by Courtney Hernandez
For the last two days here, we have been doing community service with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation. We had to split up into three groups after our orientation last week. The groups were the Child Labor group, the Public Health group and the Teaching group. Although all of the options sounded amazing to me, I really wanted to teach so that is what I ended up choosing. I have taught Class 2 (2nd grade) English for two days and 3rd grade African American studies, which is a class that one of my peers and I came up with the whole curriculum for. It has been a significantly rewarding experience, being able to teach these kids. They are so wonderful and so adorable. The minute we walk into their school they are overjoyed! They wave and wave and wave and smile, they are so happy to see us and have visitors. And they are SO eager to be in pictures and then be able to see them. It is such a big kick for them! The main class that I teach which is the 2nd grade English class, has a great group of kids. School is out for all the kids this Friday so of course, they are all a little rowdy, just like anyone else would be on their last days of school before break. But when we aren’t playing games and I am teaching, I found that they are very very smart. Just as smart as any 2nd grader in America, and they live a far less privileged life. The biggest differences in my experiences between elementary kids here, and elementary school kids in the U.S. is that the kids have to wear uniforms daily, in most cases girls have to have very short hair just to be able to attend school, and of course, classroom conditions and technology throughout the school is not as advanced as in America. Another big difference I definitely noticed was that kids really hit each other in class, some of my kids were getting into fights! It was interesting, but at the same time-hitting is really a part of the culture here. For example, even the teacher has a small “whip”…I guess you could call it at her desk in order to discipline the kids. However both of the teachers I have worked with said they rarely use it. It sort of seems like its just for scare like the Trunchbull’s riding crop in the movie Matilda.
Since school is almost over, I got to see a little bit about the grading system in the school that we are volunteering at. First off, there is a difference in the classes the children take here compared to the U.S. Here the children take eight classes: English, a class in their Native language, French, Mathematics, Religion and Morality, Science, and Information and data technology, and social studies. It’s crazy to think that these elementary school kids know three languages while I am an upperclassman at the University of Washington and I really only know one!
Another difference is just how important education is over here. In Africa, kids are so happy if they are able to go to school because many, many are not able to. Either they don’t have enough money for their school fees, they have to help their families with work, or they live in a fishing village, there are many reasons why a child might not go to school. If you asked any child out on the streets, they would tell you that they wanted more than anything, to go to school. The value of education is huge. And that is a great thing about the Cheerful Hearts Organization. It helps fund children to go to school and get healthcare for families who aren’t able to afford it. So most of the kids I am working with are from extremely low income families. It is amazing to me how that doesn’t affect them though. In America, anyone who doesn’t think of themselves as rich complain and bellyache about how poor they are. And they do it A LOT. But here in Africa, some of the poorest people in the world live, and they are so happy. That part really gets to me. I keep hearing Ghanaians say that the poor people are the ones in hospitals who can’t talk or walk or eat by themselves. As long as you have life, you are rich with it and will be fine.
I am very happy to have this opportunity to work with the Cheerful Hearts Organization. It has been great working with the teachers and the students. Tomorrow is their last official day of school and then we will be helping out with Field day on Friday.
Read more from Courtney on her personal blog.