Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reporting on the very first Junior Camp in Ghana held at Ketasco

On September 21 2012, we organized the second Barcamp Ho event. There were a couple of Keta Secondary School (Ketasco) students in attendance. They had been encouraged to come by their superstar teacher, Gameli Adzaho. They loved the experience so much and went to 'sell' it in Keta. On October 27 2012, we organized the first Barcamp Tema event. Gameli came to it with 31 Ketasco students. I remember quite well that when our speed mentoring session was going on, various attendees took to 'mentoring' some of these high school students. Each of the 31 students bought a Barcamp Tema T-shirt, went back and broadcasted the day they had just had. On January 30 2013, we went to Keta Senior High School to participate in the very first Junior Camp in Ghana. We mentored more than 500 students. Who's we? The GhanaThink Foundation.
One main takeaway from this post will be how good things sell themselves and grow and scale organically. The GhanaThink Foundation knew it wanted to reach more high school students but we didn't rush into doing so because of a lack of resources. With a strong proponent in Gameli and interested students of Ketasco, the Junior Camp movement has been born. It will be built on interest. No need to go beg any headmasters or headmistresses to go and mentor and advise his or her students for free. They shall come. Junior Camp Ketasco was organized in conjunction with the school's SRC. That saved us a lot of organizing to do and money. Seems like a good model to continue. We need to take more initiative in Ghana. The opportunities are abound, it's about time we started grabbing what we can. The Ketasco students grabbed some and made the trip from Keta to Tema that October.

We called for mentors to sign up via a Google Form. We tried to get as many as we could but the event being on a Wednesday prevented many interested mentors from joining. The high school schedule doesn't agree with the work schedule as much. We had more than 30 signups and some of them were Ketasco alumni which was very important. The mentors came from Keta, Ho, elsewhere in the Volta region, Kumasi and Accra. Some of the mentors were as young as 20. You don't see how a 20 year old can mentor a 17 year old? You're missing the point. The point is some 17 year olds have no idea what they will really be doing at 20. Or what they could be doing at 20.

The mentors included Eunice Ogbogu (who gave a speech before the mentoring started), Famous Avuletey, Nehemiah Attigah, Seyram Ahiabor, Senam Aseye Oyiadjo, John Armah, Joel Degue, Eli Aidam, Emmanuel Adonu, Arnold Parker, Richmond Ovadio, Courage Christson Tetteh, Solomon Adawu, Rose Zaney, Yayra Tay, Makafui Nyamadi, Eyram Tawia, Donald Ward, David Kattah, Eldad Nutakor and Gameli Adzaho himself. Ketasco student Nathaniel Alpha as well as alum Enock Steh Nyamador were fully involved as well. Get a full list of mentors and what they tackled at the Junior Camp from Gameli's blog post. When I was talking to the school, I recognized the alumni mentors and told the students to appreciate them even more. You always have to hit close to home. What we need is not very far away from us.

We decided to have the mentoring sessions by industry/career and have them in groups because of number of students involved. I took on my engineering hat and mentored and provided insight into engineering for students who were interested in the field. It was difficult answering questions about some engineering disciplines I did not know much about but I made do. The underlying message was the need to build skills and knowledge as opposed to great exam marks. When I told them that they should spend more time with car mechanics, appliance fixers and craftsmen, they were babahazed and kotomorosed. As in shockprised. When we asked a couple of students to share what they learnt from my session with the whole school, that's what they remembered. Engineering is all about problem solving. If you don't understand that, that's half the battle lost. Those problem-solving, analytical and critical thinking skills are the best things a high school student with interest in engineering (or anything else for that matter) could learn.

It was very fulfilling to talk to these high school students. This was my first time in Keta. A lot of the students were smart, others didn't care what was happening that day. In my session, I encouraged them to speak up, even asking them to answer questions others had asked. Because they need to get into the 'asking' culture. They need to ask their teachers, their fellow students, exhaust all resources near them before they look to Ho or Accra or beyond. The other great place to ask is the 'internet'. Or the library. We know William Kamkwamba asked the library. Eyram Tawia, one of the mentors and many others I know, asked the internet. Technology is such a great leveler. If we have 'chao' internet and that digital divide is bridged and has traffic, we'd grow that much quicker in our human resource ability. If you are thinking about how you can help do that and not what the government should do, clap for yourself.

The theme of the event was "Ketasco Goes Professional". It was cool to see many students dressed as doctors, contractors, engineers, bankers, etc. At the end of the event, the focus was on being entrepreneurial, starting entreprises, following passions and building (skills for) careers. It's really great how this all came together due to the initiative on one chemistry teacher, Gameli Adzaho and some of his students. We need more Gameli Adzahos in our educational institutions. If you know some, ask them to join this GhanaEducators Group. After clapping many times, not for this blog post, but to kill a certain mosquito, I finally have ended its life. And this blog post is also done. I can't end this without shouting "Dzolali!". And I heard all the Ketasco and Barcamp Ho family shout back "Now or Never!" Now or never is the time to provide extra value for our high school students. 
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