Comfort Acheampong was born and schooled in Ghana, in the Ashanti Region and trained as a teacher and also taught in Ghana for four years. At aged 32, Comfort moved to the UK and has been working as a Nursery Nurse/Early Years Educator in Camberwell Grove Early Years Nursery & Dog Kennel Hill Primary School for the past 23 years.
Comfort recently returned to Ghana to find out more about our work, with a view to supporting the delivery of our Transformational Teacher Training programme.
Here is Comfort’s account of her visit…
“I met Mrs Sonya Hinton, Sabre’s Education Advisor at Heathrow airport on Saturday morning. We were both excited and looking forward to our journey together. Once on the plane, I quickly realised that this was a working trip like no other!
To get me up to speed during the flight, Sonya produced two bundles of reading materials about Sabre’s Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training programme and we also chatted about the role of Sabre Trust in Ghana.
On arrival, we were met by a driver called Kweku and my brother and his children were also there to meet me. After some pleasantries, we left for Elmina.
I had been to Elmina a long time ago to visit Elmina castle, so had a vague idea of where we were going. After nearly three hours, we disembarked at the Sabre house about 1am.
The Sunday was spent preparing an itinerary for the week which comprised various school visits, a Best Practice Forum, a visit to the Western Region, meetings and discussions.
We were off by 8am Monday morning to make sure we arrived at our first school in time for the children arriving. We drove through the canopies of lush flamboyant trees full of bright orange and leafy green hues; a mesmerising picturesque scene that simply took my breath away. This beautiful road led us to our first school Amisano and I was delightfully surprised! Most of the children were in class and circle time was about to ensue.
The classrooms were very stimulating with bright displays all over the walls. Mobiles of phonics, shapes and streamers suspended in mid-air, visually stimulating and at a height that the children could access. A neatly presented classroom rules sheet pasted on the wall, a well-stocked reading centre of books featuring stories of the rainforest and its inhabitants with titles like ‘Handa’s Surprise’ and ‘We’re Going on a Lion Hunt’. The home centre was furnished with cooking utensils including pots, mortar and pestles, as well as plastic bottles and tins for pretend and role play. There was a chief’s palace as the main role play area consisting of a throne, golden slippers, crown and wax prints, all hand made by the classroom teachers, student teachers and assistants to enable the children to play imaginatively.
In front of the blackboard stood a student trainee teacher facilitating a circle time. All the children looked engaged, listening and showing interest. The speaker was sharing his news for the weekend in the local dialect and was confidently narrating his personal experiences and even managing to get his peers to giggle. Questions were welcomed and the children took on the challenge and were able to ask questions relevant to the news shared. They went on to sing some rhymes about numbers and letters. I left the school with a feeling of change in the kindergarten education in Ghana as the methods were similar to that of the UK.
In all we visited four schools; Amisano, Jacob Wilson Sey, Aburansa and the Sabre built OLA Kindergarten Centre of Excellence. I can say everywhere we visited, the children were fully engaged in their learning and they were exploring and playing imaginatively. Some were role playing as doctor and patients, others were playing shops and markets. The classroom management was very effective as all children were busy and focused on their learning. The teachers used rhymes and songs during transition from one activity to the next.
Tuesday and Thursday found me in Sekondi in the Western region. There was a big event (the Best Practice Forum, the first for the Western Region Teacher Training programme participants) and all trainee classroom teachers attended to share and showcase their best practises. The day was very exciting and all the teachers were proud of their work and presentation and that of their colleagues. They showed enthusiasm and ingenuity in some of their creativity and ideas, from cardboard book shelves to a hand-made addition machine. We also visited some schools in the area and there was consistency in the implementation of teaching and learning through play.
All teachers showed professionalism and confidence and there was an atmosphere of positivity and a sense of achievement. The trainers were also in full attendance to support their students and encouraged them to continue their good work. The forum came to a close with a resounding success and I was given the opportunity to say a word. I applauded their effort and encouraged them to stick with the program as through it, they would make such a difference and inspire a real change in the education of children in Ghana. I was proud to be part of Sabre’s mantra “we are all learners” – I certainly learnt a lot at the Best Practice Forum and admired the teachers’ determination to make the programme sustainable.
Friday was for meetings and I realised my time in Elmina was coming to an end. A visit to OLA College of Education and an open forum with trainers of the program was insightful and issues affecting the smooth running of the programs were discussed as well as good practices and progress made.
In a nutshell, my visit was such an eye opener and I was relieved to see that in the programme schools, there was no caning of children due to the ethos of change in how to use a variety of behaviour management techniques and not physical or corporal punishment.
Meeting the team at Elmina and Sekondi was an awesome experience. It is my desire to continue to support and volunteer with Sabre and I look forward to seeing the team members again to collaborate with them and learn from them. I also would like to say thank you to Spencer and Manda for their warm hospitality.
Thank you Sabre”