away the roofs to their classrooms but not their desire to learn.

Like earlier mentioned, Ghana has a rich culture and Samuel enjoyed the diverse aspects of it. On his way to Tamale Airport, Samuel came across a large procession of people carrying a huge Coca-cola bottle. The driver gave way and Samuel inquired what was happening. The response he got from the driver was rather appalling and not what he was expecting. Apparently, this was not a Coca-cola event but rather a funeral procession. The driver intimated that there are Ghanaians who like to be buried in style and they choose the design of the coffin long before they are dead. Samuel wants to end this topic instantly but the moment he enquired, he had already crossed the Rubicon, and therefore, continues listening to the driver’s tête-à-tête. The driver continues with his detailed response by saying that in Ghana you will find all sorts of coffins and not just the traditional ones. To Samuel, this was a strange send-off and an unimaginable fantasy ‘ship’ to carry one from the world of the living to the ‘other world’, but to them, this was perfectly normal, no matter how bizarre it sounded. He stated that funerals are very important in Ghana and it is a social function and an avenue to display cultures, traditions, and customs. For instance, he cites that if a rich cocoa farmer dies, the shape of the coffin might be a cocoa bean. Samuel wants to enquire about the huge ‘Coca-cola bottle’ but resolves to end the topic.

As they say, all good things come to an end. Samuel had to travel back home, but he had something interesting/strange to share when he got back home though deep down he knew that majority of his family members and friends will be interested in all the other things he had to talk about except the one on funerals.

Savana Signatures team headed by Raphael, will continue with the distribution and BlueTree will be supporting them remotely to ensure the distribution to all the schools is finalized successfully.

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