Lessons from Ghana in co-operation

By Jessica Elgot, November 17, 2011
Kerem teacher Alyson Burns teaching children at her partner school in Ghana about British culture and food

Kerem teacher Alyson Burns teaching children at her partner school in Ghana about British culture and food

Strict discipline, a love of dance and creative ways to use small spaces were the key impressions brought back by three Jewish teachers from a week working in Ghanaian schools.

The trio went to West Africa with international development charity, Tzedek, which runs twinning programmes between Ghanaian schools and their British-Jewish counterparts.

It was the first time Tzedek had taken British teachers to Ghana and the charity plans continued exchanges of teachers from the 18 British and Ghanaian schools involved in the twinning programme.

Tzedek education director Libby Burkeman wants the Ghanaian schools to feel a connection to the UK, and the visiting teachers spent time at all nine participating schools in Ghana, giving lessons about British life, including food favourites like fish and chips. Teachers from the Ghanaian schools also took part in a British Council training session.

Tess Theron, who teaches at Clore Tikva in Redbridge, said the discipline in the Ghanaian classrooms was "a real eye-opener. There were about 60 children in the class and they were silent and very polite towards adults.

Tess Theron playing games

Tess Theron playing games

"The children worked hard, despite not having a lot of space - there were three children on a bench for two.

"Aloysius, my partner teacher, is so eager to learn new things, especially where to find resources online. On the other hand, he showed me that you don't need an interactive whiteboard to make your teaching come to life."

Also in Ghana was Alyson Burns, deputy head of Kerem School, Hampstead Garden Suburb, which is twinned with Morning Star, whose headteacher Madame Cecelia, recently visited Britain on a Tzedek programme. "I really wanted to be able to answer the questions the children had about Ghana, but I had no direct experience," Ms Burns said.

"The schools we visited were quite varied but the children at Morning Star are orphans. It's a private school, but often relatives can't pay so Madame Cecelia pays her teachers out of her own salary. It's really inspirational. The children can't stop asking about the trip."

The third teacher - Shosh Hill from Naima Jewish Primary in Maida Vale - said she had been nervous before the trip. "I was worried about the heat and the insects," she confided. "I wasn't sure what to expect. But it was truly unbelievable. Every teacher should see how these schools keep going and the value the children place in everything they are given."

● Tzedek director Dan Berelowitz will leave the charity in 2012 after four years.

Mr Berelowitz, who is also chair of the Jewish Social Action Forum and a fellow of the Clore Social Leadership Programme, plans to set up his own charity working to franchise social action projects. A replacement is being sought.

Last updated: 11:23am, November 17 2011