Ghana

On the Job

After a few weeks of work at the Bole District Assembly, I’m slowly finding my bearings. Here’s my office for the next few months. Specifically, Office 6 on the 3rd floor.

I am working in one of the Central Administrative departments – the District Planning and Coordinating Unit (DPCU). My main colleagues are the District Coordinating Director (DCD, or “Director”), District Planning Officer (DPO, or “Planner”), and the District Budget Officer (DBO, or “Budget”). One thing that’s different than at home is the use of job titles rather than names. You may be walking by and someone says “Good Morning, Environment,” rather than the District Environmental Officer’s real name: Peter.

The DPCU and I will soon be looking at the planning season and sorting through requests from the various departments: Health, Education, Food & Agriculture, Community Development, and others. My main focus lies in researching and assisting 3 areas: Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM), Department Collaboration, and Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E).

Before 2009, the various districts (there are about 212 within the country) were operating with different databases spread across different departments. The unit charged with planning did not have access to this information, or it was difficult to understand. Now after many years of work, there are a few districts (6) that EWB has helped to centralize. Information on everything from classroom sizes to the number of chickens in a particular town or area are gathered into one document. This can then be analyzed to determine if a department’s request is valid or could be adjusted.

From the graph I created below, you can clearly see that one area is not like the others. Using data collected in 2011, it shows the contrast between population and outpatient sizes at the various health facilities. There are a total of 6 areas within the Bole district. Three are considered urban: Bole, Bamboi, and Tinga. And the remaining three are considered rural: Mandari, Mankuma, and Jama. I’d be interested in getting your thoughts on why the Bole health facility is seeing many more outpatients that the population it serves. What do you think is causing this anomaly?

One of the areas that I’m still figuring out where I can help add value is in department collaboration. Ghana is still in the process of decentralization, whereby the local government will be given near complete control of the departments in their area. Previously, this work was coordinated from the national level, but has step-by-step given down to the districts. I hope that by the end of my placement, Bole’s Mission Statement will be just a little bit closer to perfection.

From my earlier post, you may be getting a hint of my last area of exploration: Monitoring and Evaluation, or M&E in most international development circles. My past experience in the project management sector has been a great help in understanding this area of work, as it mainly relates to the execution and follow-up of a project. The project may be a school, health facility, borehole, agro-processing center, or a road (as in the photos below).

Two weeks ago, I joined the DPCU and RPCU (their regional counterparts) for a field visit to a feeder road outside Dbogdda. There were men chopping down trees, with women and children clearing the bush, in preparation for the widening of the road. From the work that was already completed, there was a remarkable difference in the performance of the road and the smoothness of travel. The photos below are on the same road, before and after road construction.

I will be adding more stories from work and from home life in the upcoming days and nights. If you have any requests for stories, feel free to put them in the comments section and I will try my best to fulfill them.

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Ghana

Schools in Sonyo

Last Thursday, I was fortunate enough to go on a field visit to Sonyo and assist in the inspection of a newly completed government project. It this instance, the project was a 3-unit classroom block intended for Upper Primary grades.

The project was completed nearly 6 months ago and the purpose of this visit was to record any defects for the contractor to correct. In attendance was the District Planning Officer (DPO), the District Budget Officer (DBO), the Planning Officer from Ghana Education Services (GES), the school’s headmaster, the contractor, the district’s driver, and myself.

Upper Primary Classroom Block

The district officers were quite happy to highlight the inclusion of an access ramp for people with disabilities at the entrance of the new facility. These are mandated from the national government for all new educational structures.

As with most times, whenever my camera comes out, so do the children.

Entrance to Upper Primary Block

Along with the new classroom block, the project also included for the construction of urinals (not shown) and a series of Kumasi Ventilated-Improved Pit (KVIP) Latrines. There are 2 private rooms for boys and 2 private rooms for girls.

On the left side of the photo, you can see the concrete septic tank behind the structure and just a portion of the pipe providing ventilation. There are 4 separate tanks, each having its own ventilation pipe. These facilities provide a safe and sanitary environment for the children, so that they can focus on their studies.

KVIP Latrines

All of the structures were completed with excellent craftsmanship and were seen to be in regular use by students.

In addition to the inspection, I was able to learn many new things about the other schools here. From what I was told, the Ghana education system is made up of the following school and grade levels:

  • Kindergarten (KG) 1, 2
  • Lower Primary 1, 2, 3
  • Upper Primary 4, 5, 6
  • Junior High School (JHS) 1, 2, 3
  • Senior High School (SHS) 1, 2, 3

Sonyo does not have a SHS yet. So, there are a total of 11 classrooms, ranging from KS to JHS. All are within sight of each other. The old Upper Primary classrooms constructed as an open air structure, made up of mud bricks, wood, and a metal roof is located just behind the new structure. Then there is the Lower Primary classroom block and behind that, the headmaster’s living quarters (not shown). Because of the new structure, the old classrooms can now be used to teach the KG students.

KG (foreground) and Lower Primary (background) Classroom Blocks

Inside a KG Classroom

The Junior High School is just a short walk away, through a pack of goats and sheep.

JHS Classroom Block

At the end of our tour, I talked a little with the GES Planning Officer and school headmaster, who collectively gave me some insight into the make-up of the schools. There are a total of 387 kids attending the different classrooms. This means that on average there are 35 children in each classroom. Oddly enough, GES uses this same value of 35 to determine the ideal classroom size when planning for future development. I will also be using this figure many times when analyzing the data my department has on hand.

On the way out of town, we were able to pass the teachers’ quarters. A new structure with 3 self-contained units. Located on the main road and just a few minute walk to the school, this building seems to be ideally positioned to give teachers an easy commute to work and an enjoyable living during the school year.

These buildings and the 8 teachers on hand will give Sonyo’s school children the tools they need to gain a great education. I’m looking forward to what the future has in store for these bright young minds.

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