September 2007

Close Collaborators

My closest allies and collaborators are Lamisi (who some of you met in OKC last June) and Collins Braimah (a school teacher in Gambaga, and a native of Bongbini). They have been invaluable in identifying and introducing me to people and places in the district. Mme Lamisi, as she is known around here, is administratively at the assistant director in the district GES office. She has a degree in Dagbani, the language of the majority ethnic group in the N. region, and very closely related to Mampruli. In fact, the two are dialects of the same language. Lamisi is currently in charge of the implementation and follow up of the district school health program, in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services (USAID food and nutrition program). Because of this program, she has been to and knows most rural communities in the district. Although Lamisi has never really taught Dagbani (or Mampruli) in the classroom. However, she is a staunch advocate for mother tongue education and knows a handful of other staunch supporters and advocates for Mampruli language instruction in the classroom. She is hence, a strong candidate to lead PAMBE Ghana’s language development component.

Teacher Braimah (Collins) is very involved in the decentralization process - district assemblies. He’s the assembly man for 4 villages including Bongbini. He is postsecondary trained and is aspiring to enter university next academic year. Both Lamisi and Collins are a bit free now as schools are in recess; classes resume next Tuesday, when the academic year starts.


I had had a very fruitful visit with the director of the Ghana Education Service (GES) in East Mamprusi district in Gambaga last week. He was supportive of the PAMBE Ghana vision and approach, and pledged his full support and assistance. He lamented the dismal performance of junior high school students and cited several reasons; including lack of trained teachers, insufficient /poor teaching and learning materials, teacher supervision, and poor parental motivation / involvement. “Children see school as punishment,” he concluded.

We also visited the district chief executive (DCE) who also welcomed the vision.  We also made informal contacts with several heads of departments and EQUALL (education quality for all) at the district level.  Mr. Wundow, my middle school head teacher, now retired is the most fervent advocate for Mampruli education in the district. He is now retired. He was so excited not only to see his former middle school students (I don’t know the last time I saw him) but also the vision of PAMBE Ghana when we visited him in his native village.

Preliminary visit of possible sites

I have had to revise the criteria for selection of PAMBE School site to include communities with no functioning school.  This is because there has been a renewed effort on education and the Ghana govt has to build many schools in rural areas.  However, as the Director of Education said, there is an acute shortage of trained teachers. Most of the schools are run by high school students who have not been able to go further. They are employed by the youth employment program, unfortunately with very little training and support.  Some communities have only 1 or 2 community volunteer teachers. Most teachers of remote schools live outside the community, commuting when s/he can. (Most teachers are men). Although officially, every sizable community has a primary school (gov't or community built), many are not functioning.

Based on this reality, we revised our criteria of need and opportunity to include communities with no functioning school, and established a list of 12 possible sites i.e. communities of 3-4 villages on that basis. We made preliminary visits to 4 of them and had opportunity to talk informally with a few people in each locality last week. One of them has real potential. Because of the unusually heavy rains in the North, the rest are not accessible now. It has rained practical everyday for the last month and half! We will resume visits in two week; hopefully the rains will subside soon.

I am on my way to Kumasi and on to Accra with Lamisi to register PAMBE Ghana and obtain protocol of understanding with Govt. I have learned that it is faster to start the process at the Registrar General and Social Welfare Offices in Accra, rather than from the district level as I was made to understand when I first arrived.  Many of my former colleagues in the non-profit community development field here in Tamale have been very supportive.  They have given me lots of advice, names and contacts in Accra who can guide and assist me in the apparently ‘maze-like’ process.  I asked and received permission from the District Director of Education for Lamisi to assist me in my feasibility study during the next two weeks - Sept 4-20.  Lamisi’s intention is to apply for a two-year secondment to PAMBE Ghana. We will find out in Accra what it entails in terms of her continuing status in GES e.g. promotions, salary and benefits, etc.

I am reestablishing contacts and building a network with and through former classmates and colleagues. We live tomorrow for Kumasi, after a visit to the internet café and bank. We will continue to Accra on Friday. In addition to registering PAMBE Ghana, we will visit Winneba College of Education, find out and obtain samples of reading materials used for pre-K – Grade 6, visit some key Mamprusi intellectuals as well as the Montessori school in Kumasi and Accra.

I negotiated a one-room office in a building in Gambaga for GHC100.00: about 120 USD per year. It is completely bare; we need to paint it and put basic furniture there, including a ceiling fan. I will purchase a filing cabinet, printer and basic office furniture and supplies in Accra and Kumasi.


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