WARNING!!! Please wash your hands before your read this post!!! In the midst of COVID 19, I decided to post this which I started writing several months ago, maybe it will take our minds of COVID 19 for a moment. It was a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in a small community in Northern Ghana, I was taking my school children through the final lesson of the day before we would close for the day. All of a sudden, it started raining and the 58 pupils started running helter skelter to seek cover from the rain, it was the time of the year when rain could fall without warning. In the pandemonium, they bumped into each other and some fell and bruised some parts of their skin but that did not stop them. This was one of the issues I had to deal with as a teacher in the community I have been posted to teach after my teacher training and have been there for over six years. The pupils gathered on the veranda of a church nearby and I also gathered my materials to join them there and we had to wait for the rain to subside before we can park the tables and chairs to safety and go to our various homes. Deep in my heart, I felt this was a clear sign of misplaced priorities.
As I watched the children folding their hands across their chests and some coiling their bodies to shut out the cold, my mind went back to the first year I was posted to the school… It was my first time in that part of the country and I had mixed feelings. I was excited and anxious but got disappointed on my first day in the community. I arrived on a Friday evening was taken to the chief’s palace, the reception was warm and welcoming, I was shown where I’ll stay. On Saturday I asked for directions to the school, but it was nothing near what I expected. There were only three separate rooms in what seemed like a school compound, I later found out that one was used as the office and stores, the other two rooms were classrooms, but they were in deplorable states and only the senior pupils were using those classrooms. The desks in the classrooms were broken and pupils have to bring their own chairs from home or sit on the broken pieces of furniture.
On my first day of reporting officially in the school, I told myself that I was going to change a lot about the school and the community. I discussed with the head teacher the plans I had to help transform the school, he just shook his head and said “my daughter, it won’t work”, I was not just disappointed but broken. Since I was staying in the chief’s palace, I decided to discuss it with the chief, but he didn’t even reply to my request because he also had his interest in something else, he was asking if I will be his sixth wife! My request was however simple, I found out that the Muslims in the community pooled resources together and built a mosque for worship. The Christians also learned from their Islam brethren and started pooling resources together to put up a church building. I was only requesting that members of the community be tasked to commit themselves financially so that we at least put up some three or four more rooms to protect the children from the weather and also make them feel more comfortable.
To my surprise, they all said that was government’s responsibility to provide schools, they do not have money to build a school. I tried to explain to them that they could do like they did with the mosque and the church but they were not ready to hear me out. I tried explaining the risks when children sit outside to learn. When this plan did not work, I suggested that then they could let us use the mosque and the church for academic purposes temporally especially in these times when rains were a threat to our teaching and learning. The pastor responded with an outright no, the children will deface the furniture and valuables in the church. The imam also declined saying the children will not be able to keep the mosque clean and holy.
I was completely at a loss at the turn of events and decided to fall on the parents and guardians in the community, so at one of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting, I tried introducing it to the parents, we could get community members to contribute or donate weekly, then the community provides labour to start building a few structure, once that is done, we could contact government and other individuals from outside the community to come and support us complete what we started. But the parents were not interested, they said they were just peasant farmers and only farm to feed their families. I didn’t even understand why I was doing this, the school was not for me, that community wasn’t where I come from, if the people did not care, why do I have to worry my head over their children. Now six years down the lane, I was still worrying about them. The rain will stop and we will all go home and prepare for school the following day. In these six years, the church building is now complete, but we just have to admire it from where we learn or join them to worship if you want to sit inside. This story will be continued later…
From my story, do you think our priorities are misplaced? It’s not that I don’t go to church but come to think of it, most church buildings are locked up and only used on Sundays or in the evenings during weekdays, but children are going to school five out of seven days in a week. Are we setting the right priorities? Well…
In my travels around Ghana, I have visited so many communities in different parts of the country and from the data I have gathered, almost all these communities, no matter how small they are, you are sure to find a place of worship, a mosque, a church or both but most of these places do not have schools, their children have to travel several miles usually by foot to attend school. Interestingly, the most places of worships in these areas are built with the resources gathered by the community members themselves no matter how small the contribution is. Apart from money, they also make use of communal labour, that is women carry water to the construction sites and also cook for the men who carry out major construction works. If we can make these sacrifices to have a comfortable place of worship, we can equally make sacrifices to educate the people we refer to as the future leaders. They are walking several kilometres to go to school, and sometimes carry their desks along. Would we say we have misplaced priorities?
I am not against people pooling resources to put up places of worship, but I have a problem when we are not willing to do anything to help our children’s education. While most of these schools open their doors to people to use as places of worship, especially for church people, most places of worship will not agree to be used as a school. Someway somehow, we have been made to believe that it is the responsibility of the government to provide certain services, it is okay if government provides them, but don’t you think that the government would be pushed to act faster if we make an effort? Are we blinded by religion, are we allowing religion to make us think in one direction? Sometimes we think that our contribution MUST be big in society, but hey no, no never call anything little, your little is not too little. Just do what you have to do, I do what I have to do and together we will get to the top together, it might be slow but we will surely get there. Meanwhile don’t forget to wash your hands after this post! I don’t want any of my readers to get the virus from my site, just by the way. CHEERS!!!