A day in the life of ... Dave Banks

19th July 2013 at 01:00
Life for the 'obruni' teacher trainer in the Ashanti region of Ghana is varied and richly rewarding - and that's without the marriage proposals he receives regularly on the way to work

The cockerels in the village of Gyetiase have irregular crowing times. Today they start at 2.30am. The church bells get a hammering at 4.30am. A radio comes on at 6am sharp. After six months in the Ashanti village these sounds blend into my dreams. Porridge is served at 6.30am by wonder cook Elizabeth. By 7am I'm walking through the village for my 30-minute ramble across the fields - palms, plantains, cassava, cocoa yams, cashew nuts, oranges - to Bonkrong.

The sky is blue and the morning is a "cool" 20 degsC. The children, even those being soaped down outside village houses, shout "obruni, obruni" (white man, white man), smiling and waving sheepishly. Older people without exception shout "akwaaba" (welcome) and stop their work to smile and wave. The village market women complete the greeting trilogy, shouting, "Hey, obruni, marry me!" accompanied by roars of laughter. My turn to wave sheepishly.

Arriving at the Junior High School - eight staff and 60 children between the ages of 11 and 18 - I'm greeted by the staff with handshakes and smiles. I go through the morning's schedule with Atta, the young head of the school. I'm starting a three-week training programme with observations of four teachers. This morning I'm also working with two of the district supervisors. The aim is to identify and build on good teaching and learning practice. We have agreed to focus particularly on improving pace and engagement, including questioning. The staff are hardworking and receptive. It is a pleasure to work with them. Tomorrow they will come to the Gyetiase centre for a three-hour training and planning session.

As I move between lessons, two children - the children are also lovely without exception - follow me, one carrying a chair and the other my bag. That's the way things work in Ghana.

Today is market day in nearby Mampong. I need to buy some material for a couple of shirts that Kofi, the village tailor, will make. So after lunch it's a shared taxi into town and back for some good-humoured haggling. The market is big, busy and buzzing. While in Mampong I top up on phone credit and pineapples. I'm usually the only obruni in town, which is still slightly strange and wonderful.

Later, I write up the day's work and prepare materials. I can do this while the electricity is on - it may not be later. I relax on the balcony and watch the sun set and listen to the sounds of the village - mostly people talking and children playing, accompanied by the pounding of cassava being prepared for the evening meal and the bleating of goats. Dinner is groundnut soup with tilapia (a freshwater fish) accompanied by rice balls. Delicious.

The lights do go out and the lanterns come on. I read, practise twi (the local language) and then it's time for bed. In the distance, a roll of thunder heralds the onset of the evening storm and the end of another beautiful day in Gyetiase.

Dave Banks retired from Sedgehill School in Lewisham, London, in July 2012 and has spent the past year working to set up a teacher training (and trainer training) programme in the Ashanti region of Ghana. He works for Ashanti Development, a non-government organisation

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