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Friday, May 4, 2012

Feeding the hunger for education

Submitted by Rachelle Milam
From 5-1-12

Today was my first day working at the Fulani camp, and as I looked out at the faces of those gathered to learn, I was reminded why I'm studying to be a teacher. These people took time out of their day to sit on a bench under a little (for lack of better word) shack because they want to learn and they think it's important. What more encouragement does a teacher need? When I went in today, I only really planned to do a kind of assessment, to see what they remembered and where would be a good place to start. I learned that most of the women, many of whom have spent little to no time in school, could write or at least recite the alphabet and some numbers. It reminded me that there is a stark difference between ignorance and simply being uneducated. These women are so bright - when we did our short health education bit, they were quick and thoughtful with their suggestions on how often and in what situations one should wash their hands so as to avoid the germs that bring so much illness into this region. I look forward to working with these amazing women more.

The children - well, first let me say that there is a reason I chose to be an elementary education major, and these children were such an encouragement to me. I wasn't sure what to expect because many of them are young and haven't had much, if any, formal schooling. However, when asked, they stood there and sang every song and recited every rhyme that they knew. There was much more than I expected. It made me grin to watch a little boy fold his hands behind his back as he sang "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", clearly proud of himself for remembering each word. The kids are all so smart, and I'm so excited about what other songs I can teach them to help them learn. We tried a song about the days of the week using "The Addams Family" tune, and they loved the snapping fingers part, but couldn't quite get the rhythm down. No worries, though! There's always next week!

Today's experience really opened my eyes in a few ways. I think we in the Western world often make unconscious assumptions about people in countries like Ghana without even really realizing that we do. I'm guilty of it as well, even after living here for part of my life. I was genuinely surprised when I saw all that the women and children had picked up in a short time, and I think it's because often times we assume that if you don't have a formal education, you must not know much of anything. It's a horrible thing to think, but in a culture that says you don't have much of a chance of doing anything important in life without a degree or two, education ends up being very important to our views on what we know. To be confronted with the fact that these people who've lived in the bush their entire lives could be so incredibly smart...well, it humbled me. I had to very quickly adapt my way of thinking. I hope I have more moments like this. It's always amazing to me what you can learn if you're just willing to open your eyes and see people for all they are, instead of simply what you perceive them to be.

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