Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at tells our story.

Feb 21, 2012

Jerome Chandler JHS Science Resource Center – Part 2

James Kainyiah introducing some of the group to the Heritage facility, including the Science Center
On Tuesday, Feb 14, twenty-eight JHS science teachers and headmasters/mistresses---all but two in the District---came to the Science Resource Center to review how the JHS practicum program is going and to brainstorm ideas for using the Center effectively.
Eric Jim
Jerome Chandler and Eric Jim (Jimpetey), a JHS science teacher at the Methodist/Government School, worked together in September 2011 to get the Center ready. It opened in October, the first term of the school year. Eric is assigned by the Education Service to be the Science Center Supervisor. By the end of the first term in Dec 2011, a total of 524 students and their teachers had experienced the Center---some several times---from 8 different schools.

With the start of the second term in January 2012, three schools have started to send their students regularly. Axim Methodist is coming weekly with approximately 100 JHS-1 students every Thursday, and 50 JHS-3 students every Saturday. They split this large class into two groups---half study in the “big room” and half do science. Life International, a smaller school, is coming with 9 JHS-3 students on Thursdays, and 19 JHS-2 students, also on Thursdays. Brawire/Akyinim School, which is at least a 45-minute walk from the Center, is bringing 26 JHS 3 students biweekly. All students and teachers walk to the Center, as there is no bus transportation. So about 200 students are now coming regularly to the Center every week. 
A few days before, Sarfo Hayford, the Science Curriculum Supervisor, James Kainyiah, and I met to review the progress of the hands-on science program. It seemed they are off to a good start, but Sarfo wants more students to come regularly, so he sent written invitations to every headmaster inviting them and their science teachers to a brainstorming session.
We started with a tour of the upper floor of the “Heritage”, as the WHH facility is called. James showed off the One Laptop per Child computers and the big study room with about 100 arm-desks.
The big study/meeting room with nice chairs the students love
Then, Eric took us all into the science storeroom. He explained the wonderful organizational system Jerome devised, keying each plastic container of needed materials to the specific section of the JHS Science Syllabus.

The most organized science room in all of West Africa!!!
At one point, Eric asked the “strongest man” in the room to raise his hand. Of course, every man did, to much laughter! So, Eric gave the magnet to one of them and asked him to pull it apart, which was impossible. Then he deftly twisted it and it easily came apart. A scientific principle had just been conveyed that no one there had thought about before, I’m sure! I tried to call Jerome, just now, to see what principle it was, but he wasn’t there, so I’ll leave you all guessing.

Then we all settled into the Science Center room, and seriously brainstormed JHS science teaching. James Kainyiah led the discussion. He is not only the Chair of WHH, which, with our help, built and owns the Heritage facility, but is also the Development Chief of Axim Traditional area, going by the stool name of Nana Kaku Bullu II. James had spent many Saturdays in 2011 in a special program in Accra, learning to be a “conflict resolution specialist”...the only person so-trained in the Nzema East/West area. So, he is now a skilled facilitator. He said we would use the “GHOST” process: Gentle, Honest, Open, Specific, Talk Now (not gossip later!).
It was a wonderful, open, active discussion. Many ideas were shared, but the bottom line is that I’m now very hopeful that all but the most distant schools will find a way to have their students experience the first hands-on science ever available in Axim, at least biweekly, in spite of the long walk involved for some. This is remarkable.

The teachers decided to form a science resource team under Eric’s leadership to generate ideas and to try out developing new materials themselves. James emphasized that the facility is their facility. He suggested organizing a “science durbar” ---a whole community event---at the end of the 2011-2012 school year to demonstrate to parents and younger students how exciting science is and let the JHS students show off their abilities.
It was so great to see the excitement of these teachers. A key observation: no one left the meeting, even though it lasted from 10:30 2:30, although it was scheduled to end at noon. And they turned their mobile phones off. (Ghana has at least 81% mobile phone penetration--most of these teachers probably have at least two for different networks. Ghana had 19,893,191 subscribers in a population of 24,722,485 in Aug 2011! It’s cheap, convenient, and sophisticated.)

I cautiously believe (fervently hope) with the boost of this meeting, the Science Center may have reached the magic tipping point, where it will be incorporated into the regular science teaching of at least the majority of schools. Certainly the students themselves are completely enthusiastic. They love to come to the Heritage---in fact, many come on Saturday morning or gather after church on Sunday afternoon and make the 20-30 minute walk/run, just to have a quiet place to lay out their notes, study, do homework, and I think, being junior high students, just to be together! And their teachers come, too, and help them with these informal study sessions. One girl told me she loves to come because “it’s almost like university”. They love the chairs with the flip-up arms, the whiteboards and blackboard, the cleanliness, the grown-up feeling about the place. YES!!

A round of applause for Jerome and Eric!!