“Better than just seeing chalk”

“Better than just seeing chalk”

This school year began with more than the usual start-of-term excitement for selected primary schools in northern Ghana’s West Mamprusi and Talensi Districts.

Over 160 teachers from 20 schools have been given the chance to use a new online platform that will help improve their teaching skills. Accessible from any device, the platform includes over 1,000 online teaching resources as well as supporting peer networking and professional coaching. Teachers might access a lesson plan on their phone, take part in one of the discussion forum topics, or message a fellow teacher to get advice.

Richard Ombogyin Yinegura, teacher at Tongo L/A Primary School said, “The platform is a joy for me. Even a topic you know, you post something and get comments back and the comments add to your knowledge. The various contributions – they’re interesting.”

This is all part of the new Teacher Empowerment and Support through Technology (TEST) project, delivered by VSO in partnership with Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Ghana and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Kofi Essien, Director of OLE Ghana explains: “We aim to empower teachers, build their capacity, provide tools they can use – not just for classes but to further develop their own selves – and provide support in a range of ways. […] Our wish is to create an enjoyable learning experience so that children want to learn all life long.“

In St Paul’s Suguru Roman Catholic Primary in WaleWale (West Mamprusi district), Robert Jatuat, a teacher of Primary Grade 6 at the school, is delighted with the platform: “TEST helps me to get new materials for teaching – new stories that I didn’t know before. The children enjoy it very much. They all want to come to these classes.”

The overall aim is to boost literacy in their schools. Despite devoting a large percentage (6.3%) of the country’s GDP to provide free, basic education, the outcomes for pupils in Ghana are among the worst in the world.

Less than 25% of Ghanaian children in their final year of primary school (Grade 6) are able to read and attain basic literacy skills after 6 years of public schooling.

Tablets, projectors, speakers and low-cost servers in the 20 schools also give the teachers the technology they need to use their new-found skills in the classroom.

“I’ve used a TV before for teaching. But now we can project anything, we don’t have to only use the few

cassettes we had. You can teach with this anywhere, anytime. It’s easy to use” says Robert.

His 13-year-old pupil, Fuseini Lgifty agreed: “I like the stories, especially when you can see them up at the front and can read it for yourself. It’s better than just seeing chalk and the teacher at the blackboard.

“I would like them to use the projector for RME [Religious and Moral Education] because that’s my best subject – I know the answers in that class.”

OLE Ghana and VSO worked together to develop TEST and secure funding. Now OLE Ghana leads the project’s delivery – training and supporting teachers and continuously improving the online platform. With VSO’s support and connections, OLE Ghana’s team has been delighted to expand their activities to the north of the country with this project, following successful programmes in southern Ghana.

There’s a lot more training and support to come, to ensure teachers make the most of the personal and professional development on offer throughout TEST’s 14 month-long pilot. But as Emilia Alhassan, head teacher at St Paul’s Suguru Roman Catholic Primary says, the learning has definitely begun: “I only knew a phone was for making and receiving calls until you came to show us more! We are learning so much.”

Article and Photos by VSO International