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NonprofitWe are staff and students from a program at a village high school in Ghana in West Africa. Ask us anything. AMA!

Nov 26th 2017 by Expo_Education • 44 Questions • 3107 Points

Hi everyone!

My name is Hannah McCollom. I am a volunteer with a US based NGO called Exponential Education in Ghana. I am here with some our students from Antoa Senior High School in Ghana.

The students I have with me are members of our newest program, Boys for Positive Change! Boys for Positive Change (BPC) is our newest pilot program at Expo. With the success of our Girls LEAP, we saw a need for similar mobilization with Senior High School (SHS) aged boys. The mission of BPC is to sensitize boys to recognize social norms underlying gender inequality and empower them to become agents of positive change by challenging these norms.

BPC is an afterschool club for SHS Form 2 boys. They meet once a week and discuss a number of topics which include: • expressing emotions • gender norms underlying inequality • family and relationships • masculinity • violence and gender based violence • community issues

Belief: Domestic violence is an internal, family affair, not a social problem. Fact: It is a social problem: Data from the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) was analysed. Here are the results: • Of the 1524 ever married women in this study, 33.6 % had ever experienced domestic violence. • Risk of domestic violence was 41 % higher for women whose husbands ever experienced their father beating their mother. • Women whose husbands drink alcohol were 2.5 times more likely to experience domestic violence as compared to women whose husbands do not drink alcohol. • Statistics from the Domestic Violence & Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service indicates that at least 17,655 cases of violence against women were reported to them in 2014. • Violence against women and children has many bad consequences that affect society. - It seriously damages women and children mentally and physically. It creates fear and loss of self-esteem. - It leads to the breakdown of families, society and trust between people. - It incurs costs for medical care and loss of ability to work and earn by women. Children take time off from school.

Belief: A man punishes his wife because she gives him cause to do so. He has rights to punish her because he is her superior & the “head of the household”. Fact: If we accept this belief then we accept that: - Men are superior to women, - “Superior” people are allowed to enforce their superiority by using violence. The idea that men are superior to women is not a fact. It is a value judgement. Women and men have different sex roles and their cultures may give them different gender roles. However these roles should be given equal value and women should be equal to men. This idea illustrates that according to tradition, the man is the head of the family so he can “educate” his wife or children even if this education is in fact just violence and not education. If we accept this belief, then we accept the fact that a man has right to use violence to impose his authority.

These are just a couple of the many beliefs in society about gender based violence.

If you'd like to help our organization out, please donate to our fundraising campaign. Any amount helps. All money goes towards our programs: BPC, Girls LEAP, P2P, and LUV. You can donate at https://secure.anedot.com/expoedu/expoedugivingtuesday Link to website: http://www.exponentialeducationprogram.org/

We are the students and staff of Exponential Education in Antoa, Ghana! Ask us Anything!

My Proof: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cZj-mGyZp4INrWmlOSVorNNby6vKjNzY/view?usp=sharing

Update: We have sent the students home and back to the school to eat dinner and get ready for their week! Staff members are still here to answer questions!

Update #2: It is getting late here in Ghana, so I am going to log off now! I will check back in tomorrow to answer any more questions you may have! Keep commenting!

Final update: Thank you all for the response and questions! Again, if you would like to donate to our program, visit https://secure.anedot.com/expoedu/expoedugivingtuesday or Link to website: http://www.exponentialeducationprogram.org/ Have a great day!

Q:

To the students: what are your aspirations? What do you want to do with your life?

A:

Robert: I want to become a very famous engineer or news caster. I want to build my own airplane - I will set the record for the first person to build their own airplane in Ghana. I would also like to be a famous actor because I love acting!

Stephen: I want to be a vibrant politician and a lawyer. I want to be a lawyer because I want to help those who don't have money; if they have cases that no one will solve for them, I will solve it for them.

Bismark: As for me I want to become a famous journalist because I want to entertain and find out some truth about how politicians are governing the country.


Q:

All excellent goals! Best wishes to you all.

A:

Thank you so much!


Q:

I don't have any questions but just wanted to say this is awesome!

A:

Thank you!


Q:

Staff: Do you have any opposition to education within the region? What future prospects do your students gain access to by completing their education?

Students: Why isn't there more demand for better education in your country or region? What do you hope to achieve with your education?

A:

Staff: No, we do not have opposition for the programs. We generally receive much support from schools in our region. They are becoming advocates for positive change in their community! They really feel like they are the future leaders in Ghana! Students: There is a demand for education. The challenge has been the resources for better education. This is the gap that Expo is filling. Robert: I hope to become a journalist. Bismark: I also want to become a journalist. Stephen: I want to become a politician.


Q:

It's getting to be Christmas time. Is there anything you need we could send you that would actually reach you? Something we take for granted?

A:

Hi! That is so kind! As students, our needs are basic. Pens, paper, printing costs, snacks, water, etc. These are also things that are used for our BPC program with Expo! The best way to get these things to us, is to donate to Expo (link in description) and then they provide these items for our program.


Q:

They already edited that they were going to bed for the night lol

A:

Hi! I (Hannah) have been cynical as well! I can promise you that it is not a scam. If it makes you feel better, here is our website link: exponentialeducationprogram.org

Here is a link to our facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/ExponentialEducation/

Here is my personal facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/hannah.mccollom

Here is my email address if you want to reach out to me personally: [email protected]


Q:

Hello from way Northern Canada, like near where Wolverine lived. My wife and I love cooking, but not that silly fancy stuff in cook books, but rustic, simple food. What does a good Sunday dinner look like at your houses?

A:

Robert: Rice balls and groundnut soup! Bismark: Fufu and palmnut soup! Stephen: Fufu and light soup!

Hannah: All of these are extremely popular dishes in Ghana! They are so tasty!


Q:

Ghanaian here...u have good taste 😊

A:

Thank you!


Q:

Ghanaian here...u have good taste 😊


Q:

You can also buy powder that you just add water to if you don't have access to some of the ingrediants or are feeling lazy. Here's an example if you're way up north in canada I'm guessing there's not any ethnic grocery stores around, so the more expensive stuff online might be your only option.

If you're still interested in making Ghanaian food you could try making red red which is a stewed black eyed peas dish that goes really well with fried plantains.

A:

Red red is soooooooo good!!!!!!!


Q:

What so you folks like to do for fun? What kind of music do you listen to?

A:

Mostly we play football and hang out. As for music we listen to Ghanaian music (like hiplife and hip hop) also gospel music and foreign music like Westlife!


Q:

Thank you for your reply!

A:

I asked the audience and this was the recommendation for you to be introduced to modern Ghanaian music

https://youtu.be/GTUIlOudlHI


Q:

What a happy song, I love it! Thank you to whoever suggested it, this is my first time hearing Ghanaian music.

A:

That was from the students (who've now gone home). There is so much music here from highlife in the twenties to hip hop and electronic music now. It's an an incredibly musical place, the radio is always on and always good! Another popular artist at the moment is ebony (below). There's a lot to explore!

https://youtu.be/3KwnKpEivg4


Q:

This sounds like a great program! Students- what part of the program has had the most impact on you personally?

A:

Robert - Public speaking! Stephen - Being more open with my feelings! Bismark - I feel I can now talk freely about anything!


Q:

Sounds like a great program, OP - did you experience any pushback from local parents when starting it?

A:

Hello! Thank you for the compliment. Some of us are boarders at the school, so we do not get to talk to our parents about the program. Me, Bismark, I live at home and my parents are okay with the program.


Q:

Are you GHANA answer my question?

A:

I would but I have TOGO now!


Q:

What do SOMALIA do?

A:

All of a SUDAN I can't think of any more puns...


Q:

For the students, what did you learn growing up about how men are supposed to act? Which of those traits made you feel the most uncomfortable if any?

A:

Being brave, tough, strong, never cry, you are the head of the family all of the time, feeding and taking care of the monetary forms for the family. It puts us in a rush as we feel like we have to deliver to our family no matter what the circumstances. When we cry, we feel like people around us are being to critical. We feel like we have to have our emotions in check at all times. (From Charles, Bismark, Stephen, and Robert)


Q:

I think this is a common burden for men all around the world. In Utah USA where I live, my culture also shames men for having emotions. I think this is so unfair and damaging.

Shame is a tool people use to control other's behavior. You can take your personal power back when you refuse to feel ashamed. (Guilt is productive, shame is destructive). On a large scale I believe humanity doesn't know how to deal with our emotions. Because of this, when someone is vulnerable we can get overwhelmed and don't know what to do. It feels bad and a natural reaction is to push it away by shutting down the person who has the emotion.

One way to change this is to show others that it's safe to have emotions with you. If others are safe to show their emotions with you, you should be safe to share back. By doing this, you have created a safe environment.

Sometimes it can be difficult because you don't know what to do with their emotions. Many times, all that is needed is someone to witness the difficult emotion and know what they are going through. Someone else's emotions are not your responsibility. By offering a listening ear you have no obligation to fix it or help the person. You may choose to do so, but know that it is voluntary and you can establish your boundaries at any time.

Communication is very important when it comes to emotions. In order to create an emotionally safe space each individual needs to communicate their needs and boundaries without fear of negative consiquences. This is a long comment but I hope it help anyone who reads it. <3

A:

Brother preach! As a man working with teenage boys really is an emotional business. It's a tough world for a boy no matter where you live. Being vulnerable is the first step not only to helping create a less violent world but also to helping ourselves as men! Thanks for the comment I agree wholeheartedly. This is one of the core messages of our programme.


Q:

What is health care like in Ghana? How does that impact the work you are doing?

A:

It is easily accessible. As a student, we have to have health insurance. When we are sick, there is a clinic here in Antoa we go to.


Q:

Is it cheap? Expensive? Free? The care is pretty good?

A:

It is relatively cheap! I feel like the more you pay, the better your care is. However, most clinics in the small communities have easy access to malaria tests and medications to treat malaria, which is a common ailment.


Q:

Does the program connect with Ghanaian women activists to better understand what issues women are facing nationally?

How do you discuss people using religion to justify gender stereotypes?

What's your school food like?

A:

Exponential Education also has a Girls Leadership, Empowerment, Action Program that connects girls with Ghanaian women activists. BPC is a newer program so we want to eventually connect it with the girls' program so that both the boys and girls and work together on a community service project! But that's an aim for the future!

In terms of religion, religion is a central part of Ghanaian society, and any conversation on social issues can't avoid addressing religion in some way, sometimes this is addressing difficult messages put forward by religion, and sometimes it is embracing positive guidance found in religion. We see the issues we talk about as being human issues, shaped by people and this is the approach we take.

School food: Robert: "I'm the only boarder here and I would rate the dinners 3/10 because the meals aren't very balanced and there's not so much taste."

Bismark and Stephen: "We buy food from the canteen for lunch. We buy rice, beans, kenkey, and fruits, and it's really good."


Q:

What a cool program! Thanks for doing this AMA and sharing your message! Teachers: What are your favorite ways of teaching classes and connecting to students at your school? Students: What ways of teaching help you learn the best? What do you like to do when you are not in class?

A:

Shaibu: I love to interact with the students during our lessons. It opens up doors and a time to discuss and see their views. Charles: Activity based learning. It makes the students always remember what they learned. Also, coming up with scenarios or examples of what you are learning.

Stephen: By practicals. Using examples and games to learn the content.

All: watching movies! We can watch them on a friend's phone!


Q:

Hello guys, thanks for doing this AMA. I have a few questions. What made you aware of gender inequality and that it was a problem? Also, how would you describe the people's attitude and response by generation?

I mean, I'm Mexican and while in my family everyone is against physical violence and "believe" a woman is as capable as any man, my grandparents and even my parents never fully accepted men doing the laundry and women the carpentry.

A:

Fergal: long before I came to Ghana I grew up as a boy and experienced first hands how difficult it can be growing up feeling that you can never fully express yourself or be vulnerable, along with the constant pressure to build your own self image around violence and degrading sexual conquest.

Shaibu: we took a hike in volta region with a female colleague and I went to help her and she said don't just help me because I'm a woman. This made me realise how deeply rooted our biases can be.

Charles: I realised my mom had only completed JHS whereas my dad finished SHS. This was because she was a woman. Also we've never had a female president. I realised something needed to change. Women are never given a chance to show us what they can do.

Stephen: if a woman can't give birth she is looked down upon. This made me think about women's position in society in all circles.

Robert: in our generation how we are going to do things is not the same as generations to come will do it. The generation before us was not like us. Before women had to stay home and cook and clean and couldn't go to school. Now things are starting to change.

Stephen: yes now things are slowly changing. Now sometimes men help women with the cooking and women are taking on more things to with money.

Also your experience in Mexico sounds very familiar. How are things changing there?


Q:

Given everything you’ve learned, what is the number one piece of advice you would give a younger boy?

A:

Bismark: Take your time. Don't rush into something because your peers are doing it. Robert: Focus on your education to achiever your goals. Stephen: Be time conscious. Use your time wisely. Robert: Also, don't worry yourself with gambling and things like that.


Q:

Hi Students! What does a normal school day for you? Do you take lots of different classes?

A:

School starts at 7:30AM. On MWF, we have assembly first. Then, we go to our first lesson. Breakfast starts at 8:50AM after our first lesson. After, we go to our next lesson. After that lesson, lunch is at 1:20PM. Our classes resume at 1:50PM and end for the day at 3:50PM. Sometimes, we take extra classes to help with our studies. On Wednesdays, we have our Boys for Positive Change Program after lessons. As a boarder (Robert), supper is at 5:00PM. We have Prep (study time) at 7:00 to 9:00PM. Lights out is at 10:00PM. Between study time and lights out at 10:00PM, we socialize with the ladies! ;) As for us nonboarders, it varies.

Classes: History, Twi (native language), Economics, Christian Religious Studies, English, Math, Integrated Science


Q:

In reading about the program's educational agenda, I couldn't help but have my eyes glaze over a bit. What methods do you use to teach social concepts like these while keeping students engaged and without coming across as "preachy"?

A:

Staff: We balance this by, firstly, focusing on the ideas, for example by hosting debates or watching videos and, secondly, by working on self expression, for example, by working on acting and trying to put ourselves in other people's shoes. In general we try to keep things practical, varied, and non judgemental. We are not trying to tell the boys how to think, only how to reflect more on what they think and to work towards being truer to ourselves as men. We aim to have it feel less like a class and more like a safe space, to give young men a place to be vulnerable and explore themselves as men and to form their own community based on their own values.


Q:

Is it sometimes difficult to carry over things you learn in class to things you experience at home or when you are out in your village or city? Meaning, if you see things like abuse, or mistreatment of women and children, do you find it difficult to use your voice to speak up because of a fear of causing an even bigger issue?

A:

Stephen: I can be an negotiator; I saw a fight the other day and I tried to break it up.

Bismark: If the issue concerns me, then I will speak up. It can be difficult because other people don't see things the same way and they might insult me.

Robert: As for me I don't find it difficult to speak out against bullying. I see it a lot when older students will bully younger students in the dormitories. I saw it happen yesterday and I made them stop and I reported it. If it happens in my family, then I have to speak up. I don't think abuse or beating someone is the right way to solve problems. I don't agree with beating children to discipline them.


Q:

How do the wealthy in Ghana live compared to most others in Ghana, and how do the wealthy in Ghana live compared to the wealthy in other countries?

A:

The wealthy in Ghana live similarly to the wealthy around the world; instead taking public transportation they can drive - but they still get stuck in traffic! ;P

In all serious, the more money you have the more access to resources and comfortable living you have. In rural areas, constant electricity and running water might be unreliable. If you are wealthy you would be able to afford a generator for when the power goes out!


Q:

What’s a typical day like?

A:

School starts at 7:30AM. On MWF, we have assembly first. Then, we go to our first lesson. Breakfast starts at 8:50AM after our first lesson. After, we go to our next lesson. After that lesson, lunch is at 1:20PM. Our classes resume at 1:50PM and end for the day at 3:50PM. Sometimes, we take extra classes to help with our studies. On Wednesdays, we have our Boys for Positive Change Program after lessons. As a boarder (Robert), supper is at 5:00PM. We have Prep (study time) at 7:00 to 9:00PM. Lights out is at 10:00PM. Between study time and lights out at 10:00PM, we socialize with the ladies! ;) As for us nonboarders, it varies.


Q:

To the students. Would you like to move to another country in the future or stay on Ghana? What country and why?

A:

Charles: I would love to move somewhere else (no where specific in mind) in the near future, however, I would then like to come back to use my experience to develop my own country. I would look to go a country with means to accomplish my aim, and also with nice people and a great culture!

Shaibu: I initially didn't like to travelling, but now I do. However, I wouldn't like to move to another country. I would still like to travel back and forth too. I'd love to travel to Ireland.

Bismark: Yes, anywhere in Europe. Because I have heard it is a great place. I want to see it and experience it.

Robert: Yes, USA. Just for a short time. It is very developed, and I can learn from my time there.

Stephen: Yes, I want to go to the U.K. especially London! I want to see Chelsea Football club!


Q:

How did the students come to be at this school or program? Have students chosen to leave before or does everyone graduate?

A:

Students: We attend senior high school, some as boarders and some as day students in the same town as the SHS. We have to take a standardized Ghanaian test in junior high school to apply for SHS. Right now we have to pay school fees too. Most students graduate from SHS these days!

In terms of the BPC Program, we had to fill out an application to join. We were selected because we showed that we were excited about the program. Some of the students have left the program because it's after school and they might have extra classes.


Q:

How difficult has it been for you to learn about these gendered issues and actually take your new knowledge on board and use it in your lives?

A:

Charles: Few people here know about gender issues. When we talk to our friends about helping a woman, our friends might make fun of us. However, now that we have also learned about self-esteem, it doesn't negatively affect us.


Q:

Are many of the boys in the program looking to pursue higher education? Is that a goal of the program?

A:

Yes, many of them are! We always hope our students will somehow continue to learn and grow. Charles was a part of our early Peer to Peer programs, and is now a freshman at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)!


Q:

So do the boys work with the girls?

A:

Staff: at the moment no but this is something that all parties (staff, boys and girls) are interested in. Next year we are looking at a way in which boys and girls can come together and work on a project.


Q:

Do you follow the boys afterwards? To see if perceptions really changed?

A:

Yes, we are in touch with some of the boys who were a part of the pilot program last year. We also have done surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.


Q:

Are there any efforts to create a co-ed program? It seems like there would be a benefit for young men and women to participate alongside each other.

A:

This is currently the second year of the program, last year being the pilot. We hope to integrate our boys and girls programs even more beginning in the 2018 school year! We want to keep certain aspects of the program separate so it's still a safe space for the boys and girls respectively to be able to discuss sensitive topics like self-esteem and sharing feeling. However, we think a group community service project would be really beneficial!


Q:

Students: What’s your favorite Western snack food?

A:

Students like biscuits (cookies to Americans), frozen yogurt, plantain chips, and popcorn. All of those are easy to find here.


Q:

How could one get involved with this organization, and what kind of qualifications would be sought out for someone seeking a position?

A:

We are not currently accepting volunteers until the 2018-2019 school year, but you are always more than welcome to send your cv/resume to us at [email protected]. You can also check out our website at http://www.exponentialeducationprogram.org/how-to-help! Thank you for your interest!


Q:

What was breakfast?

A:

For me? This morning I had an egg sandwich, bread and eggs is a staple for us. Lots of people eat porridge though. My favourite is bofrut which are sweet deep fried doughballs flavoured with pineapple... delicious!


Q:

How well stocked is the local library?

A:

Nope, no library right now!


A:

Cool, congrats on raising the money! Where is the project you're working on?


Q:

As I know next to nothing about life there I suppose my question would be this.

What exactly is you're culture and day to day life like? As someone who has never had to worry about much given where I live I want to know these things so that I can hopefully one day try and help make the lives of others better, even if it's just for a day.

A:

Some cultural differences in day to day life would include gathering water from a well or stream instead of just turning on a tap in your house. Most people here don't have personal cars, and they walk or use public transportation. Also, everyone is so friendly here, so you spend a lot of time just greeting people and talking to/making new friends!


Q:
  • Are the beliefs you re bringing in easily accepted by both parents of students?
  • Are these students orphans?
  • Do you think after teaching them this and releasing them in the wild society, your students will survive the difference and keep those beliefs?
  • what kind if support do they have at home to consolidate these beliefs?
A:
  1. Generally speaking yes. Of course it varies from household to household but most parents want the best for their children and are willing to change from the past.

  2. None that I know of. We have the usual mixture of regular and single parent families.

  3. Yes! Ghana is moving very quickly on these issues, especially in more urban/educated circles. I think our boys will have plenty of space to become leaders in their communities.

  4. Support from home again varies on the household. We try to work a lot on action, ie working on putting the messages we cover into practice, mostly by trying to change things in their own homes.