The heartland of the ancient Ashanti kingdom, Ghana in 1957 became the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence.
Read more about life in Ghana from the perspective of Nico, a red-haired student who likes to likes to read detective novels and listen to American music, but worries that American movies cause Ghanaian teens to disrespect their own culture.
people in Ghana love music! They prefer listening to reggae, highlife,
gospel, and other contemporary music. They also like movies, but are
shifting their taste from African movies to foreign movies-especially
American ones. American music and films have influenced Ghanaian teens'
attitudes about their indigenous culture. Under the influence of foreign
music and films, they tend to perceive the local culture as outdated.
This has affected the preservation of our cultural heritage.
SCHOOL IN GHANAIAN
And in northern Ghana, where cattle rearing is considered prestigious, parents prefer that their sons take care of cattle rather than go to school. Also, some parents don't see why they should invest in their daughter's education, when a daughter will inevitably marry out of the family. In fact. in northern Ghana some parents prefer that their daughters marry early, so they can collect the dowry of three cows. Of course, all of these factors are due to the lack of awareness of the importance of education, particularly in northern Ghana.
Every student who is enrolled in school must satisfy the academic requirements and have strong financial backing before gaining access to secondary education. Because of the high poverty levels in northern Ghana, the government now pays for both tuition and boarding costs of students in secondary school. This is a big help. Still, some brilliant student find it difficult to attend secondary school because the costs are so high.
A TYPICAL SCHOOL DAY
Some teenagers in secondary school find life simple while others find it difficult. For example, the seniors (those who have been in the school for more than one year) have "servants." These servants are mainly juniors (first year students and/ or second year students).
The juniors are responsible for sweeping the dormitories and compound and scrubbing the bathroom. They also collect water for the seniors, wash their clothes, and sometimes bring them food from the dining hall. For these reasons, students must wake up as early as five a.m. This has been the tradition for as long as anyone can remember. It is still practiced in all the boarding schools in Ghana at the SSS level.
There are two main assemblies each week from 6:30 a.m. to 7:15 a.m.
They include the headmaster's assemblies (Monday) and the masters-on-duty
assemble (Thursdays). There are also individual house or hall masters
meetings every Wednesday morning. Every student must attend these meetings.
Teenagers in Ghana are offered a maximum of nine courses. Each class
Greetings from Bawku, Ghana. I teach chemistry, general science, and math to students at Bawku Secondary School (known as "Bawsco"). Bawsco is a co-ed boarding school that serves about 1,200 students in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The school is about three kilometers from Bawku, bordering on Burkina Faso and Togo. The official language is English.
What teens in the U.S. should know about teens in Ghana
Being able to attend school in Ghana is much more difficult than in the United States. Since most families in Ghana farm for a living, school can be a low priority during peak farming seasons. Many children help their parents on the farm, and some do not go to school past the elementary level. Girls, in particular, rarely have opportunities for higher levels of learning. A typical class at Bawsco would have 50 students, only seven of whom were girls.
Once in school, exams are a constant source of pressure for students. Students must pass a set of exams to progress to junior high and then on to high school. As a result, they are very focused on exam topic areas. As a teacher, I often found it frustrating to have to spend so much time on exam-related content.
A major challenge for Ghanaian schools is the lack of teachers. At my school, many classes did not have a teacher. The class would simply meet in the classroom and study for that period. I met some excellent teachers in Ghana, many who taught me how to be a better teacher. Unfortunately, there were not enough of them to fill every classroom.
Bawsco is a very diverse school. Students come from all over the north of Ghana to attend classes. As a result, many different ethnic groups are present. These groups aren't exclusive--they often come from the same neighborhood and have a lot in common--but tensions between groups can arise, much like here in the U.S.
Many Ghanaian students think that U.S. teens have an easy life. Most of these perceptions come from television and movies. Imagine what your perception of the U.S. would be if your main source of information was American action movies and sitcoms. Ghanaians also see much of the material wealth associated with the U.S. and assume that everyone is rich.
A bit about Nico
Nicolas was assigned by the school administration to be my student aide. He was a very good student, understood the school system, knew the students, and was easy to spot with his bright red hair.
Nicolas was an excellent "cultural informant." Because of the differences between American culture and that of the Ghanaians, there were often miscommunications. Ghanaians are very polite and wound not always let me know if I'd made a mistake. But Nicolas would let me know and suggest a way to remedy the situation.
Having done well on his exams, Nico was able to attend college and is now working hard to complete his degree in agriculture and natural resources. We expect great things from him in the future.