Chris and I brought all of the expected amenities to Ghana: light clothing, bug spray, flash lights, and our computers, but we also each brought a bag of books given to us by Andrew, to be added to the Titagya library. Although these tote bags of books proved to be a cumbersome carry-on, the inconvenience was completely worth it when the teachers and students at Titagya saw the new additions to their library. Titagya School is currently the proud owner of over 70 books, giving us one of the best school libraries in northern Ghana.
Last week Madame Baraka took some time in her Nursery 1 class to teach the children how to treat the books with care, and allow them each to “read” a book. We are only in the pre-reading stage with the Nursery 1 class, but most of the books have wonderful illustrations and interactive aspects like added texture to elements of the page or pull out sections; perfect for a beginning reader! The students were so fascinated by what they were finding in the books, and were excited to show me different animals, numbers, and letters that they were reading.
A particularly memorable moment for me occurred when I sat down with Abiba to read a book with her. This book uses vivid photographs from around the world to demonstrate different colors. As I pointed to photos and told Abiba the English word for each object, she began to repeat the English word to me, and then tell me the Dagbani word for the object. Soon another student, Irene, who knows another local language called Ewi, was telling me the object in Ewi as well!
This moment stands out for me because of the generative exchange that happened so naturally between the three of us, despite all of our differences (including language, age, position in the classroom, culture). It is not always easy to break down the hierarchy that somewhat naturally exists between teachers and students, but opening a space for the exchange of ideas between students and teachers is very rewarding for both groups. This interaction while reading exampled a way these hierarchies can be surpassed with positive results. I was also happy to see the idea reinforced that everyone, no matter what age or background, possesses valuable knowledge to pass on to others. Although I’m sure none of this was passing through the minds of Abiba and Irene as we continued teaching each other, I could tell that they were also enjoying the moment and that they recognized it as a special one.