After our visit to Lahagu school we headed over to Libi Village. This is one of our furthest communities (about an hour by motorbike from Tamale) but thanks to Alhassan’s speedy motorbike skills we arrived ahead of the others. This afternoon Alison and David would be beginning to train Primary year 6 students (aged around 15-16) to run a new in-school Reading Scheme. Libi is a community we already work with and have a Play Centre there which has been running for the past 6 months. We set-up our Reading schemes in communities where we already have a Play Centres working well and the community are well mobilised.
As we were early the headteacher of the school took me on a tour of the village. I was introduced to many of the community members, including some of our volunteers, the head of the PTA and the community Leader. All were so grateful for what Lively Minds had brought to their community already through the Play Centre – I’ve never had so many handshakes and blessings! Some of the women insisted I tried carrying a bucket on my head – the only way to carry heavy loads over here. As my bucket was empty it wasn’t too difficult – and the women seemed to find it hysterical!
Walking round the mud huts it brought to light again the extreme levels of poverty the communities around Tamale are living in. There is no electricity or water linked to these homes. We headed back to the classrooms where Alison and David were just beginning the first training session. Alison speaking in English with David translating to Dagbani (the local language). The hour session first explained to the children about the Scheme and how over the next 6 weeks they would be trained how to read to the younger children in the school. The session was interactive with Alison asking lots of questions of the children as to why they think it’s important that they should be able to read, tell stories and translate/speak English.
We could see straight away that 2 or 3 of the children were incredibly bright – first with their hands up and answering all the questions ahead of the others. Of the 20 students only about 4 of them were girls – so Alison was keen to involve them in the discussion. We hope that through our programmes in communities like Libi – families will learn that it’s equally as important that girls stay in school and girls want to continue their education too. So over the next couple of years as we continue to work with Libi we would expect the numbers of girls in P6 to increase.
Alison then read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to the class with David translating. These children rarely have access to stories and books (when asked at the beginning of the session if any had books at home – only one did, and he only had 1 book) so it was great to see how mesmorised they were by the story. One paragraph at a time was translated with Alison stopping to show the pictures in between. After the story was read, she then asked the class questions about the story to make sure they had understood it correctly. They all said how much they had enjoyed the story and were excited about the prospect of learning how to read in this way to their peers.
After the session we then met with all the Volunteers from the Play Centre to thank them for their hard work running the Play Centre. We asked them questions about how they found teaching the younger children and so many of them put their hands up to tell us how teaching had benefitted them. As is common of the communities only one or two of them had been to school (and then only to primary level), so they had enjoyed the process of learning themselves and felt more confident in themselves. They were also loving the opportunity for all the women to come together.
Afterwards I had a chat with one of the women – Yudfashina. She told me that she had never been to school herself as she was often ill as a child. Now wherever she goes the children shout ‘Teacher is coming, teacher is coming’. She said that the Handwashing (all children must wash their hands before starting the session and all households are given a tippy tap to use at home) had made a big impact on the community. The children were complaining less of stomach aches and were generally healthier. They had learned the importance of handwashing and she said that her own children always runs to the tippy-tap before they eat now. Yudfashina also told me that many of the women who didn’t put themselves forward to volunteer are now wishing that that they had too so she is very proud of herself that she volunteered and is making a difference for the children in her community.
Before we left Libi the headteacher said he wanted to present us with a gift to say thank you. Not your usual bottle of wine or box of After Eights. We were given a huge bag of yams – each the size of an arm and the weight of a couple of bricks!