How can we better educate our children?

Have you ever thought about the difference between being imaginative and being creative? Last week, I went to a book launch where educator Dr. Naomi Adjepong of Alpha Beta Education Centers asked this question. She suggested that imagination exists just in our head, while creativeness is acted out. Her context was Ghanaian education. Are we educating creatives in Ghana?

At the same event, spelling bee champion Eugenia Tachie-Menson spoke on how education can be fun and how reading books for pleasure is a wonderful way of improving both your thinking and vocabulary. (The event was fellow blogger Golda Addo’s book launch for her novel “The Shimmer in the Photo Album”, Golda is in the orange boubou below, next to Tachie-Menson).

I am lucky to send my children to a private school where both teachers and administrators are happy to take up suggestions from parents, however, they tell me that more often than not the parents that approach them demand “more exams, more exercises, and more sitting in the classroom”.

Personally, I would rather see children under the age of 5 or even 10 spend more time outdoors playing than sitting still and quiet in the classroom. The start-up Tinkergarten, sponsored by among others Omidyar Group, is developing outdoor activities to encourage children “tinkering” or playing outdoors. Activities include looking at bugs, making soap bubbles, or building a bird nest for humans! They write on their website:

“Tinkergarten’s curriculum both engages and delights a wide range of kids ages 18 months-8 years old. As a season unfolds, unique themes and challenges build lesson to lesson. These themes and challenges evolve one season to the next as children progress through the program. In each lesson, an engaging scenario unfolds that allows kids to launch and direct their own play. No two kids ever have the same experience, because it’s the process that matters. Adults play a role, too, as they observe, honor and support their child’s independent exploration and playful learning.”

To prepare our children for the future, I believe they have to be able to read and write, count and perhaps also march in rows, but importantly, in addition, they also need practice communication, empathy, solving problems in groups, building things, asking questions,seeing new places, adapting to different environments, failing and dusting themselves off to try again.

Are we educating creatives in Ghana? And if we are not, what will be the consequences?

Photo : Paul Ninson

 

Social Media for Yale Conference in Ghana: From Success to Significance

Photo: Frederick Sowah
Photo: Frederick Sowah

I am proudly the social media reporter for the conference From Success to Significance: Thought Leaders in the African Renaissance, starting tomorrow afternoon. The conference is organized by alumni of the prestigious Yale university in the Yale Club of Ghana. You can find the program for the conference here.

My expectations for the conference are high as almost all the names of speakers and panelists are “big” men and women here in Ghana and beyond. I am especially looking forward to the education and the technology panels, as well as writer Taiye Selasie, writer of “Ghana Must Go” that I just read. I am tasked to tweeting through out using the hashtag #YaleConfGH and write a summary blog post. Watch this space!

Does it sound interesting? Conference tickets sell for 225 USD with a big discount for students. Buy tickets here.

The Ashaiman Spring, BBC Africa Debate and African New Middle Class

Ashaiman collage

On Monday, drivers in the town of Ashaiman started a protest against the horrible state of the roads in the community. Daily Graphic reports that as early as 5 am, protesters had blocked the roads and by 6 am they had reahed the Tema motorway, taking over toll booths and blocking traffic to and fro Accra.

What is Ashaiman? It is a residential town where many workers of Tema (the industrial city) and Accra (the capital of Ghana) live. Although rent is cheaper here than in the neighbouring cities, many of Ashaiman’s inhabitants have to endure long hours of commuting. Although its population is twice that of Tema, it was only 5 years ago it got its own municipal district and local assembly.

Every day on my way home to Tema, I have to cross the traffic queues leading to Ashaiaman that is situated on the other side of the Tema motorway from where I live. Only crossing Ashaiman traffic many times takes upwards 20-30 minutes. As I later breeze in the opposite direction, I see people walking towards Ashaiman moving faster than the traffic all the way to the central part of Tema.

The MP of the area, Alfred Agbesi and the Municipal Chief Executive, Numo Adinortey Addison were accused by the demonstrators of not doing their jobs – providing better roads! – but could, according to the same newspaper, “not be reached for their comments”. However, the newspaper also reported “policemen and soldiers managed to bring the situation under control after 4 hours of violent protest…[and] would offer 24-hour patrol to residents and commuters”.

***

Today, I took part in the internationally broadcast BBC Africa Debate together with a delegation from Ashesi University College. The background of the debate “Can the middle class drive growth?” was both Obama’s travel to the continent, supposedly to augment trade, and the African Development Bank’s report on the New African Middle Class (PDF). Interestingly, the AfDB’s definition is people who spend 2-20 USD/day per capita. That means, just after the poverty level (less than 2 USD/day) comes now “middle-income”. This was debated along with what government needs to do and what we as individuals can do.

During the debate, the recent Ashaiman demonstration, called “the Ashaiman Spring” by some, was not mentioned, but maybe it should have been? Here we have people who have jobs, pay taxes, dutifully go to work everyday even when it means hours in traffic morning and evening – but not benefitting much.

All public amenities in Ghana need back-ups: water (buckets and poly tanks), education (private school if you can afford), health (herbal traditional medicine or private health insurance), electricity (candles, batteries and generators), waste collection (burning in your backyard), but poor roads are difficult to create your own private alternative for…

The representative from the AfDB concluded the debate by graciously admitting their definition of middle-class only talks about spending, but does not include living costs. We are many who know by experience that living a middle-class life in Ghana demands much more than a middle-class income and plenty of patience…

Listen to Ghana Connect on JOY FM Friday 28 June at 6.30- 7.00 PM for more on the “Ashaiman Spring” and BBC, 7 PM GMT for the full debate!

 

Ashesi’s New Berekuso Campus

On a day like this, I miss work. Today, Ashesi University College’s brand new campus in Berekuso, north of Accra, will be inaugurated and except for my name being there on the founders’ wall, I will not be there.

Kajsa in Berekuso 2009However, from the information provided, many dignitaries will be. Except for Ashesi’s own president Patrick Awuah, Ghana’s vice president has been invited along with diplomats from around the world.

Berekuso boysAlthough, I won’t be present when Ashesi opens up shop in our own facilities, I feel happy

Art and Politics in Accra

Yesterday evening I went to two delicious events (the other one  I’ll elaborate on in my next post *suspense!*).

The evening started at Passions Bar in Osu, where an event called Art and Politics was hosted by Mantse Aryeequaye, a Ghanaian film director focused presently on music videos and Sionne Neely, academic from University of Southern California.

The evening went from definitions of “art” and “politics” to how they are connected through discussions on beauty, colonialism and mis-education. We discussed if art is the mother of politics or if the relation was more complex…We also saw some music videos like Kanye West’s Power (Ego or Excellent?), M.I.A.’s Born Free (utterly disturbing or a reflection of life?) and a new video by Mantse himself for Kwau Kese – so fresh I cannot find it online – (escapism or bloody reality?). The videos were interesting, especially from a teaching perspective, but the discussion could have gone on for hours without them. There is so much to say about art and politics. Especially in Ghana.

The audience/contributors was amazing and diverse, some famous faces present were Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Ato Kawmina Dadzie, Osabutey AnnyKobby Graham (the latter wrote a post on the Art and Politics event here) and many others!

Thanks to the organizers for a unusual and thought-provoking event!

View from Ghana: Education

This post is part of Ghanablogging‘s monthly theme post “a view out of Ghana” – this month we write on education.

In school we have other names

School uniform, school bag and white socks in black shoes
Ama and myself
and many others
(but in school we have other names)

Lining up in front of  ‘new block’ (although it doesn’t look new)
On the red dirt football field
Standing still
(Longing for eating a bo’flot during the morning break)
(Thinking in Fante but) answering “yes, sah”
when asked if I swept the headmistress’ office

First period is Social science
(I have memorized the definition of marriage)
Sun is hot
Standing still
(schh Ama)
Keeping quiet

(Is this Education?)