The first week of April was exams week in Ghana. The exams are set by the government, so I was looking forward to seeing a bit of structure in the school system for a change. Silly me!
The first thing that changed was that the bell didn’t get rung for break times, because every class started and finished their various subject exams at different times. Once a class stopped for a break, it was hard to round them up again, so the day was totally chaotic. I watched some teachers sitting in front of their classes calling out the multi-choice questions, then stopping to wander across the compound to inspect some fish that a woman had brought in for sale, then popping back to continue with the questions.
I was asked to help with the new entrants’ class, reading out the Social Studies exam to the 5 year olds, while Madame Lucy did the under fives. The first problem of course was that they couldn’t read, so I had to point out to each of them individually which question we were up to, and which was option A, B or C. I couldn’t continue onto the next question until everyone had circled an answer with the previous one.
I read the questions carefully, just as they were worded, in English, on the paper. But the children weren’t content to listen and interpret the question. They kept asking questions and effectively asking me for the answer. I refused to give any clues, but Madame Lucy butted in now and again, angrily shouting at them in Twi until they knew what to do.
I was intrigued by some of the questions, such as, “What is the correct time for swimming? A. Morning; B. Afternoon; C. Evening.” The Religious and Moral Education paper was even more blatant. “Who created the earth, sky, trees and animals? A. Humans; B. God; C. Sister.” Although the answers were fairly obvious, I watched many of the children circle seemingly random answers as they watched my face for clues and I refused to give any. Meanwhile on the kindergarten side of the room, Madame Lucy was angrily shouting at the children in Twi and at times picking up their hands and circling the correct answers for them.
Once the painful process was over, Madame Lucy dismissed the children and sat down to mark the exams herself. A totally meaningless exercise!
I have to add here that I’m sure not all schools in Ghana are this bad. There is currently a campaign underway to have all teachers registered by the end of this year or next (can’t remember which), after which unregistered teachers won’t be able to teach. Government schools do have trained teachers, but there is a plethora of private schools, many of which seem to be just money-making rackets set up by people who haven’t a clue.