Man with the wooden phallus

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
PSHE teacher Will Gratton tells Adi Bloom why he carried a case full of condoms to a village in Ghana

To the villagers of Pampawae, in Ghana, Will Gratton will always be the man with the wooden phallus. Mr Gratton, PSHE co-ordinator at Polesworth high in Tamworth, arrived in the African village with 300 condoms and a suitcase full of wooden penises.

"I was a bit worried going through customs," he said. "It could have been embarrassing if officials had opened the case, especially if they didn't speak English."

Mr Gratton's cargo was intended for the secondary school in Pampawae, a village eight hours' drive from the capital, Accra.

He travelled to Ghana to provide a British-style sex-education lesson for pupils and teachers as part of a link between his Warwickshire comprehensive and the village secondary.

More than 3 per cent of the population in Ghana is infected with HIV-Aids, including 24,000 children, and Aids awareness and prevention is high among teaching priorities in the country's schools.

Sex education lessons in Ghana vary from school to school, and many teachers do not have the training, equipment and textbooks they need. A spokeswoman for the charity Link Community Development said: "Because of the Aids epidemic, there is a shortage of teachers in Ghana. Often even basic numeracy and literacy suffers, so there are rarely resources available for sex education."

The aim of Mr Gratton's visit was for local teachers to learn from his lesson plan, making use of the condoms and phalluses with future classes.

So, before rows of earnest 14-year-olds and wide-eyed teachers, he began by explaining his ground rules: no personal questions, and no shouting or giggling.

He need not have worried: "At home, as soon as you say 'penis', some pupils will be giggling in the corner," he said. "But in Ghana they are all well-mannered and disciplined. They don't breathe without permission. They do not have any resources, so they are used to diagrams, books and teachers talking at them. I had to get them all to shout out 'penis', so they would relax."

Later, pupils were given their own wooden penises and told to practise putting on a condom.

"HIV is such a serious issue over there," said Mr Gratton.

"Millions of people are dying across Africa. But children do not take information in unless they can see things and touch them and try them out.

"They need teachers to explain how to use contraception, how to look at the kite mark and date. So I felt a real sense of responsibility. The safe-sex message has to be brought across effectively.

"I like to think I have a place in village history," he said. "And it has given me new status at home as well. Now my pupils all want to hear about the time I smuggled penises into the country."

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

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