|Ejura Namaskar School|
The International Neo-Humanist School in Ejura (affectionately called "Namaskar School" by the locals - the Indian greeting for "Hello" is "Namaskar") is a rural private school in the heart of the Ashanti Region.
Currently there are 450+ kids from kindergarten to Junior High School level and the children range from about 3 to 19 years old (some start school at an older age so it is common to have children of various ages in the same class). Since construction has been completed at the school, we now have 13 classrooms, toilets for boys and for girls, clean water and a kitchen for cooking lunch.
This project also includes a Children’s boarding home called Namaskar House. It is home to about 13 boys, ages 6 to 23 years old, Dada Shivesh and the volunteers. A cook/caretaker is also part of the Namaskar team that also helps with the cleaning at home.
The house is also under construction, and includes now a computer lab mostly for Namaskar School students to use and an additional room for the home boys.
Who can volunteer
People of 20 years and above who have completed high school and have some experience working with children.
•Enthusiastic, self-motivated, and patient people who love kids.
• Anyone who is broadminded and ready to live a simple lifestyle in simple surroundings.
• People that have a good sense of initiative.
• Qualified teachers are especially encouraged!!
• Individuals having computer science/Information and Communication Technology (ICT) qualifications would be more than welcome since we have a computer lab!
• People that have qualifications in administration and management could contribute in their own way in the well-being of the project.
• Both males and females are welcome, as well as couples.
We would like to have volunteers come for at least one semester, from start to finish, allowing the best quality of learning. If volunteers want to travel, they should plan time to do so either before the semester starts or after the semester finishes.
The academic year starts in September and semesters are as follows:
Term 1: Mid September to mid December
Term 2: Early January to early April
Term 3: Mid May to early August
Volunteers are encouraged to start their own initiatives and be involved in sustaining the project once they have finished volunteering. We welcome your participation and ideas!
At Namaskar School
Your role is mainly to provide support to local teachers where needed and give remedial classes at Namaskar School. Teachers of the lower primary level (such as Kindergarten to Primary 3) usually have the least teaching experience and would benefit the most from your assistance. Your role would be to help with the planning of classes, teaching techniques and evaluations in coord-ination with the local teacher. The objective is sharing ideas to improve the teacher’s skills in managing their own class.
Staff and volunteers at Namaskar School Jan 2009
Memorizing, chanting and copying are the main teaching methods. Not all students learn well this way, and therefore fall behind. As a result, the abilities of children within each class vary considerably; for example, in a grade 6 class, there may be students who still don`t know their alphabet. Remedial classes are important to ensure that these students achieve the same level as other pupils in the class.
In addition, each volunteer will have to lead one of the three following initiatives:
1) The library: 3 times a week students come by after school to exchange books.
2) The computer lab: since April 2009 there is a computer lab in Namaskar for the use of Namaksar students. Teachers have recently recieved extensive ICT training to aquire the capacity of teaching computer skills to their students by themselves. Still, volunteers' help is greatly needed to help with lessons planning and with assisting the teachers by going from computer to computer to help the pupils during classes.
3) Creative classes/sports activites: the children are taught English, Math, Science, Environmental Studies, and Religious & Moral Education.
Volunteers are expected to give creative classes such as arts and crafts, and to organize sports activites, such as football or volleyball competitions, in coordination with the local teachers if needed. It can be anything that you are good at!
The volunteers are more than welcome to help each other, but only one volunteer will be in charge of each activity.
Volunteers are also expected to meet briefly as a group once a week to discuss issues and ideas with Dada Shivesh. In addition, you will attend weekly staff meetings after school with the local teachers and principal.
A Heads-Up: the school system is absolutely nothing like education in most of Western Europe or North America. Organization is low, local teachers can be unaccountable, and assessment does not happen often. Whether you have just completed high school or are midway through a university degree, your education will have been much more rigorous than that of the local teachers. Most have not gone to teachers’ training college. This is a reality in rural West Africa. Moreover, class sizes vary incredibly. The number of kids in each class decreases as the level increases. Kindergarten can have up to 40 children while JHS class sometimes has only 7 students.
At Namaskar House
The house is a boys’ home: so far there are 13 boys, although two are grown-ups. They love to play football and table tennis. They work hard and will appreciate any extra help you can give them with keeping the house clean and writing letters with them for example. You can help the Namaskar boys with their homework and you can take out some books from the library for them to read. You can also teach them games, organize table tennis matches, dance or do some arts and crafts – whatever you want!
On Your Own Time
In the evening, many children visit the house to play. If volunteers are interested in sports (especially football or table tennis) they can start games at/near the house.
On weekends and holidays, it is great to travel outside of Ejura. You can plan day trips around the Ashanti Region as well as longer trips around Ghana and beyond!
What to expect
Educational Realities in the Village
Your first day at the school will open your eyes to the shortfalls of education in rural Ghana. There is little equipment besides desks and chairs. From an early age children are taught to be obedient and never to question people older than them. Teachers tend to use beating as a common method of punishment (despite requests not to) because it was the way they were taught – a sad consequence of colonialism.
Memorizing and chanting by rote are the main teaching methods. Not taught to think for themselves, most students are shy in school because they don’t want to give the wrong answer. Learning is hard work, especially here. Everyone can learn from examples of great classroom management, discipline, and teaching methods.
The project is currently under the supervision of Dada Shiveshvarananda, an Indian monk and trainer for African yoga teachers. Dada has years of experience opening and running schools in his own country as well as abroad. He is respected in the community for his wisdom and perseverance.
Caroline MontpetitCaroline Montpetit is the volunteer coordinator for the project. She’ll communicate with you as you book and plan your journey. She lives in Canada but has been to Ejura three times since 2007.
Volunteers stay at Namaskar House, which is just a short walk from the school. Dada lives there as well as the thirteen boys. There are cats too! Namaskar Home also benefits from the support of a cook/caretaker.
Rooms are clean and simple. You will probably share your room with another volunteer. The house has running water as well as electricity, but it goes out sometimes. Life by the sun, and sometimes the lantern, is the norm in Ejura.
Accommodation & Food cost
Under 1 month: US $300
1 month: US $400
2 months: US $500
3 months: US $600
4 months: US $650
5 months: US $700
6 months: US $750
Subsequent months - FREE
Ejura is located about 2 hours north of Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region, and has a population of around 40,000. It is a rural farming town known for its Monday market days and as Ghana’s mango capital!
There are no proper roads in the town, except for the main road that passes from Kumasi and up further north. Dirt tracks link houses splotched randomly about the landscape. Goats and guinea fowl roam freely.
Being in the highlands, Ejura gets much cooler during the nights and is not as humid as many other areas in Ghana. You may even need a blanket or long-sleeved shirt from time to time!
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