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Nonprofit-LiveWe are staff, students and teachers at a village middle school in Ghana in West Africa. Ask us anything.

Jul 2nd 2016 by tchustz • 53 Questions • 4188 Points

Hi everyone,

My name is Taylor Chustz, I'm a volunteer with a US based NGO called Exponential Education and I'm here with some students and tutors from Antoa middle school in Ghana.

According to the 2011 Ghanaian National Education Assessment, only 16% of grade six students are proficient in math and only 35% are proficient in English. As well, many students who attend SHS struggle to pay for school fees. If students can not afford school they are forced to drop out and start a job to try and go back to school at a later time. Expo’s after school Peer-to-Peer tutoring program matches outstanding SHS students with struggling JHS students to provide free tutoring in math and English. Over the course of a term, the JHS students improve on average over 100% in math and 80% in English.

Five high-achieving senior high school (SHS) students are each matched with five struggling junior high school (JHS) students. Through activity-based learning, small group activities, in-the-moment feedback and extra opportunities for practice and review, JHS students reinforce their math and English foundations each week. The SHS tutors develop leadership skills, confidence in their mentorship capabilities and receive a stipend that helps offset the cost of their education. As well, at the end of the program, one SHS student is selected to receive a scholarship that can pay almost a year of school fees.

At Antoa JHS we run one of our peer-to-peer tutoring programs. The tutors come from Antoa SHS and the students come from Antoa JHS. They meet two times a week to learn in a fun atmosphere. Since the students are all local to Kumasi (the major town near our village) and near the same age, the middle school students are taught in the local language and their tutor is like an older sister or brother rather than a teacher.

The school serves a community of about 1500 people and most people in this village make their living as farmers.

If you'd like to help our organization out, please donate to our fundraising campaign. Any amount helps. All money goes towards our scholarship and stipend program to help SHS students stay in school. You can donate here: https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/exponential-education-help-us-reach-new-students--2

We are hoping to expand our program to more schools in the Ashanti Region of Ghana so we can help more JHS and SHS students stay in school (with scholarships and stipends to SHS students) and pass their classes and understand their courses (tutoring JHS students).

I'm here with our Program Associate, Charles Amponsha, who runs the tutoring program at Antoa JHS; SHS tutors Emmanuel and Sharifa; and JHS students Joseph and Georgina.

Ask us Anything!

Link to website: http://www.exponentialeducationprogram.org/

What is P2P?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czdlyur-ZdE

Link to a photo of us now: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5CO_R1CFj0PT1k5c0FIa2EzVW8/view?usp=sharing

**Note: the paper says "Hi! We are from Expo's Peer-to-Peer Program at Antoa JHS. Ask us anything!"

My camera is poor quality sometimes.

EDIT: Here is an updated picture with me and the students and my username. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5CO_R1CFj0PX0NnN09ua2NPQVE/view?usp=sharing

EDIT: Thank you for all the responses and support!I have sent the students home to go eat and help their families. Charles and I will answer questions maybe for another 30 minutes then I will take a break. My fingers hurt from replying! Thank you again!!!

Edit @17:29 GMT- Saturday: Thank you everyone for your questions and support. We have all enjoyed the questions, especially Charles and I. I am taking a break to actually make food and hopefully chat with some friends in Antoa. I will try to get back online later and answer more questions. Again, if you feel like donating please go to our donation page here: ttps://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/exponential-education-help-us-reach-new-students--2 Thank you again for your support!

Q:

What do you most enjoy learning about?

Also, how's your internet?

A:

Emmanuel: I like to learn about math. Joseph: math Sharifa: Economics Georgina: English

Taylor: Currently we have power and the internet is okay for now! Hopefully it stays that way.


Q:

Any specific type of math that you two enjoy?

What do you like about economics, Sharifa? Are you more of a micro or macro?

Georgina (and I suppose all), who's your favorite author?

A:

Joseph: I like to learn about fractions Emmanuel: I like to learn about simulations equations

Georgina: David Dontoh (A Ghanaian writer and actor)


Q:

When you aren't in school, what do you enjoy doing?

A:

Sharifa: I like to watch movies and read, and helping my mother. Georgina: I like to watch telenovelas (they are very popular here.)


Q:

Sharifa, do you have a favorite book?

A:

Yes, No Sweetness Here


Q:

Hello from Illinois in the U.S.! What do you aspire to do in the future? What are your dreams?

A:

Emmanuel: I want to be a journalist Sharifa: I want to be a nurse Georgina: I want to be a musician Joseph: I want to be a doctor Charles: I want to be a lawyer


Q:

I'm happy to know that! What are the biggest challenges that you face in your lives?

A:

Emmanuel: Financial problems. Paying for school fees is difficult many times.

Joseph: I sometimes come to school with an empty stomach. It makes it hard to learn.

Georgina: My parents are farmers and we don't have much money for myself and my siblings


Q:

If you become a nurse, will you stay in Africa or go abroad?

A:

Sharifa: I want to stay in Ghana


Q:

is the school urban or rural? does the school have animals/pets? do any of the kids at home?

A:

The school is rural. Antoa is a small village outside of Kumasi.

The school does not have pets, but animals (dogs, goats, cats, chickens) do wander into the classroom sometimes.

Emmanuel: I have a cat Sharifa: I have goats Georgina: A cat Joseph: I have a dog


Q:

Do the students have any opportunity to travel? How many have been to Accra? How many have been to a foreign country?

A:

Students usually don't get to travel too far. But they have all said they have been to Accra (Emmanuel lived there for 2 years) and no one has a passport. So no traveling to other countries.


Q:

They can go to ECOWAS countries without a passport. My students in Ho went to Togo often for funerals but few had been to Accra.

A:

Ah okay, I didn't realize (Taylor) but they still haven't traveled.


Q:

What sports are your favorite to partake in?

A:

Georgina: volleyball Joseph: football Sharifa: basketball Emmanuel: Hockey (in joking, but he says he played once in Accra)


Q:

You think you're funny or something, Emmanuel? HMM?

A:

He just smiled and said "sometimes"


Q:

And thus, a new meme has been born.

A:

When I see him at his program I may try and take a picture with the caption. I'll see what I can do


Q:

What do you learn about other countries?

A:

Charles: We learn about other countries culture mostly.


Q:

How do they feel about American culture?

A:

They think it is pretty cool and fun :)


Q:

Hello from Sydney, Australia! Nice to meet you :) Two questions:

1)What languages do you guys speak, inside or outside of school?

2) What does your typical school day look like?

A:

Question 1: In school: We are supposed to speak English (or French in the French class)

Outside: Twi (The local language)

Question 2: From Gergina: I wake up at 5am and shower and do household chores (sweeping). I get to school at 730 (she walks from a neighboring village that is 30 minutes away). I will be in school till 3pm. When I get home I will help cook food and serve my family food. I will then help with the cleaning and do homework. I will then go to sleep at nine pm.


Q:

How's the food in Ghana?

A:

Emmanuel: It is very delicious and tasty too.


Q:

What's your favorite food?

A:

Charles:Rice balls and groundnut soup


Q:

I know this isn't a question but I just wanted to let you know that your fundraising page is showing an error. I'd like to donate, do you have a link that works?

A:

Thank you for telling me. The new link should be up, but it is here as well:

https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/exponential-education-help-us-reach-new-students--2


Q:

Just donated...tried to share link on Twitter and Facebook, but it didn't let me.

A:

Thank you so much for your support! Maybe you can just share Expo's facebook or twitter page?


Q:

How are the Black Stars doing this season?

A:

Sharifa: they are doing well and they have qualified for the African Cup 2017!


Q:

I'm Ghanian and my dad played for the Black Stars (a loooong time ago)! His name is Fredua Agyeman Prempeh. Glad to hear you guys are fans of soccer!

A:

Charles says he doesn't know the name but he loves Black Stars so loves him then!


Q:

Hi everyone!

Which person from Ghana do you admire the most?

A:

Emmanuel : John Mahama (the current president of Ghana) Joseph: The late Atta Mills (the late president and professor) Georgina: Nana Addo (the main NPP, canidate to run for president)


Q:

who are the non political heroes, just curious?

A:

Charles: football players are seen as heroes, but a lot are political in nature


Q:

40 cedi = $10.15 USD

A:

Yes, this is correct. To give more context, in one day if your mother or father is a trader (sells an item) they can make a profit of 10 cedis (they sell items in town) a day , and if lucky 100 cedis (if they own their own shop).

From this amount they will buy more items to sell or food for their families. So at the end they may have less.


Q:

For the teach:

Mrs. Chust, how did you get involved in such a project and what inspired you to do so?

for the students:

You all have listed what you want to be (professionally) what/who is your inspiration for those paths?

A:

Taylor: I have a degree in international relations and a minor in educational policy. I have worked for a long time domestically in the US (as a certified math teacher in Englewood in Chicago) and in Boston and Baton Rouge. I was never able to work abroad due to having to pay for college (had to earn that money for myself). After working a few years I decided to take the risk and see if I wanted to continue to work in education domestically or internationally. I have loved working in Ghana and luckily have been able to have my work have a crossover with domestic and international education

Emmanuel: I want to be a journalist because I want to give information to the people about what is happening in the world.;

Sharifa: I want to be a nurse because my little brother always gets sick and it worries me. We always had to go to a far away place to get help. I want to be a nurse so I can provide help locally in my community.

Joseph: I want to be a doctor because I want to save the people in my community from disease. Many people get sick and they have to travel far for help. I want to help locally.

Georgina: I want to be a musician so I can be famous and praise God


Q:

Where do you plan on attending university as you pursue your careers? Are there universities in Ghana that offer the courses you need or would you need to travel to a different country? Are there scholarships available to you?

A:

Joseph: I want to travel to a different country for school to learn more. Sometimes if you get a degree in Ghana the government jobs will not pick you. But if you have a degree from another country, they will give you the job.


Q:

Why do you think it is that the government prefers someone that has education from a different country? Is the quality of education better than in Ghana at that level?

A:

It is more just assumed. Most Ghanaians I know who receive a degree in Ghana say they have to get a masters to get a government job. It is more the perception that a foreign school is better than a local one.


Q:

Interesting. But must be discouraging :(

A:

Yea, it can be :(


Q:

Can you tell us about your school building and how it fits your needs? Do you find it's generally useful when American or western mission/philanthropy groups come to Ghana and build schools or do you find it patronizing?

A:

Georgina: We like it because in the end we get the buildings we need for free.


Q:

What would you say to the many students in the U.S. who sometimes take the opportunities to attend school for granted?

A:

Charles: I would say that US students get schooling for free (at least in the public schools) and everyone is schooling so they don't understand the value and benefit of school because they don't pay for it. Many of us struggle to pay for school and sometimes our families take us out of school to help work on farms and pay for general bills (light, fetching water). Schooling is important because it can get you out of poverty and we should never forget that.


Q:

Hello from the UK!

Which country would you like to visit the most if you could, and why?

A:

Sharifa: Belgium because one of my cousins is there and I want to visit

Emmanuel: The UK because I just want to go there and have fun


Q:

One of my professors just spent a year on Ghana and she had amazing things to say about the people, the food, the culture, and the universities.

If you could pick one thing about Ghana to share with the rest of the world, what would you pick? What do you have that is so awesome that makes you think the rest of us are missing out?

A:

Charles: I think we would share what is friendship. Ghanaians are very friendly and accepting. I would want to share that about our culture.


Q:

What is the biggest challenge you have to overcome for your schooling? Is there a lack of infrastructure or supplies?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

On another note, education is the key that opens so many doors later in life. It's the best thing you can do for yourself and your community. You should all be very proud of yourselves.

A:

Emmanuel: lack of qualified teachers - I want to be journalist Sharifa: lack of facilities - I want to be a nurse Joseph: We have no libraries - I want to be a doctor Georgina: lack of supplies, like textbooks.- I want to be a musician


Q:

Would ereaders and tablets be a practical solution for the lack of textbooks and libraries? What about internet access where you are?

A:

Joseph: Yes Charles: Yes, but it would be difficult for the schools to manage the ownership of the devices I think.


Q:

Hello, I'm from Panamá. How hot is there? It's hot every day of the year?

A:

It isn't hot every day. We have a dry season at the end and start of the year. Currently it is the rainy season so it is cool after a rain but very humid waiting for it


Q:

Hello from Belgium! I live not far from Brussels which has a population of 1 million people. I prefer to live in the countryside away from the city.

Kumasi is bigger than Brussels - do you prefer city life or the countryside?

A:

Emmanuel: I want to live in the city and visit the country side


Q:

Do you have music classes and if you do, what are they like?

A:

Not specific music classes, but they have what are known as culture classes where the students learn traditional drumming and dancing.


Q:

It seems like you all have the same buzzcut - are there no distinction between the hairstyles of boys and girls? Is it part of the school uniform maybe?

What is the song used in the video? Seems like some of the kids are singing along?

Also what an awesome video it could have been so cringe but it was so great. Looks like a bunch of wonderful students :)

A:

In Ghana, only adults are allowed to have long hair. It is seen as a sign of respect to elders. Also, the government wants to differentiate between the children and teachers in school. (Also they all kind of don't know specifically why, just that it is part of culture).

The song is by Bisa Kdie it is called Mansa

And thank you about the video:)


Q:

What types of jobs will be typically available after graduation?

A:

From the SHS tutors. If we just graduate from SHS and don't get a degree we can teach in the private schools or sell items in town.


Q:

Why the focus on teaching English? And if you got the chance to expand your program, what else might you want to teach besides math and English?

A:

English is a core subject in Ghana education. Since it is sometimes the students second (or even third language) we try to reinforce their learning.

We also offer separate programs in the STEM topics. In this classes we train local teachers to teach a curriculum from a company called Level Up Village. It is free to teachers and students.

In expanding we hope to offer more tutoring services, and in turn STEM classes to students.


Q:

What languages are spoken in Ghana?

A:

Charles: There are 17 local languages in Ghana but the most spoken language is Twi


Q:

17 languages? Wow! So do signs in public have a bunch of translations written on them? Or do most people know one main language?

A:

Twi is the most common language so you see a combination of Twi and English on signs. But it really depends on what area you are in


Q:

How common is corporal punishment in Ghanaian schools?

A:

At the SHS it isn't common, but at the JHS it is common (can happen every day)


Q:

What is the most surprising or disturbing stereotype you've heard about your country?

A:

Joseph: I haven't heard anything negative. Usually people say we are very friendly.


Q:

Do schools there have terrible discipline problems (disobedience, fighting, guns, drugs) like so many schools in the US?

A:

Charles: Compared in America, it is different. WE have our own ways of being respectful to teachers and we are disciplined (physically) more in school than America. We fight with each other, but not with guns just words.


Q:

Random question, completely unrelated to your amazing cause (which by the way it really is).

My brother actually owns some property in Ghana, a bar he called "Game" I'm curious if anyone has been and if it's a good place.

My brother disowned me years ago, but I'd like to know if he's doing well and this seems as good a way as any.

Related question, how do you gauge who is outstanding and who is struggling? What is done about the kids that bridge the divide?

A:

Do you know where the bar is located? Ghana is kind of big, but if you know where (village, town) I can ask around.

For the JHS students we administer a baseline exam in English and math just to see where they stand. We also ask their English and math teachers so we can get an idea. After we know, we group the kids and the tutors teach them in the specific areas they are struggling in. Sometimes we also try to partner students who are struggling with better performing students.


Q:

Near Kumasi, I'm afraid that's all I know.

I really think you're doing good work :) keep it up :)

A:

I asked the students and they do not know the place. But if I ever come by a place I will look into it.


Q:

How do you watch football? On phones, computers, or TV's? Do you think you will watch anything from this year's Olympic's?

A:

We watch on a TV.

If there is no TV, or local TV playing, then we can't watch the Olympics. Many bars or local areas play sports events


Q:

How did you become a volunteer?

A:

I saw a posting on idealist.org while working in the US. I always wanted to work abroad but I had to pay for my housing and schooling so I always worked. I was able to save up some before I took the position and now I am in Ghana.


Q:

Does the water situation cause problems sometimes?

A:

Sometimes. For example most people do not have running water in Antoa and we get water from pumps. When the power is out the pumps don't work and we have no water.

Washing hands is a big issue though. There are a lot of programs to help bring about washing hands to prevent the spread of disease.


Q:

Hello, I teach middle school science in the United States. I'd really like to know what students want to achieve in life?

A:

Joseph; i would to have my own hospital one day and a family. Charles: I want to have a family and own a school, I want to have scholarship programs for students from my village. Emmanuel: I want to travel the world.


Q:

What kind of music do you like? What music is popular in your area?

A:

There is a type of music called high-life in Ghana. It is very popular with the young people. Many people also listen to praise music