Ghanaian High School: A Typical School Day
Many of my previous blog posts have been about exceptional experiences, special events, and have mainly served to highlight the best times in my Ghanaian life.
This post simply chronicles a typical day at school. It’s nothing extraordinary, just a ‘day in the life.
5:30 a.m. – Wake-up
5:35 a.m. – Second wake-up alarm
5:40 a.m. – Actually wake-up
5:45 a.m. – Turn on water heater (I’m one of the lucky exchange students enjoying luxuriously hot showers).
5:50 a.m. – Brush my teeth and shower
6:00 a.m. – Eat a typical Ghanaian breakfast. This is composed of overwhelming soft white bread and either Lipton (tea), or Milo (a type of hot chocolate). Occasionally I supplement this with fresh fruit from the market – my favorite being bananas, pineapples, papayas, and mangoes.
6:30 a.m. – Leave the house to catch a trotro. This is usually instant, but on busy days it can take over twenty minutes.
The ‘Achimota’ trotro signal involves making a gun with your right hand and pointing it in the air over your shoulder. Because I’m white, the cars sometimes don’t stop for me because they aren’t sure if I mean to be signaling for them.
7:00 a.m. – Morning assembly for all students. There’s no separation between Church and State in Ghana – the assembly is essentially a massive prayer with sermons, hymns, and psalms. I’ve only been to two or three of them because I would have to leave the house by 5:45 to make it in time.
During one notable assembly, they preached to the students that they shouldn’t let teachers ‘take advantage’ of them, because when students get pregnant, they’ll be kicked out of school. There was no mentioning of repercussions for the teacher, but when I later asked students, they said they teacher would likely be sacked.
7:30 a.m. until 10:50 a.m. – Classes. School follows a rotating schedule, so every day of the week has different classes for different amounts of time.
Following are my thoughts on my classes and teachers:
1. Literature: When your class is taught by someone who goes by the nickname ‘Ringo,’ it has to be good. Ringo’s love of reading, teaching, and students shows clearly in every class. He’s the type of person who you just want to hug – intellectual, well-read, and always with a low buttoned collared shirt that clearly shows his ‘Austin Powers’ chest hair.
Here’s a few quotes by Ringo that I wrote down today:
- On Reading – “When I read I enter into the spirit of the novel, and the spirit of the novel enters me.”
- On Students – “I truly love you like you’re my children. When you don’t buy books and read for my class, I feel like dying.”
- On Buying Books – “A book is like a pair of panties – you don’t share it with anyone, prefer new ones to old ones, and only borrow someone’s when yours have been stolen”
I love this class, and appreciate that half of the literature we study is British/American, while the other half is African. When Ringo teaches, you can truly tell he actually cares about the subject and his students – unlike many other teachers.
2. Government: Another great class – although for entirely different reason. Although I’m taking a history class, this is where I learn modern Ghanaian history. The teacher, Alex, goes into great detail of all aspects of Ghanaian politics. One ‘fun fact’ about politics in Ghana is that the region where a candidate comes from is the main factor in determining how successful his candidacy for office will be, and much about the many government coos and rebellions that led Ghana to its current state.
After these two, there is a steep drop in class enjoyment.
3. Agriculture: It’s nice learning how rural Ghanaians practice farming – especially since we read about all areas of it including farming, egg production, and raising/slaughtering animals, I just wish this class had a more practical ‘hands-on’ approach. Our school has an enormous campus – it could easily be put to use as some sort of farm.
Last week we drew/labeled the parts of a chicken. Here’s my masterpiece…
Every time someone made fun of my chicken, I responded, “It doesn’t matter how my chicken looks – all that matters is that it tastes delicious.”
4. Social Studies: All our class has done so far is talk about the pros of democracy (never the cons), and about Ghana’s current constitution. The teacher is nice, but with subjects like social studies, reading the book and memorizing the dictionary definitions for words such as ‘work’ and ‘relationships’ does nothing. It’s simply not practical.
One interesting fact I’ve learned in this class is that same gender relationships are forbidden/illegal in the constitution of Ghana. More on that later…
5. English: Ghana, being a formal colony of England, learns the British version of English. It’s an entirely unfamiliar concept for me – full of unique spellings (i.e. colour, faerie), and sometimes even entirely different sentence structures/grammar.
Due to me not understanding what a ‘noun clause’ is, I scored a 22/40 on the first monthly test.
6. Economics: Alwazi, the teacher, is a very nice and overall ‘cool’ guy. He can’t help the fact that I already have passed two college credit economics classes – rendering his class useless.
7. History: The teacher, who regularly points out that he wrote the textbook, has been teaching (aka reading the textbook out loud) the time period before 800 A.D. for the past 2 months. It’s complete overkill. The teacher has a characteristic monotone voice, and the only enjoyable part of the class is listening to him insult students – something he’s supposedly ‘famous for’.
8. Biology: Despite the fact that biology is taught by a chief who’s entirely full of himself, the class isn’t not too bad. It’s just very basic. So far we’ve covered food webs, food pyramid, ecological pyramids, and industrial pollutants.
9. Chemistry: Not only has this teacher never even said ‘Hello’ to me, but he looks right through me in the classroom – pretending I don’t exist. This is my class’s third year of high school chemistry; I never took it in the states.
Needless to say, it makes for an excellent time to catch-up on sleep.
Now back to the school schedule…
10:50 a.m. – Break-time. I usually snack on plantain chips or kettle corn, but many classmates buy food such as Fanta, Coke, sausages, jollof rice, yam, and biscuits.
11:20 until 2:20: Classes. One or two teachers each day don’t show up and we get free time. Either the teachers are doing something else, are sick, or simply hate our class.
There’s no such things as ‘substitute teachers’ in Ghana.
2:20 – End of the day.
I’m one of only two day students in my class – the rest are all boarding students. According to them, boarding is ‘Hell.’ It involves waking up at 4 a.m. to scrub, having no communication with the outside world, not being allowed to leave campus, and essentially doing most of the work around the campus (weeding with a machete, sweeping, etc) to prepare themselves for the ‘real world.’