At the meeting with the headmaster we had agreed that I should first pass from all the classes to decide which one fits me better, as I was the first intern of the season.
Day number one: I officially started my teaching experience in Accra from the youngest students. They are 2-3 years old and it is even impressive for me that they were able to walk, speak, and go to the toilet, let alone go to school. In the morning either the mothers show up with the babies on their back or older siblings carry them to school. They all have their little bags, with their snacks inside, and wear the dark blue and white uniforms. Blue dress with straps and a striped shirt for girls. Blue trousers and the same striped shirt for boys. As many girls have a short haircut, you can tell their gender by the dress and the earrings. They look so cute in their clothes. Like little gentlemen and ladies. Their young age does not let their appearance look tidy for long though. They soon start to take off their shoes, pouring their juice on the shirt, laying on the floor etc.
Every class has a Ghanian teacher, which makes things a lot easier for interns that have no previous teaching experience. The lesson starts. The teacher is singing children’s songs accompanied with dance figures. The babies are following, glowing with happiness. Some of them are in Ga and others in English, but both are equally incomprehensible for me. The children’s language is a combination of baby talk, ga and ghanian broken english. For instanse, they are saying “chicha” all of the time, which is apparently “teacher”. They also love to have a short conversation that always goes like that:
Ow a you? (=How are you?)
I fie, you? (= I’m fine, you?)
I fie. (I’m fine.)
They even raise their little hands and put them next to their ears to immitate a telephone conversation.
One girl comes close to me and makes a small bow putting her hands back. I look at the teacher bewildered. She smiles and tells me that she asks permission to go to the toilet. After a while a boy is making another theatrical move. He is raising his hand close to the mouth. Aha. This time I know he is asking permission to drink water. But where is the water? Then I notice a big bucket with a tap close to the door. It has a lid and four little glasses on it. The kids need help to pour the water in the glass, but then they drink it by themselves. If there is some water left they would not throw it but they would give it to the other thirsty baby quewing behind them.
The lesson goes on with the numbers: zero, one , two, three..
The time for the first break has come. So the teacher is helping out the little students to get their snacks. The biscuits are very popular among the snacks, which also included some juice, orange as an underlying pen, crisps and milk in tablets. Some of them go with little toys, which are much appreciated.
When the break is over I decide to show them a little spin wich changes colours (red-blue). But once the teacher is not around the order is instantly lost. They are all trying to get the toy, fighting, crying and shouting. I try to explain that everyone would have a go. Eventually, I manage to keep them a little quiet. Once I spin the toy and red and blue light comes out, they are thrilled, clapping their hands. A boy made an effort and … success.
It is lunch time. The teacher brings a bucket with rice and another pot with red sauce and some fish. I offer to help but she declines, because the food was little and she has to manage the portions. The food is served. A handfull of rice and a tiny piece of fish, with some spicy sauce. The babies, after they washed their hands in a bowl with soap, start eating with their hands. Some endeavours succeed while others fail, resulting in one more stain on their small uniforms.
Kids are playing, crying, shouting, laughing, jumping, trying to get my attention in any possible way. But I notice one little quiet boy, who is the only one not wearing a school uniform, but a traditional wear. He seems shy and surprisingly serene. I go close to him but he steps back. I talk to him but he does not respond. He is just going to hide in the privacy of a corner. I guess that he is not very comfortable with English and maybe his family does not have any extra money to buy a uniform. Maybe he is even new at school.
When the lunch is over, it is break time again! In short time, I hear the kids cheering. The dance teacher , another volunteer from the community, appears riding his bicycle and holding a big drum. He is going to teach the older students a traditional dance, that looks like a short drama-play. The boys portray the fishermen, who are fishing in the ocean. The girls are supposed to be their wives, who receive the fish, put it in a bowl on top of their head and go to sell it in the market. The babies are mesmerised by the beat and the dance and try to join. But the yard is too small to fit all the students. Thus, they have to either stay in the classrooms or at least far from the “dancefloor”. They gather close to the windows to hear the music and copy the moves. They all seem to have an inherent talent to dance from age 2.
..Batirdi…. Batirdi….. Batirdi….
First day at school closes with the best musical feeling. The beat is stuck in my mind: Batirdi…. Batirdi….. Batirdi….