Tim in Tumu

9 05 2008

Sorry I haven’t blogged much recently, but I’ve actually been fairly busy. I spent last week in working in ISODEC’s office in Bolgatanga (usually referred to as Bolga) and at the weekend I finally got around to visiting my friends Sally and Demetrio in Tumu, near the Burkina Faso Border in the Upper West Region (confusingly the Northern Region, where I live, isn’t the most northerly region in Ghana, Bolga is also north of Tamale and is in the Upper East Region).

Firstly work, I’ve been trying to finish the database for the “Ambassador’s Girl’s Scholarship Program” (AGSP), which is a USAID program that gives grants to needy girls in the poorest districts so that they can attend primary and junior school. ISODEC runs the program in northern Ghana and have asked me to create a database so that they can manage and report on the project more effectively. I enjoy working in Bolga, partly because databases and programming is what I enjoy doing and partly because they seem fairly excited by what I’m doing and are also eager to learn. Hopefully I’ll give some training up there too and maybe a bit of system admin type stuff. I seem to spend most of my time in Tamale writing stuff that I suspect no-one will read and battling viruses.

The other good thing about Bolga is that I see a lot more of other volunteers. In fact last week I stayed in a VSO house with a volunteer called Sarah (I’ve a link to her blog) and it was great to have some one to chat to when I got home from work. As well as being good company what was even nicer was that she enjoys cooking and isn’t busy because the senior schools are closed at the moment so she cooked for me most nights.

While in bolga we had an interesting haggling situation with a taxi driver:
Us: “How much to Kombusico?”
Driver: “Three Ghana cedi”
Us: “That’s too much, two and a half?”
Driver: “No, I can’t go that low – two is as low as I’m willing to go”
Us: “Er, ok two then”
I’m not sure whether VSO needs to send more maths or English teachers, but evidence from earlier in the evening suggests the simple arithmetic is a skill lacking in parts of northern Ghana.

The senior school situation is worth a mention. Most children board in the senior secondary schools, sometimes attending schools a fair distance from where they live. The government supplies each school with a budget to feed the pupils, but, unfortunately, for the last few years there’s been problems with the release of funds from the “school feeding programme” each year and as a result the schools in the three northern regions can’t reopen after the spring break as they haven’t got any means of feeding the students. This means that most of the volunteers in the education sector don’t have much to do until the situation is resolved.

Something that really strikes me travelling around northern Ghana is how empty it is. The buses rattle through mile after mile of stunted savannah trees and grassland, the flat countryside visible for miles with just the occasional collection of mud huts huddled by the side of the road, sometime with a communications mast bristling satellite dishes and mobile phone repeaters towering incongruously over the ancient scene.

Tumu is a tiny town which I quite liked. It reminds me a bit of Salaga, and Helen from Salaga happened to be there at the same time. Sally and Helen arrived in Ghana with me and are both teachers; Demetrio is an ICT VSO volunteer who’s been in Ghana a bit longer. Having transported cheese to Tumu from Bolga (it arrived just a little bit melted after the 4 hour bus ride) we had pizza for tea on Friday night and on Saturday morning I was introduced to the delights of pitoo, the locally brewed beer drunk from dried gourds split in two called calabashes. It tasted a bit like malty cider. All in all I had a great time.

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2 responses

12 05 2008
Anna

INteressante e deve actualizar sempre que possível, pois é bom ler…

18 05 2008
ayo

Hi Tim,
I was searching flickr for photos of Tumu and yours came up, then I read your blog… and now I want to be there again. I was a VSO teacher in Tumu in the early 90’s, things change, yet so much remains the same. I hope you will keep up your blog and photo stream so those of us back in UK can read about your experiences and relive our own.

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