Loyal followers (all 4 of you, shout out to Katie’s mom),
Day Four of teaching has come with some definite highlights. Whether it’s the children grasping complicated concepts of human rights, or having an in-depth discussion of deforestation, today has left the Obruni crew feeling accomplished. In addition to teaching, we began one of our after school projects of measuring the height, weight, and shoe size (yes, getting a 12-year-old fresh out of class to stop and measure their feet was as difficult as one might imagine). Those who weren’t helping with the kids continued to organize the library. So all in all, a great day of teaching was had at Heritage Academy. We ended the day with a cozy (read: sticky and humid) movie night where all 11 of us packed around a single laptop to watch “Rise and Shine.” This Villanova-made documentary profiles a Heritage student (that we had the pleasure to meet) and a student in the Philadelphia school district, illustrating the struggles faced by each as they try to complete their education. The movie creates a powerful and complex interpretation of the effects of poverty and race in education systems all over the world, and how these two students should be inspirations to each other and to us all.
We also had the opportunity this afternoon to have a long discussion with the headmaster of Heritage, Mr. DeGraft. His commitment to the students is incredible, and his passion for every single child is immediately apparent in the way he speaks about his position. He took 45 minutes out of his day to explain his concern for each student’s personal education and success, rather than the overall school’s position in national rankings (a focus that often lets less fortunate students fall through the cracks). We were particularly impressed with Mr. DeGraft’s ability to maximize the resources that he has been presented with. Heritage has been able to create a community that both appreciates the culture of Ghana while incorporating more innovative teaching methods, setting it apart from government schools (who still use caning as a method of discipline and are primarily lecture and repetition based).
Listening to Mr. DeGraft talk about education here inevitably led us to think about the education we will be returning to in less than a week at F&M (and UPenn for one loser). Our experience at Heritage has forced us to confront issues that are a lot bigger than ourselves or our academic careers. However, we realize that our experience here does not change the responsibilities that we have made for ourselves at home, and returning to those brings a constant anxiety that could only be found in America. Our group has truly come to value the time we have taken to slow down and reflect each night. Whether the topic was trivial or profound, we felt that discussing these matters with each other offered opportunity for self-growth and added a certain amount of clarity and meaning to each day. As a group, we see the importance of maintaining this type of reflection and bringing the practice back with us to our respective schools and lives. So the next time we are stressed, instead of reaching for Netflix and the Nutella bottle we will choose to be mindful instead. Or at least eat Nutella while writing in a journal.
All our love,
Chloe, Erika and the Gang
P.S. Everyone check out Kyle’s LinkedIn cause he totally SUCKED UP ALL OUR INTERNET updating it.
P.P.S. MOLLY BUDDINE VOCINO GOT INTO UPENN SOCIAL WORK GRAD SCHOOL TODAY (…adding another loser to the UPenn crowd)