Free SHS : Can we sit and talk?

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Free SHS. Sigh!

It’s important I start this post with a critical point. I am not against free SHS in any way. I mean how? The love I have for education cannot allow me to. So free SHS, why not?

So what is my problem and why do I keep talking about free SHS on social media? My problem is, with my four eyes, I cannot see the policy as well thought-out. A well thought-out policy should have some structure and plans. So the response of most people is why should we sit down and be thinking? Let the program start, we will solve the problems. Okay. Year 1, program has started. It’s year 2, can we start asking our questions now? Or must we wait till year 5? Year 10? Year 15 when my son is ready to go to SHS?

All of us make plans for our future. Yes, they may not go as planned, but as least we have a structure. The structure guides us.

So Year 1. The students all went to school. Great.
Challenges? Infrastructure.

Year 2. Solution to Infrastructure challenges : Double track-system.

Year 3. Solution to Double track-system challenges : We all don’t know.
And this, dear friends is what I want to know.

So can I please ask my questions?

1. The Minister mentioned earlier in the year that there will be a voluntary fund for those who wanted to contribute to the program. I haven’t heard any news/announcement about this fund. What happened to it?

2. Prior to Free SHS, several NGOs existed that sponsored SHS students based on their own set of criteria. Has government been engaging them this time around to possibly get a contribution from them?

And then specifically about the Double Track System :

3. Education is holistic. Sports in a component of our SHS education that unearths the talents of those who are better on the field than in the classroom (and relaxes the mind of everyone as well). With the Double Track System, what is going to happen to interhouses, interco and superzo?

4. From the calendar I have seen for this year, at a point, the form 2s will be on vacation while the two form 1 batches will be in school with the form 3s. While in SHS, form 2s were the ones mostly involved in the informal training given (scrubbing, table manners etc) since the form 3s will be busy preparing for WASSCE. How will this be restructured?

5. What will be the criteria used to allocate students to Track A or Track B? Alphabetical order? Odd numbered vs even numbered index numbers? I can already hear a mother asking why Panyin is in Track A while Kakra is in Track B. Or why all the friends of her child is in Track A and her child in Track B. Can the details of this be spelt out as soon as possible so people can start getting used to the idea before it does happen?ย Next year, can people ask to be in the same track as their older sibling?

6. Given the fact that people are usually apprehensive about teenagers being idle, what is the a structured program for their longer vacation? Eg. A continuation of club activities or various forms of project work?

7. In 2021, WASSCE will be written by the two tracks. What is the plan?

8. The Double Track System would not go on forever. Some posts say 3 years, others say 5 years. Infrastructure will be built during this period. What is the plan? Can we see it so we can track it?

9. In my school at least, teachers lived permanently on campus. Now that other teachers will come in to teach the other track, will teachers’ accommodation on campus become temporal?

10. Last one, seemingly unimportant, but can actually be. In most schools, mattresses, trunks, chopboxes are left in dormitories, pantries etc during the vacation. Since these rooms will be in use during the vacation, what is the plan for keeping these? Or will students bring them home? Or perhaps, schools will purchase these items going forward so whoever is in school will use them?

If you have answers to any of my questions, I am ready to listen.

If you know anyone sitting in on-going meetings for stakeholders in secondary school education, can you forward my questions? Are these meetings happening? I expect they should! And oh, if interested persons like me are invited to such meetings, can I have the details?

As a citizen and not a spectator, my humble appeal is let’s suggest. Let’s ask questions. Saying free SHS is good is not enough. Let’s forget those talking for or against free SHS for political gains. Let’s agree that you and I are talking about it as citizens who know that one day, it may be our children sitting on stones under trees. Keep that picture in mind and let’s start a dialogue. Those who can make changes to this policy are on these streets silently reading. If they realise we are talking about the deep issues enough, they will listen.

The next time you are tempted to put out post that is saying anything along the lines of “Free SHS is good for everyone”, don’t just stop there. Add a line or two that suggests a way in which the policy can be improved. Let’s talk more so that we will be heard.

Too long, didn’t read? (Sorry, sorry, the passion makes me talk too much) In summary, you are the CEO of a company in charge of implementing free SHS. What are your suggestions to implement a sustainable policy?

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Happy Birthday, Paschal

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My dear boy,

I can’t believe it’s a year already. Wow! Time flies.

I remember so vividly when labour started at dawn. I remember getting into the car to go to the hospital in those few minutes between one pain and the next. Although I don’t remember the trip to the hospital so well, I do remember getting there and then talking to nurse who examined me and confirmed you were coming. I had been so eager to welcome you into this world just the previous day because frankly, dear, you had become far too heavy for my legs to carry. Suddenly though, it felt all those emotions were gone. The pain took it all away.

A few minutes later, I was on the delivery table and told to push. I was told after my first few pushes that they were powerless so I needed to do a better job. I could have given up then ; I was so tired. But I thought about you and all we had gone through together in the 9 months and gave it my all. Daddy prayed close by and held my hand. That gave me all the encouragement I needed.

At 7:45am, you finally arrived. I can’t even remember the first thought I had when you landed. I think all I thought about what the fact that I was so many kilograms lighter again. Ha!

Fast forward to the ward, we both slept like we were babies. Weren’t we? Daddy stayed close by watching us. We were indeed tired after our long journey. I finally held you as a mum in the afternoon. Sweetheart, you were so tiny! It’s amazing.

We went home the following day and my first challenge as a mum was worrying when the breast milk will come in so I could start to feed you. Thankfully, it came in that evening. Then came the sleepless nights. Sweetheart, I know you were hungry and couldn’t eat too much at a go, but frankly, those first few nights were stressful! I could barely sleep. There were days when I would even dream about you crying while I am sleeping and will quickly wake up to check on you. Sure enough, you will be stirring and I will pick you up and feed you even before you start crying.

The next painful day was the day of circumcision. I felt your pain, dear! But great God, we went through it. Like a friend had told me a few days before, “This too shall pass” and so indeed, it did.

By the time we had spent two weeks together, I was tired of being indoors. No, it had nothing to do with you. I had just missed “life”. Can you believe I hadn’t seen outside of the gate in those two weeks? Although it was simply a trip to the hospital for a postnatal checkup, it felt more like I was going to a party. I was just so elated!

Finally, after 4 weeks of being indoors and missing church, we had your Baptism. I remember telling you not to cry that day and you were so obedient. You slept throughout the ceremony and even the time we were taking pictures. Wow! Boy, was I grateful to God! I guess you are wondering why mummy wanted you to miss your big day? Well…let’s just say you go grow meet am!

Once you had been outdoored, we could officially spend more times outdoors and that was healthy for both of us. Time flew by so fast! You grew so fast!

We start counting your firsts…your first smile…your first coo…your first laughter (and how we will do all we can to get you to laugh again)….the first time you sat unsupported…the first time you had something other than breaskmilk (the story of exclusive breastfeeding is one for another day)….the first time you attempted to crawl (backward crawling)….the first time you actually crawled….the first time you stood on your own (I can hear daddy’s voice screaming to me in the kitchen to come take a look)…your first step….your first tantrum….your first hospital scare…while you are a baby we count everything, you know.

Now that we have hit your first birthday, our first announcement to the kids in the hood : you are no more a baby! If you hear anyone call you “Baaabie!”, come and report.

That aside, it is beautiful to look back at the journey so far, thank God and be full of so much hope for what the years ahead hold for us all. One of the strongest traits we have seen so far is that you are strong-willed and wouldn’t give up so easily. Not so much like Dad or I so we find this most interesting and look forward to shaping this will so you do great things with it as you give glory to God.

You are already attempting to repeat words with us, so we have officially entered the year where we build our language skills after spending the first year building our physical skills. We should continue to have a lot of fun. We are in for it!

Sweetheart, I love the guy I see already. I love your smile. I love your infectious laughter. I love your determination. I love how you eat virtually everything without giving me cause to complain. Should I say I love how you mess up every corner of the house? It’s more like if there’s anything well arranged, you feel unhappy. But well…maybe, I will just say I love the way you are committed to the work you can do now. I pray through it all, you learn traits that you will keep when you do need them in school and eventually in your work life.

Daddy and I love you!

 

Chronicles of a Ghanaian Working Mother – Newborn Baby Shopping

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I think this was perhaps the most exciting part of the entire journey. So, another interesting thing about me. Prior to having my own baby, I have never seen or should I say, noticed how small newborns are. I’ve never been around anyone, family or friends who’s a fresh mama. So I found baby clothes soooooooo cuuuuuuute. Hehehe.

First off, we had a list from the hospital. We were to bring these along on delivery day. This made getting everything on the list high priority.

Guess what, just around my 4th or 5th month, a mothercare, Babies and Beyond opened right next door to my office so that was my first stop. And it ended up being my almost only stop. Why? The owner! Wow! She’s probably the best shop owner I have meant in a country where customer service isย ๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿ˜’

The first day I walked in there, I simply told her I work next door so I just thought I should take a look at what she has in her shop. I mean, I had made it obvious I was window shopping. You know what she did? She stopped what she was doing and walked through the store with me. It wasn’t the uncomfortable one where they are following you quietly and watching you when you are confused. This was assisted window shopping. She talked with me, told me what I should get, even recommended a cheaper brand of some stuff because she believed this worked better with newborns. This is even despite the fact that she had the more expensive brand as well. I told hubby about her.

After hubby met her, I asked him a question like so we’ll check out some other shops and come back later for a few things from her based on comparisons we make? Ha! So not his plans. And that is how we ended up buying almost every item on our list as well as our baby cot and a few others from this tiny shop in the remote community of Nanakrom.

Jet (been to both the Accra Mall and Junction Mall) branches has really cute and affordable clothes for babies and toddlers as well.

We did some more shopping from another Mothercare close to home for proximity reasons.

And finally, more recently, like way way after Baby had arrived, we shopped with Kyemen Online. They have a Facebook page which showcases the stuff they have available. You then contact them via WhatsApp to make your order. One thing I give them thumbs up for is their responsiveness on WhatsApp. When I am about to buy something, trust me, I can be very annoying. I have like a million questions. But they answered every question I had and did their best to meet my specifications. They also sent a setup video for the item I purchased. Once again, in a country where customer service has a bad definition, these little things are so worth it.

So tell us, how do you find shopping for your baby or your toddler in Ghana? It can be your baby or a friend’s or family member’s. If you have ever walked into a shop to shop for a baby in Ghana, tell us about the experience in the comments below. ๐Ÿ™‚

Chronicles of a Ghanaian Working Mother – Baby Shower!!!

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This is a part of a series of blog posts sharing my experiences as a young Ghanaian working mother. I looked for a Ghanaian voice as I walked this journey but barely found any so I have decided to share to begin a conversation among others in this beautiful journey.

This is the sixth in the series.

I remember it as a quiet Saturday morning in March. Hubby and I began the day by attending the Baptism of the son of a friend who had given birth in January. It was nice to see my “future”. Lol.

When we got home, I quickly sacked hubby. No boys (men allowed!) Hehe.

Shortly after, my sister who was the chief organiser of the event arrived with 2 other friends. They worked on decorations as I ranted about what to wear.

Finally guests started arriving! And more guests! And more guests!!!

Now for someone who’s never attended a bridal shower nor a baby shower, this was super new to me and so it was extra cool. Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. I’m strange. That’s common knowledge. Lol.

We were about 10 ladies in all at the event.

We began the event with a prayer session (Christian friends are the best) and then talk!!! You know, we had planned to play some indoor games but the talking took all the time. It was fun catching up on one another’s lives and for those who didn’t know each other yet, getting to know each other. And then, there was food! Food! Food!

And then, gifts! I totally didn’t expect gifts this huge or this many, lol. Come to think of it, was I expecting each person to bring a pair of baby socks? I wonder mpo. But the gifts were really absolutely so cool and soooooo cuuuuuute! Ladies, thank you!

Around that time, hubby came home (can he stay away from me for so long? Lol) He joined in the chitchat and perched on our food.

And finally, we crowned the day with a photoshoot!

 

Thinking of a baby shower? Just do it! It was a fun distraction to the new routine of carrying a heavy bag on my belly every second of the day.

Did you have a baby shower? Have you attended one? Tell us more about baby showers in Ghana in the comments below.

Mum, I didn’t touch the flour

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When I saw the image above, it brought back memories of the crazy things we did as kids that we either successfully or unsuccessfully got away with. Kids will always be kids and it was always a pleasure to think we had outsmarted our parents.

Here is my story. Decide for yourself whether we really did outsmart my parents or they caught us but chose to ignore us.

When I was in class 4, we made caramel in school using milk and sugar. It was very exciting so after telling my sister, we decided to try our hands on it as well when we got home.
Dad picked us up and dropped us at home but unfortunately, the gas was finished. He took the cylinder to go and refill it. We were so eager to try out our caramel that we couldn’t wait. We had been warned not to put on the coal pot on our own but we did just that. We used kerosene so we would have the fire set as quickly as possible.

Just when the fire was almost set, Dad returned. Ei bei! Were we hot! What were we to do? At that time, we lived in a two-storey building with two families – we were at the top. We carried the coal pot to a corner downstairs and put paper on it to hide the fire. How smart!

Daddy came up to drop the gas cylinder and smelt the kerosene. He asked us what happened and we said we couldn’t even smell it ourselves. Hehe. Well…after doing checks up and down, I guess he decided it was probably nothing and left. We stayed upstairs without following him with the intention to pick the coal pot up once he left. We waited and waited but we didn’t hear his car start. Several minutes later, he came and told us of how someone may have wanted to cause a fire because he had seen fire in the coalpot. We acted so surprised. He was so worried and even asked another woman we shared a compound with if she had seen any one. It was so mysterious to the adults but no one suspected us because we were such good children.

Later, as dad reported the incident to Mum, we had to keep a straight face eh! Today, when I reflect on the incident, I realise how much danger we put ourselves in all for the love of homemade caramel. We thank God for keeping us safe. Considering how much risk we take as kids without knowing we have gone overboard with being adventurous, I can just conclude that grace really does keep us.

So what do you think? Our parents knew, but kept quiet? Or they did not suspect us in the least?

How about you? Did something crazy in your childhood? Share with us in the comments below.

Chronicles of a Ghanaian Working Mother – Yikes, My Pregnancy is Showing!

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This is a part of a series of blog posts sharing my experiences as a young Ghanaian working mother. I looked for a Ghanaian voice as I walked this journey but barely found any so I have decided to share to begin a conversation among others in this beautiful journey.

This is the fifth in the series.

So if you have been enjoying the joyful secret that is only between you, your husband, family and a few friends, there shall surely come that time when the secret shall be no more. Like the Bible says, everything that is hidden shall be revealed. [refer to Luke 8:17]

Once the first trimester is over, you should know that your little secret will begin to be noticed any time soon. Usually, the first to notice will be the nosy old women around you who have superhero eyes that can see your bump even before you see it yourself. Ha! Luckily, I had none of those around me at work or church. Well…maybe there could have been one or two at church but definitely not women who could approach me to make a comment so I can safely pretend there was none of those.

So at work, I can say my boss was probably the first to notice. I think he only did because he had been away for a while (I think the entire first trimester) so it was easy for him to compare the Cheryl he saw before he left with the Cheryl he saw when he returned. Lol. I dress casually to work (thank God for working in a small tech company :)), usually wearing a pair of trousers and a T-shirt. Around the 18th week, I had had enough with using a rubber band to fasten my trousers (since the buttons couldn’t do the trick anymore). I had my seamstress make me some maternity clothes and thus, the secret was officially revealed to the work gang. One colleague asked how come I was wearing a maternity dress…or wait, are you expecting? Hehe. That was funny. Another asked if he could start congratulating me. So that was how it came to be at work. Generally, afterwards, my colleagues were generally very nice…perhaps overly nice.

Church folks…well, they surprised me a bit. Unless, like I mentioned earlier, they did notice but said nothing. I adjusted my church clothes well in advance since I had more fitting clothes for church. But no, didn’t get any comments that early. Ah well. Around the same time my work folks noticed, I started getting comments every Sunday, starting with a few and then many more until it was almost normal.

So! What generally happens in Ghana when your bump starts showing?

Name Calling

Oh. I hated this one! “Abrewa”, “Old Lady”, “Ataa Maame”, “Openfo”

Hello? I have a name and you know my name. Why don’t you use it? Sigh! And for those who didn’t know my name, couldn’t we try a nicer name? I mean “Abrewa”? Seriously? Even for someone who was not feeling very conscious of my ever changing body, I did not like it so you can imagine how someone who did feel conscious would have felt. “Ataa Maame”? I’ve told you I’m expecting twins eh? Ah well. In the end, I felt it was just something I had to deal with and couldn’t do much about. Ghanaians are…just Ghanaians.

Kindness

Now this was fun. People offered me their seats at public places. A bank teller told me not to join the queue the next time I came in. On Good Friday, I skipped the long queue to venerate the cross. There was even an occasion where a police man stopped me when I was driving to do his usual “checks” but upon seeing my bump, he just asked me where I was headed and then wished me well. Hehe.

Limited Activities

It’s amazing how much we can do that we take for granted. As your bump grows, there is a limit to the kind of activities you can undertake. One in particular is bending. Dropped your key or any other item? Be ready to squat gently. Want to get you clothes washed? You may have to set up a stand to place your laundry bowl on so you stand to wash like I did. Even sleeping! Back sleeping is a no no. Sleeping on your right is okay occasionally. The most recommended is sleeping on your left. Your limitations should however not make you lazy as exercise is highly recommended for a healthy pregnancy.

Maternity Clothes

Contrary to my perception that there will be entire sections of shops with just maternity clothes, maternity clothes are actually very difficult to find in Ghana. Well at least, I found it difficult. Let me know in the comments below if you didn’t. I resorted to sewing the majority of my maternity clothes and boy! Was it annoying! Due to the fact that I didn’t have a very good idea of how big I was going to get, I had to alter some clothes about 1000 times. In fact, there were a few I was not ready to alter so I ended up wearing just a few times. One of the very few clothes which I actually bought which was really beautiful, I could never even wear. It fit when I tried it on at the shop. In two weeks, when I was ready to wear it, I couldn’t! Hey. Was this just me or every mama-to-be goes through this?

Like the saying goes, enjoy everything while it lasts. Now that I am reflecting on this time, it was actually an interesting phase. Perhaps, next time around, I will be more prepared for all the changes that come my way.

So, tell us. How did you handle the time when your pregnancy started showing? What was exciting and what was not? Tell us more, Ghanaian mamas! Share in the comments below. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Chronicles of a Ghanaian Working Mother – Resources I Used During Pregnancy

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This is a part of a series of blog posts sharing my experiences as a young Ghanaian working mother. I looked for a Ghanaian voice as I walked this journey but barely found any so I have decided to share to begin a conversation among others in this beautiful journey.ย 

This is the fourth in the series.

Google my beloved friend! You know, all through out my pregnancy, I always wondered how our mothers and grandmothers survived being pregnant without Google. I googled everything!

“Pawpaw in pregnancy”

“Sobolo in pregnancy”

“KFC in pregnancy”

“Do it yourself maternity jeans”

“How to wear your seat belt with baby bump”

Yes, everything! One thing this experience taught me was that there is no question under the sun that someone else has not asked before. It’s amazing!

So for adhoc advice, I always googled and picked the most interesting result. However, on a weekly basis, there were some resources I used to keep me informed about the little angel growing in me and what to expect or do during that week.

YourDueDate.com (http://www.yourduedate.com/)

I think this was the first resource I used. It gave a clear picture of where we were each week. This included the estimated weight of the baby, estimated length, how many weeks we had left, what was happening with baby, what was happening with me, etc. I liked it for the way it presented its information clearly although it is a pretty basic website.

FitPregnancy (https://www.fitpregnancy.com/)

I liked this because it gave a bit more information and it also had more pictures and other resources you could check out that were related to the week you were in. One particular resource I found here that I really liked was the pregnancy confidential podcasts which I will talk about next.

Pregnancy Confidential: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Podcast (http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/pregnancy-confidential-a-week-by-week-pregnancy-podcast/)

Okay, this was really fun. Pregnancy Confidential is a less than 30 minute podcast that carries a conversation about what goes on around you during the pregnancy rather than in you. From topics such as “Hi, Boss. I am pregnant” to “Due Dates are Dumb”, I found each podcast did a good job of anticipating the kind of stuff on your mind as the pregnancy progressed. It is hosted by ladies who either already have kids or are pregnant so there is a lot of practical advice there.

Mama Natural – Natural Pregnancy Week by Week (https://www.mamanatural.com/pregnancy-week-by-week/)

This I found very interesting as well. I think first of all because what is known as “natural” pregnancy abroad is pretty much what happens here in Ghana. Most people, as far as I know go into labour naturally and give birth without pain medication. C-sections are still considered as “taboos” and so you find very few people even going as far as having an elective C-section. But well, that is as far as I know, correct me in the comments below if I am wrong.

Yeah, so as the name suggests, these are videos (max 8 mins) where Genevieve who is all about using natural stuff and going through a natural pregnancy gives updates about how her pregnancy was going and how you can keep things very natural without medical interventions. I learnt a lot from these videos and her site in general. There are things I definitely wouldn’t do (eating placentaย ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ณ) and there are things that I want to learn how to do in a country where being “too known” can make you an enemy (telling a doctor you think an ultrasound is not important at a particular week)

BabyCentre (https://www.babycentre.co.uk)

Considering how much I use BabyCentre now, I can’t believe I didn’t notice it early on in my pregnancy. I mean, I am sure it came up in Google search results but I happen never to click on it for some strange reason. Someone mentioned it on a WhatsApp group I’m on somewhere in my later weeks and I found it very resourceful. I must say I have used it more postpartum and found it very useful in the entire new mama phase of my life.

So there you have it. The five resources I found most useful during my pregnancy and postpartum. Someday, I will like to see something Ghanaian in a list of this nature. And that is why I started this series. To begin the conversation online among young Ghanaian mothers. So don’t leave without saying something. Drop some words in the comments below. Together let’s get more info our there that other Ghanaian preggers can find useful.

Maybe one day, we will birth http://www.babycentre.co.gh. Who knows? ๐Ÿ˜Š