The Local NGO, EDSAM, I’m working with in Ho is not only involved in implementing the Ghana WASH project, but also providing microcredit to small businesses. For the past four years they have been operating in Ho, but are currently expanding their microcredit operations to northern Volta. As a result, the new staff from northern Volta traveled down to Ho for basic computer training that I volunteered to conduct.
The topics of the class included:
- Computer Theory
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft PowerPoint
The participants all graduated high school within the past couple of years. During school they all took computer courses, but because they did not have access to a lab all of their learning was theoretical. As you might imagine, it is difficult to learn to use a computer with a blackboard and chalk. Fortunately, the director for EDSAM is involved with a very nice computer lab (considering we are in Africa) in Ho that we were able to use for the week, so we got a lot practical work in.
The NGO computer training participants from norther Volta.
The course didn’t go without it’s challenges though. For most of the days we had to share the lab with another class – alternating times when we could use the lab. One day the teacher for the other class didn’t show up, so the students for the other class attended my class. This slowed down our progress a bit as the two sets of students had different skill levels. Also, on the last day of the training, someone forgot to pay the power bill, so the lab was without power for half the day. Apparently in Ghana power-bills are prepaid. So you purchase electricity from the power company before you use it.
Overall, the students seemed pleased with the training. There is a computer lab at the high school in my community, so I think I can use the same lesson plan to teach there as well. On top of this I am also doing some more advanced computer training to my NGO colleagues that are based in Ho.
Like many people in rural Ghana, my landlord owns goats. They are kept in a pen and everyday they are let out to wander, play, or eat just about anything. Although not very entertaining for Ghanaians, the goats are a great source of entertainment for me and I know I’m not the only white person in Ghana who loves watching goats. It’s particularly exciting when the goats fight each other over food or just for fun. When goats fight they continuously butt heads until one gives up. My favorite though is when they play “king of the hill”. Image a goat fight on a mound of sand and more than two goats involved. One goat tries to defend the top of the “hill” while the others try to knock him off.
However, the goats do get annoying at times. Many people here cook outside and roaming goats can often be found with their head in an unattended coal pot. Furthermore, the baby goats are always crying for their mothers when they want milk. The goat pen is about fifteen feet outside of my bedroom window and I can hear the goats making weird noises at night.
After church yesterday I came home to see a sick goat lying down outside of my compound. A man who lives in my compound decided that the goat should be put out of its misery. Soon after, two other men from my community came. In about an hour they slit the goat’s throat, skinned it, and gutted it. That night I ate fufu with goat meat.
Goat being cut open.
Fufu with light soup and tilapia.
I want to serve up a little bit of Ghanaian cuisine and today I’ll start with arguably the most popular—fufu. I mentioned earlier that fufu essentially is an eating utensil that you eat. It’s used as a vehicle to get whatever you are eating with the fufu into your mouth.
Preparation: Fufu is made with cassava and either plantain in southern Ghana (where I am) or yam in northern Ghana. Cassava is a flavorless starchy root that is fairly abundant in parts of Africa. First, the cassava and plantain are boiled. Then they are pounded together using an oversized mortar and pestle. Typically, one person stands and pounds, while the other sits and mixes the fufu while the pestle is in the air. The result is a large sticky ball with a dough-like consistency.
My host mom and host sister pounding fufu.
Eating: Fufu is usually served with a light soup and some short of meat, such as fish, beef, goat, or grasscutter (deserves a blog post on its own). Fufu is made to eat with your hands. My method is to grab a chunk, mold the chunk so it’s spoon-shaped, and scoop-up some soup. Now the hard part. Once it’s in your mouth don’t chew, only swallow. Chewing will cause the fufu is expand, making any attempt to swallow futile. As always, practice makes perfect.
Final Thoughts: During my first week in Ghana I was scared of fufu and you most likely would be too. However, after eating it for the past few months it has gown to be one of my favorite foods.
Part of the “software” portion of the Ghana WASH project took me and a few of my colleagues to a Primary School (Elementary 1st – 6th grade) and a Junior High School (JHS). Ghana WASH built latrines for these two schools a few years ago. In exchange for the latrines, the schools have agreed to teach regular health lessons to the students and keep the latrines properly maintained. Our job was to evaluate how well these schools implementing the health lessons and maintaining the latrines.
Inspecting the latrines.
One of the schools we visited was Tsito E.P. Primary, a Presbyterian Elementary school. When we arrived with met with the SHEP (School Health Education Program) Coordinator. The SHEP Coordinator is one of the teachers at the school who is in charge of everything that includes health education – from health lessons to after school health clubs. SHEP is a program started by the Government of Ghana a few years ago, so every school is “supposed” to have a SHEP Coordinator.
After meeting with the SHEP Coordinator, we patrolled the campus. First, we looked at the latrines, which were very clean because the students clean them five days a week. Then during break we got to interview the students. We observed their general hygiene and also quizzed them to see if they have learned anything from the health lessons they have been receiving. Our criteria for having good hygiene is clean nails, a full head of hair (ring worm is rampant here; I’d say 1 out of every 10 kids has it on their head), a personal handkerchief, and a cup for drinking water.
Inspecting the children’s fingernails.
I’d say about half the children I evaluated passed the test. Since the children love to swarm around any person who is white, this also provided a good opportunity for some impromptu health lessons.
The rest of the month is looking like it’s going to be rather busy. I have a couple of workshops I need to attend, I’m teaching a computer course to the staff of my NGO, and the construction of latrines is about to get underway in four communities. At least I’ll have plenty to blog about.