Monday, October 27, 2008

New baby delivered – and all is well!

Quite unexpectedly, and after an 1800 km return dash to Accra with our TRC colleague, Rais, we are back in Lawra and all is well. We thought that our reproductive capabilities had come to an end but remarkably they have been restored (the wonders of modern science). Thanks to sponsorship from Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin, from our friends Dave and Jan, and some precious funds from the Teachers’ Resource Centre (TRC), birth was given to a new (re-conditioned) photocopier to replace the TRC’s, which packed up completely a few days ago. The photocopier is an essential facility (the only one) for the whole of the District’s 150+ schools and also generates precious income to fund essential purchases, such as stationery, toner, books etc.

In Accra, we also procured the means to enable the TRC to connect to the Internet and paid for 12 months subscription (our own money – for now) in advance. The Internet facility is very slow and will allow only limited use via one computer, but it is better than none! CD based Teach-Yourself curriculum resources from the UK and Encarta (encyclopaedia) would be some useful acquisitions to help overcome the Internet’s limited capability.

Teaching and Learning materials (TLM’s) are in such limited supply here, so in the short time remaining to us we are endeavouring to equip the TRC with the means to enable Teachers to search the Internet, find suitable teaching and learning materials, download them and then print and reproduce them ‘professionally’.

We need to acquire funding for more computers (a good reconditioned one can be purchased here for about £250) to enable us to: teach ICT skills to the District’s Teachers and to give students an experience of computers, which they cannot get in school. ICT is a compulsory part of the schools’ curriculum but there is neither electricity nor computers – thus the TRC has a critical role to play in ensuring acquisition of ICT skills for all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cunning, cameras, cops and consensus!

Cunning, cameras, cops and consensus

This last few days and adjacent weekend has generated an unwanted but none the less interesting experience of Ghana’s (Lawra’s) local justice system in action. A former student of the local High School decided to pay us a visit and sadly, in our absence, tricked our ‘house help ‘to gain access for himself and remove a door key and our digital cameras. The theft was soon discovered, culprit apprehended and cameras retrieved through swift action by us and the Lawra ‘CID’.
Admission of guilt was eventually secured and the process of administering justice commenced. First port of call was the family ‘home’; I, CID inspector, mother, father, sisters, and uncle trying to agree on the appropriate action for the felony committed. Apart from returning the cameras, prime concerns were: the dishonour brought upon the family and the shame and embarrassment brought upon the local Lawra community. It was decided that the student would begin by spending the night in the local police cell in Lawra.

Further, very informal, discussions then took place, involving Jenny and I, parents of the student, local police officers and opinion leaders, as to the next steps, which were: that the boy/ family should pay for the renewal of our door lock (which was replaced within hours); we would withdraw our official complaint, and the student would be severely admonished and bailed subject to future good conduct.

The local Lawra community’s prime concern was for the dishonour that the boy had brought upon his family and the bad impression of Lawra that this rare and unusual incident might give to non Ghanaians. We made it clear that we had, so far, experienced an enjoyable and productive 18 months of living and working in Lawra; we have been made most welcome by everybody and the friendship, hospitality and honesty of the residents of Lawra District is second to none; that will be the opinion that we shall continue to give to our family, friends and colleagues.

There is no moral in this tale, all communities have similar ‘bad pennies’ (this one was an outsider from Wa) and Ruthin on a Saturday night certainly does make Lawra seem like paradise by comparison.
The ‘crime’ was dealt with by police and peers in the local community; whoever had an interest , or words of wisdom, came in and out of the police station at their leisure to give their view, whether they knew the boy or not.

The punishment was collectively agreed upon and customised to the student’s and family’s circumstances; it wasn’t driven by a fixed penalty for a particular crime, nor were the police driven by ‘targets’, nor were thousands of pounds spent on expensive lawyers.
An unfortunate incident – satisfactorily dealt with; so which is the sophisticated society?