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Our Blog: Ghana
July 19, 2013
New Uniforms at Nemoro Primary School
By Lenny Baer
Fielmuo, Ghana: At Nemoro Primary School, as throughout Ghana, children at public schools are required to wear school uniforms; boys at this school wear a yellow shirt and khaki shorts and girls wear a yellow dress. Many of the children cannot afford a uniform so they go to school wearing other clothes. Some wear old and torn uniforms, and some explain that they do not go to school because they do not have a uniform.
At the end of November, we invited tailors from Wa, the nearest urban area, to measure the children at the school for new uniforms. After several months of work by the tailors, the uniforms were completed and ready to hand out to the children. Teachers collected one Ghana cedi (about 50 cents) for each uniform. Last week the school organized an event to distribute most of the 375 school uniforms to the lower primary school children (the equivalent of first through third grade). Two tailors were there to help kids find the best fit. 
Before getting their uniforms, the children stood stiffly in line, on their best behavior. As more and more pupils received and tried on their uniforms, they began smiling and playing with one another. Once the majority had received their uniforms, the children started jumping, dancing and clapping in rhythm. It was a wonderful way to show their appreciation. 
Now that we have distributed the school uniforms, we will monitor the impact on school attendance and retention. This week was a good, small step forward for the children in this community and is only a small part of our efforts to turn Nemoro Primary School into a model school. 
March 8, 2013
By Lenny Baer, Ghana Program Director
We’ve been training WATSAN committees in Fielmuo area communities in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Say it with me once, dear reader. WATSAN.
Michael Anyekase of the NGO W.A.T.E.R. (Water in Africa through Everyday Responsiveness) asks trainees to say the word with him, too, just like you did now. He explains that the word has two parts, water and sanitation, or WAT-SAN. WATSAN committees help their communities take care of water and sanitation in and around borehole sites (you might think of most boreholes as community wells with metal handpumps) and they help educate community members about water and sanitation more generally. WATSAN committees have chairpersons, pump caretakers, hygiene promoters, organizers, secretaries, and treasurers, and they are all volunteers from the local area. They work with their communities, traditional authorities and the District Assembly to maintain their boreholes. 
As one part of the training, Michael advises committee members to take pride in each borehole, clean it, and make the handpump shine. Committee members do shine throughout the training, too, but they’re not shining handpumps. They’re applauding with a ‘shine’ when someone has a good idea or a notable accomplishment. “Make it shine, shine, shine,” someone will say during any of the 3-day workshops, rubbing both hands together and smiling. Make it shine. Everyone, sometimes over 30 people at once, rubs both hands together as if shining an invisible object and then, somehow, claps once at exactly the same time.
With the help of W.A.T.E.R., we’ve trained 21 communities in December and January, with about 12 more to be trained next month. I say “about 12” because, to put it mildly, there’s a lot of interest from communities in the training. We keep learning about more people who want to be trained, all wanting to help their communities. Lately, we have been training four committees at a time, each with seven members in it, to reach all communities in the Fielmuo area. 
Thus far, women have made up over 50% of all WATSAN committee members in the communities we’ve trained. No WATSAN committee has fewer than three women out of seven members. This is important because the burden falls on women to work with water. It is primarily women and girls who trek long distances, wait at borehole sites for their turn, pump the water, and carry heavy bowls filled with water on their heads back to their homes. In the local context, this is clearly defined as women’s work, and that also means that women tend to be the first to notice problems with handpumps. Women also show more commitment to helping their communities than men do. So it’s important that women are well represented on WATSAN committees. 

After the 3-day workshops, we follow up regularly on each WATSAN committee to see how well people are implementing what they’ve learned from the training. We don’t want communities to face problems with handpumps breaking down but it still happens sometimes. With the WATSAN training in place and other strategies we are using, communities will soon be able to repair problems with their own boreholes within a matter of days. It’s up to the WATSAN committees and their communities to achieve that, and we’ll keep monitoring how well they’re doing.  In addition to reconstituting and training WATSAN committees, we are training community members to work as area handpump mechanics and, among other activities, we are opening a handpump parts store in Fielmuo soon so that WATSAN committees will be able to get needed parts. We want communities to be able to take care of all of their water needs without outside help. We’ll get there, with WATSAN training one part of a larger strategy to help the Fielmuo area with water and sanitation.

September 19, 2012
Desks arrive at Nemoro Primary School

As part of our education programs in the Upper West Region of Ghana, we recently commissioned the work of a local furniture maker to build 200 dual-seat desks for 400 children at Nemoro Primary School in the village of Fielmuo. After a logistical challenge of transporting the desks from the regional capitol, the desks and 20 teachers' chairs arrived and were installed in the school. The desks are a portion of the holistic approach to improving access and aptitude in education in the remote village, especially for girls. The desks are a complement to improving the learning environment for children in the school. Other new additions includes materials, infrastructure repairs and teacher training.