While in Ghana, I couldn’t help but think about my group’s discussion of NGOs in Ghana and their work, and compare these things to the realities that we saw on the ground. I still have a lot of questions, but my post is long overdue, so observations + questioning will have to be sufficient for now!
During our project, one of the more resonant questions for me was, “How do NGOs collaborate and is this collaboration successful?” I think this question guided some of my observations during the trip.
Observations: Looking around the Dalun Youth Association (DYA) building, I saw some posters, asked some questions. All this happened very quickly, so I’m not 100% this is the correct information, but I’ll relay what I remember and wrote down.
DYA exists to bring the youth together – students gather here and “because they are together, they are stronger and can advocate for the needs of the community, what they see the community needs to develop” (field notes), like new roads to Tamale (which I would also advocate for, for both selfish and unselfish reasons). DYA uses sports as a tool for development – in this rural community, athletic competition is a perfect way to bring people together, both young and old. Once the people are gathered, the youth can spread their message of change. And this message is much more powerful coming from a vibrant, organized youth group.
“Who are the 99?
An ever-growing team of specially powered young people. The 99 prevent disasters, help people in need, and perform good deeds under the banner of the 99 Steps Foundation.
What are the Noor Stones?
Each member of the 99 bears a Noor Stone- an ancient gem of power. Forged out of the destruction of ancient Baghdad, the Noor Stones were created to preserve the wisdom of the ages. When bonded with a specific young person, each gem grants him or her a different gift of power”
Initially, I thought about feminism across different geographic locations as global feminism, as a feminism rooted in nations, defined and given flavor by the nation as a whole. That is, thinking about American feminism and Indian feminism and Ghanaian feminism and French Feminism. But then, that is SO American-centric of me. When I try to think of a certain American feminism, it’s impossible. Just to think of Bryn Mawr feminism strikes me as impossible. And I’m not trying to suggest that we’re all special feminist snowflakes, or that there is not sense of shared feminist thought or identity. But our shorthand, our labeling of feminisms as rooted in some national identity/location/region can have the possibility of flattening and erasing nuance from how feminists express themselves in a variety of contexts.
Best of luck to you all in Ghana! My due date is this weekend ... but I will tune in whenver I can to the new Ghana trip blog. And then... "see" you all online for the rest of the semester!
There's a timely feature on the NPR website coinciding with your trip... Check out this recent Black History Month spot on a trip back to the ancestral home in Ghana from Tell Me More:
The topic I keep returning to and reflecting on is World Travel. More specifically I was thinking about World Sharing and how amazing and beneficial it could be for students to be able to share things with other students in different countries. I took Japanese my first year at Bryn Mawr and towards the end of the class we would make video files of us speaking in Japanese and English and send them to "buddies" we had in a university in Japan. They would then send us videos of them speaking in English and Japanese. We would all also type what we said in the language we were learning and then the native student speaker would correct it and write a reply in the language they were trying to learn. This was an amazing experience and obviously we were all nervous at first but you ended up really connecting with your buddy because you'd see them laughing when they knew they got something wrong or pulling their friend into the video. Obviously this requires technology and money but I just think it is such a unique way to share the experience of learning across the world.
I was in the group that presented on language diversity in Ghana. I was talking specifically about language within the school system, and how English is currently the accepted language of Ghanaian education. It isn't until Senior Secondary School that Ghanaian students are explicitly taught Ghanaian language. This policy makes me feel sad and a little angry, the same way that it does in American schools. Last semester in Empowering Learners, I defined agency as "the learner’s decision to take ownership of the world in which he/she lives and to apply his/her skills to shape that world." This definition was very much attached to language. I see literacy as a crucial skill for shaping the world. When a school system denies a student access to literacy in their native language, the system is taking away some of that student's agency. Waiting to provide this fundamental access to students who make it into schools that have stringent academic requirements is completely in opposition to what I think needs to happen. Language skils should be built upon, not limited. It's sad that this can be influenced by politics or ideology.
Going back to my notes on that reading - there was a heavy focus on alienation. Adults may be alienated by being illiterate, but then, forcing them to learn could also be alienating.
I’ve been thinking about all these things because I’ve been reflecting on my internship from last summer, trying to find a connection between that experience and the 360/Educ 250. I worked in the Education department at Nationalities Service Center, especially in classrooms in which immigrants and refugees are learning to speak English. This experience had a huge impact on my academics last semester - I applied that passion to classes on bilingual education, cultural tensions/fusions, and immigration. After that internship, I found connections between the experience and courses about Language, Culture, and Policy. However (and thank you to Alice again, for helping me flesh this out), I wasn’t thinking about the fundamentals. - Fundamentals being, I think, Literacy. So of course there is a connection between my tutoring adults and the class I am taking now.
I remember the first time I read a novel that had characters that talked like me. It completely changed my attitude towards reading. I began to read one book a week starting in junior high because I loved reading about protagonists that also students who struggled through social problems.
This reminds me of the Gee reading because of the discussion on discourse. At the beginning of the semester, I did not have a firm grasp on the meaning of discourse. However, now it seems that I do understand it more, or I am at least more comfortable with the vocabulary. One thing that the Gee reading reminds me is the importance for people, especially youth, to see their discourse in other areas of life. Being able to read about people who went through similar issues and reading phrases and words that I experienced on a daily basis was in some way a source of empowerment. It made my middle school self feel less alone in the world to know that there are other people who are similar to me and talk the same way.
Having A come in this week was a great “reality check” for me. It also made me think harder about all of the literacies I have gained this semester and year in my field placement. My placement is in a very vocabulary-y school--there are catchphrases for everything, from “catch a bubble” for not talking to “X is off the team, but working hard to turn it around.” When I first started there last semester, I was constantly overwhelmed by the vocabulary. I could usually understand it in context, but I was unable to apply most of it independently. Now, I’ve led a small group lesson, I regularly work with individuals, and I’m preparing to teach a writing lesson to the whole class on Friday. I’m also going to get a pull-out small group for word study.
When I started thinking about this post, word study was really the connection. I recognized so much of what A was talking about--digraphs, blends, welded sounds, the idea of a picture representing every sound. I also learned that my school uses a balanced literacy program. It fits with my experience in the classroom, and it was great to hear a different teacher talk about the same curriculum. I really have developed an understanding of what’s going on in the classroom, and I no longer need (although obviously I still appreciate) my mentor teacher’s input on vocabulary when I’m moving throughout the classroom and working with individuals.
As I thought about this past week's speakers and read through people's posts (i.e. Amanda's reflections on the speakers, and Lucy's thoughts about using music to inspire learning), the main question that kept coming up in my head was: How do we make learning more fun and interesting for kids?
This past summer my internship centered around improving educational disparities in China. Moreover, my focus was on teaching English because that is the subject that separates the rural students from the urban students on the college entrance exam. The main problems surrounding teaching English in China were the teachers' lack of experience, and students' lack of interest, which in turn affected teachers' motivation to teach English. Many students did not see the use in learning English; they said they were never going to use it. And teachers, believing the harsh reality that many of their students would never get the chance to even leave their villages to ever use English, cannot convince students otherwise and easily lose motivation to teach English. In addition, as mentioned before, teachers are inexperienced in English, rarely using it themselves, even with their fellow English teachers. Classrooms also already lack resources in general, let alone any effective English teaching materials. Thus all these factors combined, including many more, discourage (English) learning in China.