Over the last four weeks I did ten workshops on environmental awareness with the juniors and second year – students in Tamale Girls Senior High Pagnaa. I divided the workshops into three subjects: language, responsibility, and mobile phones. The first week, I focussed on the language topic by making wordwebs with topics like the weather (seasons), nature or environment, waste, and mobile phones. The second week, I did the workshops on responsibility for waste in different contexts like the school, the family, various public spaces, and in the church or mosque. The last two weeks I did the workshops on mobile phones with a special focus on e-waste. I asked the classes questions like: “what do you do with your Phone when it is broken?” and “what happens with your Phone when it is completely spoiled?” Of course I also brought up the discussion about Agbogbloshie, the e-waste dumpsite close to Accra, and I learned the girls the importance of recycling and re-using elements of the mobile Phone.
I really liked doing the workshops with the classes. Overall, they were really enthusiast and I received interesting responses. I also had the feeling that the classes liked the workshops as well. I was a bit nervous for that because I have to do my program after schoolhours because I am not allowed to disturb the education program. It is of course difficult for the students to come back to class after lunchtime. But most of them were there and were willing to help me with my research. I thanked them by making pictures with my polaroid camera and my Phone and after I’d printed the pictures, I gave those to the classes as a gift.
Besides the specific information for my research, I found it also very interesting to learn more about the students’ backgrounds. Where are they from? Why have they choosen Pagnaa for their education? What do their parents do? And what are their dreams? I figured out that Pagnaa is known as the best school in the Northern Region. Therefore, children from all over the country are coming to Pagnaa. As well, the parents of the children have different professions. A lot of girls that I have spoken to have uneducated parents or even illiterate parents. Only a few of them have parents who completed some forms of education like Senior High, College, or University. But the children do all have dreams. They all know what they want to become. From professions like doctor, nurse, nutritionist, and lawyer, to soldier, pilot, fashiondesigner, and lecturer or teacher. I found that very impressing for girls in the age of 15 till 18.
The results of my workshops are interesting because I found a lot of important social relationships of responsibility and ownership between the students and their teachers, parents, and other important groups. And I learned a lot about Dagbani (the language they speak in the regio of Tamale) as well.
In Dagbani, there is no translation for ‘the weather’. They do not describe the weather as we do. Every time I was talking during the workshops about ‘the weather’, the class stayed completely silent. One time, a girl said to me that in Dagbani, there is no word for the weather. It is not generalized. I thought this was really interesting and switched my discussions towards the seasons. When I was talking about the seasons, the girls came up with the different temperatures, the rain, the sun etc. Furthermore, I found out that the children never call their Phone ‘waste’. Because ‘waste’ is something that cannot be used anymore. A Phone is always re-usable. Even when you cannot use it anymore, it is still good for recycling.
In Ghana, there is a lot of trash alongside the road. But I figured out that it is difficult to hold the individual person responsible for that. There is a complex relationship between ‘client’ and ‘executor’ when it comes to waste. There always have to be an older person or a person with a higher social status that gives a younger person the task to clean the environment and to burn the rubbish. In the school, these are the senior students or the teachers. In the family, parents let their kids work. In the church or mosque, the children do want to keep the place clean anyway to worship God. In public places, the government is responsible. In cities, the national cleaning service Zoomlion is cleaning every morning. In villages, the local chief or assembly man is responsible to organise cleaning actions.
The girls use their phones for the same things as the Dutch youngsters do. But there is one big difference, and that is that the students use their phones for ‘research’. That means that they search for information, translations, definitions, and places on their phones. They see their Phone as a tool that can help them during the learning process. Furthermore, when their Phone is broken, they have to say it to the person that gave the Phone to them. With phones as well, there is a complex relationship between the giver (the owner) and the user. The girls are socially not seen as the responsible owners of the Phone. The parents are. When the Phone is broken, the owner of the Phone as to repair it for them. They have to bring the Phone to the repairer.
These are only a few research results that I wanted to share with you guys on my blog. I hope that you also think it is interesting! I still have two more weeks left and I am already feeling sad about saying goodbye to all the students and teachers in school. Let’s see how the last part will go!
Thank you for reading!