In September 2006, I traveled to the small West African country of Ghana. After spending the previous six months working as a jillaroo on dusty Queensland cattle stations, the tropical country was a totally new experience. Here I spent three months working in a village primary school. I taught English, science, maths and environmental studies to a class of children from the ages of 10-18 years old.
Although initially my students had difficulty understanding my great Australian accent, we learnt to communicate through games, songs and charades. The enthusiasm that these children have for learning was incredible, even turning up to sit in their class rooms while their teachers went on strike! Most of these children are from farming families, leading very busy lives helping on their properties before and after a long day at school.
On my first day of teaching at the school, I was shocked to see all my students wandering into school holding huge machetes! I was quickly reassured that this was common, as it is the students’ chore to look after the school grounds, and as lawn mowers were an unknown device, having 300 primary students slashing the grass beside each other was the solution. Their commitment and dedication to community work was outstanding.
The farms commonly included both a small herd of cattle, sheep or goats and a plantation of paw paw, mango or plantain. Being right on the equator, much of Ghana’s environment is humid with lush growth. The livestock generally are not fenced but wander their neighborhood, sometimes watched over by a faithful shepherd. A herd of cattle were often bought onto my school oval to graze, which caused a great distraction for my students. It was hard enough having a chicken wander clucking through my classroom as I tried to explain plant biology. All of the animals were looked after very well, as each family acknowledged the concurrence of their livestock’s wellbeing with their own survival.
The Ghanaians devotion to their farms and livestock was truly inspiring. As convenient machines which we take for granted were not an option for most families, manual labour was the only way to do a job, and each job was done to perfection. With their limited materials and few possessions, they managed to run promising properties, which only survived by being nurtured by friends and all members of a family. From this experience I take a greater knowledge of natural animal husbandry and the importance in working harmoniously with others in order to provide the best outcome for a farm.