By: Brittany Semco, P.J. Writer Education majors spend month in Ghana This summer Waynesburg University sent two junior education majors to teach in Africa for approximately one month. The students, Angele Hagy and Hannah Szymanik, arrived in Aburra, Ghana on May 3 and returned home on June 5. Hagy and Szymanik participated in two different aspects of the mission that Pro Worlds, the mission organization, led to the students in Africa. When they were not working in the schools, the juniors went on weekend excursions to various places within Ghana. These places included Cape Coast, Assin Manson, where the slaves had their last bath before shipment, Boti Falls, where the students hiked for two hours, Kakum National Forest, where they waked on a canopy bridge through the trees and a botanical garden in the eastern region. Through the weekend excursions, as well as interacting with the people there, both students experienced a portion of Ghanian culture. “I enjoyed learning about the culture and being in the culture, as well as being intentional with people, not just around them,” Szymanik said. It took longer for Hagy to adjust. “The culture is very different there and it is very hard to get used to. For instance, you get marriage proposals from strangers all the time. I got proposed to on my first day there,” Hagy said. Both students also agreed that their host families were very beneficial in helping them learn the culture. “I loved spending time with my host family, not only because of how warm they were but because I found it interesting to talk to people my own age about the culture,” Hagy said. Both students agreed that after one month, they had just barely begun to understand the Ghanian ways. The different aspects of Pro Worlds the students participated in were teaching and playing with children. Hagy’s average day consisted of less teaching and more recreation with a variety of children. “I did more community engagement activities,” Hagy said. In the morning, Hagy worked in a preschool, which, according to her, was surprisingly primitive. “The preschool was essentially a hut; it had slats for walls, a tin roof and not nearly enough desks for all of the students,” Hagy said. She then went to another school called Aboom School, where she worked with children with special needs. Hagy took a taxi to her next job, working at basketball clinic run by Hoops Care International. Szymanik spent her time teaching in an English speaking school called Mary Queen of Peace Catholic School, which was a lot more developed than Hagy’s preschool. As one of the primary classroom teachers, Szymanik taught Math and English to 41 first grade students. Szymanik’s day lasted from 7:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Although they enjoyed their jobs, both students experienced their own sets of challenges.
“The biggest challenge for me was learning a different system of schooling,” Szymanik said. “I didn’t expect to see how limited the resources are. I basically had to teach how to tell time without a clock, and english without paper and pencils.” Szymanik also struggled with trying to make her education training useful and meaningful for the students in Africa. The challenges Hagy experienced were more physical. “My biggest setback was the fact that I got malaria, which feels like having mono and a cold at the same time,” Hagy said. “Because of this, I had to stop doing the basketball clinic, which made me sad.” Aside from their own challenges, both students agreed that their cultural identity greatly influenced what the Ghanians thought of them. “As Americans, people in Africa think we literally know everything and will toss all of their ways out the window to follow everything we say”. Szymanik and Hagy found this frustrating because they wanted more of a partnership with the Ghanians. Despite the challenges, both students wish to return to Ghana and the surrounding regions. “I am pretty sure that I’m going back this summer and want to stay with my host family again,” Hagy said. “In fact, my ultimate goal would be to go to Ghana for one month, and then go to Kenya for the cultural experience there.” Szymanik states that she would like to return to further develop her understanding of Africa. “I would love to go back,” Szymanik said. “I now have a taste of Africa and want to see more and experience the differences and similarities between countries.”