Teaching Traveling: Please welcome Gameli Adzaho, a Ghanaian teacher who has traveled and studied throughout the UK!
Gameli: Thanks for the opportunity. This is perhaps my first personal interview. Although I’m heavy on sharing stuff on social media, I prefer to maintain a low personal profile. But as a teacher, I feel the stories of our rich experiences must be shared with colleagues, and the wider world, as a way of inspiring them to do things they enjoy and not feel hindered in any way. On this note, I must commend you on this brilliant project you’re undertaking.
TT: Thank you so much! Tell us a bit about your background.
G: I come from Tegbi near Keta in the Volta Region of Ghana. In September 2010, I joined the science department of Keta Senior High Technical School as a Chemistry and Integrated Science teacher. In addition, I was involved in the Current Affairs Committee, and the Writers and Debaters Club of the school. Prior to becoming an educator, I worked in health research and ICT. Since last September, I’ve been studying for an MSc in Environment and Human Health, at the Knowledge Spa in Truro, Cornwall, UK with the University of Exeter. In terms of travelling, I’ve been to seven of Ghana’s ten regions, and have also visited neighbouring Togo a few times. I’m making time to see the sites around the UK as well.
TT: Fabulous! Tell us more about your travels.
G: Many of the travels I undertook in Ghana over the past few years are linked with projects such as Ghana Decides (of BloggingGhana) and BarCamps (of GhanaThink Foundation). Both initiatives are focused on empowering the youth to make a difference in their communities. I got to visit places such as Takoradi, Western Region and Sunyani, Brong-Ahafo Region for the first time through Ghana Decides. Connecting with fellow youth and sharing ideas with them through BarCamps taught me that great ideas can be found everywhere. I also gained the confidence that Ghana’s youth see themselves as one, and we’re ready for the future.
My time here in the UK is focused on academic studies but this being my first time of living so far from home makes it a big travel experience. So far I’ve been to several places in the South of England. During the Christmas break, two friends gave me tours of different parts of London. The historic city is big, diverse and elegant in many ways, but the most remarkable spot to be was the statue of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela at Parliament Square. I say “remarkable” because Mandela is probably the only non-British having a statue erected in the square in their honour. I’m a big Mandela admirer, so I think he’s rightly earned all the respect the world gives him. It was just a few weeks after his death, so naturally there many wreaths were many visitors there too.
TT: So powerful. How did you find these travel opportunities?
G: My travels in Ghana came through my professional and social networks. Different projects take us to different parts of the country. Here in the UK, I take advantage of opportunities presented by the international and postgraduate societies of our student union, i.e. Falmouth Exeter Union (FXU). They usually advertise opportunities through email and social media. The trip to London during the winter break was however self-organised as I wanted to see family and friends nearby. From going around town with friends to sights like the London Eye, I had a wonderful time!
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travel?
G: Travel with the various societies under the FXU is usually free or heavily subsidised, once you’re properly registered. However, my travels in the UK would not have been possible without my being here to study in the first place. My studies are funded through the Tullow Group Scholarship Scheme (TGSS) administered by the British Council. This scheme gives high potential scholars from selected countries the opportunity to study at the masters level at top UK, Irish or French universities. This is part of Tullow Oil’s strategy to develop the human resource base, for the oil and gas industries and other critical sectors, in countries of their operation.
TT: So interesting. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
G: Again, that moment at Nelson Mandela’s statue in London was touching. That is the closest I’ve come to Madiba, so I felt a certain connection there and paused to reflect on how deeply his leadership impressed upon the world. Mandela is a shining light for equality, justice and opportunity: key things most of us hold dear.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
G: Some of the things we know already, i.e. the fact that we need to approach education from a more practical context in Ghana. As a teacher my goal has been to challenge the thinking of my students to get them to approach problems from different angles until they arrive at a solution. This approach must be supplemented with more learning activities to get students engaged. Our challenge in Ghana is that we have very large class sizes, but we must continue to innovate nevertheless. The UK has its own educational challenges, but one positive thing that’d be applicable in Ghana is the need for carefully controlled learning environments. Learners must be made to feel at home, safe and have the sense that every activity is coordinated around them and that they have all the support they need to succeed.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
G: I acknowledge that the fundamental aspiration of most people is to understand the world through various knowledge systems and to impact it as much as they can. I see the common threads of our human existence as I interact with diverse people in different places: the need to be understood, an urge to be relevant, a goal to pursue, the joy of achievement and the security of belonging. Above everything I realise just how much Ghana means to me. It’s a place I can look back to with pride and call home, no matter where I am. I feel an urgent need to pursue my studies and other learning opportunities with utmost determination in other to prepare myself to contribute to Ghana’s continuous progress.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
G: In Ghana, we say “travel and see.” It’s a universal truth that tells us that all knowledge cannot be confined in one geographical zone. As educators we must explore our immediate environments and the wider world to expand our knowledge base and practical experiences. This will have great impacts on the lessons we give. Connecting with people of similar inclination is a wonderful thing. All the tips and strategies you need, you can get through networks. I recommend the education bloggers community on Facebook as great example of a community to be part of. I would encourage all travellers interested in teaching to take it up. Teaching gives them the opportunity to share the benefits of what they’ve learnt on their journeys. Teaching in many ways is like a journey. It has both smooth and rough roads. An experienced traveller knows best what to do on a rough road!
Thank you very much for this interview opportunity. It’s enabled me to reflect on my teaching practice and some experiences. I have a better insight on how all these things tie together, and how much better things can get. Akpe!
TT: Thank YOU, Gameli! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this remarkable teacher traveler?