Igniting a hunger for learning
In Northern Ghana, where Florence works, only 48% if people can read and write and the majority of families struggle with poverty. She told us how books are helping ignite a hunger for learning amongst her pupils.
“I am Florence Ayamga. I’m 38 years old and I am the Headteacher of Gowrie Primary School in Ghana.
I am married with three kids – two boys and a girl, and here at the school we have 315 students! I started primary schooling in this very school. That was around 1990 and in 2007 and went on to the University of Education Winneba where I obtained my degree.
Growing up I didn’t have this opportunity where children have books to read. So one thing that motivated me was my elder brother, he could read and I was like “how do you look at these letters and they are able to flow like that?” I told him “I want to also read like you” and so he started teaching me. Now I love reading. When I see children coming closer to reading I am happy. I go inside the library to read with them and I even teach them sometimes.
I believe it was just because of what my brother was doing that inspired me to learn. If I didn’t have him around and didn’t have books in the school, I think I would have dropped out.
In this area mostly the parents are peasant farmers. Most of them are just farming to be able to feed themselves and the children, so poverty is very high here. Most of them are not able to provide for their children’s basic needs, especially books, pencils and other things. So here teachers in the classrooms often buy exercise books for the students, because when we are teaching some students cannot write because they don’t have a book or a pencil to write. Usually we call parents, we talk to them and those who can afford it do, others who cannot, we do it for them.
When we were introduced to this library it helped us a lot. We don’t even have books in our classrooms – teaching is is difficult, so usually we use these library books.
Now I’ve seen children have an interest in reading. Even though sometimes it’s a small library period, you still see them picking books and reading. That alone is marvellous!
I’ve seen that their reading skills have improved compared to the time when we didn’t have books. Even that spirit of, ‘let me go and read’; that habit they have now in themselves – I am so grateful and so happy. Sometimes when I see them reading, I just go and stand by them and say: “Oh, you guys are doing well!”
When the mobile library comes, the whole school will run to get nice books to read. When we enter the classroom we ask them, “what did they read about?” and it’s amazing how they narrate their stories.
I think that the confidence alone children are building as a result of those books is really impressive.
Some of them will pick books they cannot read, they come to you: “Madam, what is this word, what is that?” And that shows their hunger for learning.
We trained our library teacher so she was able to set up the library. She will go inside with the children, assess them and decide the most suitable way for them to use the books. It means the books are well looked after and used.
Before the donation from Book Aid International, frankly, we didn’t have any books. We only had what the government supplied which was so inadequate.
Now I’ve seen the interest my children have now for reading and the teachers have testified to the fact that it has even improved their skills. Books with pictures, for example, mean that children have so much more interest in reading. The pictures alone tell a lot and when they open them, they’re not difficult to read. How they used to read and how they do now are different so books can really change lives, I have seen it.”
With thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their ongoing support, which has allowed us to work in partnership with AfriKids and provide brand new books to schools like Florence’s.
Images: © Book Aid International/ Natalija Gormalova
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