Published: March 3rd 2010March 3rd 2010
A typical school we do the curriculum development for
NOTE: no pics due to slow internet, sorry. -RR
As I mentioned in a previous blog (9th of February??), I have started my internship at the UN University's Inst. for NR in Africa. Here's a brief account of my most recent activities....
On the trip to the central region, we ended up working with three schools in the area; one in Elmina, and two in Cape Coast proper. My boss (and probably the coolest lady in West Africa!), Yvonne, and Samuel, the director of a partner NGO (Centre for Environmental Analysis) talked with teachers for students as young as 6 up to about 6th grade level. In some cases, we got to speak with the students directly. We talked with them about how to form environmental clubs on their campuses, what kinds of impacts they could collectively have, and of course did some brief environmental education. Samantha and I were basically recording all the dialogue and feedback given between and from everyone, including students, that we spoke with.
I was surprised at the varying levels of knowledge, regarding the environment, that we encountered. Some teachers were ultra-resistant and saw us as just another NGO-type group coming in to "help." So we had to do some careful maneuvering around that perception and trust-building with those groups. I am glad for their skepticism, as one of my pet peeves is what we call "green washing" back home. Otherwise, some of the kids were really on top of their stuff and were excited about the environment. Like at the Catholic boys' school we visited, they had already formed a club to put pressure on local government to clean up their town's waste! These guys had really taken the initiative to become an active voice in their community, and were prime examples of what young environmental leaders should be! Way cool!
You see, in Ghanaian society, it can be especially hard for the voice of the youth to be heard, because respect is sparsely handed out unless an individual has the age and therefore the (supposed) wisdom that goes along with it. This means, that even if a younger person knows the older person is wrong, he will listen to the older person, regardless. It's easy to criticize this way of thinking when you come from a society like America's where a ton of value is assigned to teenage pop stars and that cohort inn general. But here, that's just the way things roll. It's a real force to deal with, too. Not only that, but in Ghana, there is a real fear of being "too known." If you are a Ghanaian "know-it-all," they say, "wo ye too known" and simply disregard anything you say as irrelevant. I mean no one likes a know-it-all, but to ostracize and write someone off for sharing new ideas with the community seems to be counterproductive. These factors are all the more reason for the importance of developing knowledgeable and strong environmental leaders from the very start.
Anyway, we were also met with children who had never even heard the words "climate change" and "global warming" (I am sure many kids in the States haven't either!) and I really enjoyed watching some of them say those words for the first time. They would like sound it out, "glo...bal" and "warmin' " and would correct each-other when one of them said it wrong. It was sooooo a "THIS IS WHY I CAME TO AFRICA!!!" moment, if there ever was one.
We are continuing to work with climate change and waste management curriculum development, as several more school visits, this time in the Greater Accra area, are planned for March. Also, Yvonne is planning a larger conference for local teachers, around March 15th. I honestly don't feel like I do a whole lot yet, and am sort of like a glorified recorder. But Yvonne does bounce different ideas off us and its worth it because she is so inspiring to be around. She's Ghanaian, but did her graduate work in South Africa, and has lived and worked all over the world. Once, I mentioned how Ty and I have dreams of working with large-scale photovoltaic instillations (Solar Farms!) in Africa, and she lit right up. Turns out she her newest project is working on bringing solar to various parts of Africa. Wow...what a lady to know! Thank you universe for the Yvonnes in my life.
Will keep you updated on how the seminars and the conference go....
Until then, enjoy the pics of Samantha and me "on the scene" in and around Cape Coast. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but I love Cape Coast and as always, had a great time! We were fortunate enough to have time to relax in front of the ocean, and listen to/ watch a Ghanaian dance troupe practice their routines...the drums will always be intoxicating to me...