This blog is a record of the experiences of eight students from Michigan Technological University while working on projects in Ghana as part of the Pavlis Institute for Global Technological Leadership. The students are divided into three project groups (the laptop group, the library group, and the sanitation group), and may not always be in the same place at the same time. A brief summary of the projects can be found by clicking on the names of the groups.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Village Travels: Babianeha and Kranka
Last week has been full of travel and excitement for all three groups, but it also marked a lot of progress for Jon and me with our village sanitation research.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday we traveled back and forth between Sunyani and the two villages, Babianeha and Kranka. The extent of the information we want to provide has lead us to split the blog into two entries, one for Monday through Wednesday and the other for Thursday and Friday. The former is below and the latter will come at a later time.
Monday was the first time that anyone other than Jon and me went to Babianeha, and the journey itself was worth the experience. When Jon and I traveled last week our means of transportation were relatively easy to arrange; we found a taxi asked him to take us to Dormaa and paid the going rate (GH10.40).
With the group though, I had a much harder time securing the cab. At the taxi depot, the first place we tried, we were immediately turned down and told to go the new bus station. On our way to the station I tried asking some taxis waiting on the side of the road. They gave me a price of GH30 per cab. I insisted that we should be paying less but neither driver would go below GH20. Roger decided that there was too much arguing and that we should just walk to the bus station. Once there we find that they have a set rate, GH2.20 per person, to go to Dormaa. This was a discovery we remembered for the rest of the week.
In Dormaa we jumped in another tro-tro to Babianeha and finally arrived around 10:30am. Emmanuel’s family was very glad to see us, and very welcoming as always. We made our way to the Junior High school in Babianeha only to discover that they were writing (taking) exams. Speaking with one of the teacher we were told that at noon they would be free to talk.
We then went to the school in Kofibadukrum to meet with Kojo. Here we spoke with Kwaku, the headmaster, and were shown the computer room. We told Kwaku about the computers and books the other two groups had brought to Ridge and asked about the possibility of bringing the same to Kofibadukrum. Also here Roger worked on the desktop computers the Chief donated to the school. He was able to bring one of the computers into near-working condition. All that was needed to complete the task was to install Windows XP. Roger started the process and we disembarked, with the intention of returning at the end of the day, leaving the school teachers to finish it.
From here Kojo and Kwaku led us across the border to Cote d’Ivoire. Everyone, besides Jon and me, had their first African international experience by standing in both Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire simultaneously. Once again I realize how arbitrary the borders are in western Africa.
Heading back to the school in Babianeha we found that the school was once again in the middle of exams. We realized that it was 12:30pm, so we were tardy according to the time I had set earlier. We were still able to speak to Yaw, the headmaster and several of the teachers about bringing a computer and library to the school. We informed them that we would be back Wednesday and Friday and then made our way to Kojo’s house for lunch.
After eating we returned to the school in Kofibadukrum only to find that everyone had left. Incidentally the power had gone out, and therefore the Windows XP installation had not completed. Roger planned on returning Wednesday to complete this task. We then left the villages knowing that we would return to complete our work over the next week.
Tuesday we returned to Kranka with the intent to walk around the village to get an idea of its size and water resources. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.
When we left the hostel in Sunyani, we planned to take two taxis (as the entire cohort was going) to the bus station, and from there get a ride to Techiman. From there, we would take more taxis to arrive at our final destination.
We were, in fact, able to do this, but even as we were riding to the bus station in Sunyani, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be long until the rain came. Large, ominous black clouds loomed over the horizon, and naturally none of us had brought our rain coats.
But the rain actually held until we got to Techiman and got two taxis to Kranka. The rain quickly picked up as we drove to Kranka, and the windows of the taxis fogged up. The taxis either had no defrosters or the drivers didn’t know how to use them, for they began wiping the condensation off with dirty rags, keeping just about the minimum of glass clear. And while the roads were initially no worse than what is typical for Ghana—the occasional pothole marred the surface—the road into Kranka was dirt, not pavement.
If Jon and I had thought that the roads were bad the first day we went into Babianeha, we quickly learned that they could be far worse. Giant puddles of water made it slow going, and it seemed as though the taxis would bottom out at any moment, sinking into the reddish mud that the road had become. The taxis made it into Kranka, though, and the taxi drivers insisted that we would be unable to find taxis out of the village. This was, we would soon find, completely false, but we took them at their word, and arranged for them to pick us up at two in the afternoon.
While at the school, we talked to the chief and the teachers about our respective projects. As previously mentioned, we had hoped to walk around the village, but the chief quite rightly pointed out that it was too muddy to attempt. He told us that we could do our walk around the next time we were in Kranka, and promised us that he would gather a group of people together so that we could ask them about their concerns and determine future projects.
He also told us that there would be no problem finding taxis back to Techiman from Kranka—apparently several of the teachers do this every day without any trouble. The taxi drivers who had attempted to rip us off had met with trouble of their own though—one of the taxis had experienced electrical problems (not too unexpected, considering how deep the water on the road had been) and the drivers had been forced to push it all the way back to the road into the village to attempt repairs.
In any case, the other groups were able to discuss their projects. The chief had set land aside for the building of a public library, but construction had yet to begin, and there weren’t really any books. The library group learned that the school would be interested in books for children of all ages, not just those in junior high, and that the school would be willing to provide the facilities if books could be supplied. However, transporting books to Kranka might have to be done the same way the books were brought to Ridge Experimental School in Sunyani—the nearest post office is several miles away, and they don’t make any trips out to Kranka. If nothing else, transporting books as part of the group’s luggage makes sure that they arrive in a timely manner, and the next cohort is larger than ours—they may be able to accommodate the books a little better than we did. It will depend largely on the recommendation of the library group and the decisions of the next cohort, but it certainly seems possible to expand the number of schools that books are brought to.
The laptop group was also faced with the decision of how to expand their project and distribute the two laptops that they still had after the donation of twenty laptops to Ridge Experimental School. The school in Kranka actually had a desktop that Roger said he could take a look at next Wednesday when we return. Roger, Alison, and Mark decided, after talking to the chief and the teachers, to donate one of the laptops they still had to the school, which they will do on our return trip. For demonstration purposes, they had brought one of these laptops, and the chief and the teachers seemed fairly impressed. In addition to the donation of the laptop on Wednesday, the laptop group got permission to run the motor experiment they had done at Ridge, which will hopefully go over as well in Kranka as it did there.
After our discussion, we made our way to the clinic in Kranka, the chief in the lead. The group that went to Ghana last year had promised the clinic some medical supplies, and so we had brought with us a small boxed packed with thermometers and rubber suction devices for clearing the airways of infants, as well as some pictures that they had taken and thoughtfully framed.
We presented these to the people at the clinic, who received us gratefully as the chief explained why we were there. Although small, the clinic seemed well built, and the walls were covered with posters showing such things as the health risks associated with smoking or the dangers of STDs.
From the clinic we walked back to the taxis that had taken us there, where Roger had earlier done a bit of bargaining. The drivers did agree to take us back to Techiman, but we were somewhat bemused to discover that they were attempting to charge us more since they had waited for us. Apparently the fact that one of the taxis was unable to move was irrelevant to them, but they eventually conceded the point, and we left for the same price we had negotiated for the trip to Kranka.
We made it to Techiman without incident, and from there our trip back to the hostel in Sunyani was uneventful. It was a little frustrating how little we had been able to do, but we had become used to things not always going according to plan. Indeed, we had planned on not always being able to do everything we wanted to, so hopefully our next trip to Kranka will be more productive. Chief Nana seemed very accommodating, so even if the weather precludes a walk around the village, we should be able to meet with a group of the villagers and ask our questions.
On Wednesday, the laptop group joined us as we went back to Babianeha. With five people, the trip from Dormaa to Babianeha was somewhat cramped, since we all packed into a Daewoo Tico, but we arrived around 10:00am and were able to start our work.
We first went to the house of Emmanuel’s family, as we always do, to let them know that we had arrived. We were, as always, warmly greeted, and from the house Jon and I led the laptop group to the school in Babianeha. After Alison, Mark, and Roger were set, we began mapping out the village, starting with the schoolyard.
As we worked, a group of schoolchildren quickly gathered around us, their interest piqued. I showed them the map, which at that point only had some of the school buildings and a soccer field on it, but this wasn’t what they wanted.
They wanted to have their picture taken, which I did after extracting a promise from them that they would go back to school immediately afterwards. The children didn’t, but a couple of teachers, as curious about what we were doing as the children were, showed up to talk to us and were able to get the children to disperse. We talked to them for a bit, and explained what we were doing. One of the teachers was a district representative, and said that we should inform the district first of what we were doing. We explained that Yaw knew what we were doing, and that we also knew Kojo at the school in Kofibadukrum. This satisfied him, and we were able to continue our mapping until lunchtime.
The laptop group was already at the house of Emmanuel’s relatives when we arrived, so we discussed our plans for the afternoon over a meal of rice balls and groundnut soup, generously cooked for us. Jon and I would continue mapping, and the others would go to the school in Kofibadukrum, where we planned to meet them at around 2:00pm. The laptop group had donated one of the laptops that they had to the school in Babianeha, and they would attempt once more to repair the computer in Kofibadukrum.
In the course of our mapping, Jon made a mistake as he drew the map, so we decided to split up so that he could correct it and I could work on mapping more of the village. At around the time we had planned on meeting the others we met up at an electrical transformer that was a convenient landmark and started walking towards the school. We had almost completely mapped the village, with the exception of a few rows of houses on the southern edge, which we planned to do on Friday when we made another trip to Babianeha.
At the school in Kofibadukrum, we found the laptop group quite easily—all we needed to do was to go to the room where there were children inquisitively staring into the doorway. The laptop group was in the room where the school keeps its desktop computers, and Roger was working on one of these computers as we arrived. We waited a bit as he finished what he was doing, since this was the last trip the laptop group would make to Babianeha. Although he was interrupted once more by power outages, the computer should be in working order.
From the school, we walked the short distance to the bus station in Kofibadukrum, and made our way back to the hostel. The trip back took longer than it usually did, since we had to wait for about an hour and a half in Dormaa for the tro-tro we were in to fill with passengers, but we made it back without any further trouble.