Talks to Teachers / Book Reviews

As part of a paper on the subject of malaria a few talks to teachers in Tamale (Ghana) took place in July and August 1999. Also the books, those teachers indicated they were using in school, have been checked for their content concerning malaria. The results are presented on this page.

Orientation "Talks and Reviews"

A Word about Ghanaian Schools
- Nursery Schools and Kindergarten
- Primary Schools
- Junior Secondary Schools
- Senior Secondary Schools
- Polytechnical Schools
- University
- Problems of Ghanaian Schools

Talks to Teachers
- Information derived from Mr. E. A. Yakubu

Book Review
- Ghana Biology for Senior Secondary Schools
- GAST Biology for Senior Secondary Schools

Conclusions

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A Word about Ghanaian Schools

The Ghanaian school system is based on a three step model, including primary, junior secondary and senior secondary schools, preceded by widespread early education for children of urban, medium income families.

The Ghanian School System
Schematic Representation of the Ghanaian School System

Nursery Schools and Kindergarten

As early as three years old, a Ghanaian child may enter nursery school where apart from social behaviour a big emphasis on the reciting of poems, spelling and even basic writing or reading is laid. Both nursery and kindergarten are considered as the starting points for a successful school carrier.

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Primary Schools

From the age of six, a child can enter primary school which takes six years to complete. During the primary school years a child is supposed to learn how to read and write in English as well as in one or more of the common Ghanaian languages. Apart from that all the topics normally taught at that age are supposed to be covered, including maths, science, physical education and arts. However, as "social promotion" is the rule and children are frequently absent for a variety of reasons, those goals are not always achieved.

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Junior Secondary Schools

After completion of primary school the child may enter a three year period of the so-called Junior Secondary School (JSS) which is equivalent to secondary I in some European countries, like Switzerland. In JSS the children are normally taught by several teachers, which also may be the case in primary but is not a general rule there. Still all the children would cover all the topics.

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Senior Secondary Schools

Senior secondary schools (SSS) give an opportunity to students to specialize themselves for a possible university carrier. Normally, students would cover only a narrow range of topics during the three years it takes to complete secondary II school. If the students manage to go successfully through an elaborate examination, which is set up by the West African Examination Council, they can move on to university.

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Polytechnical Schools

Polytechnical Schools prepare those students who are not able to keep up with the teaching in senior secondary school or who are not pursuing a university carrier to prepare for a future profession. Thus, the students in these schools are even more specialized than the ones in senior secondary schools. Their schooling is considered inferior to SSS absolvents.

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University

Those who want to pursue a carrier within the government or even work for a governmental agency have to go through university of which there are several in Ghana. All of them provide different courses on most subjects normally taught at universities worldwide.

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Problems of the Ghanaian School System

The main problem within the Ghanaian schools system is an overall lack of resources starting at the salaries teachers are paid, continuing with the inability of many parents to buy textbooks or the school uniform for their children and ending in large classes, and classrooms which are not facilitated well.

Teacher salaries depend on position and the years already spent in the educational service and may range from around 50 - 100 US$ a month, not including additional allowance which depend on the school. These salaries are not sufficient to support a family in an urban setting. Thus, many teachers privately organize additional lessons in the afternoon or evening. Some pursue other income opportunities like trading or constructing which all reduce overall time spent on preparation and may even lead to absence during classes.

Children can basically visit the Ghanaian schools for free as primary and junior secondary schooling is compulsory. However, all materials used in the classroom, starting from pens to paper, schoolbooks, uniform and in some cases even school furniture such as a chair and desk have to be financed by the parents. Compared to some people's income this cost are prohibitively high.

Depending on the school's standards classes can contain 40 pupils or more. Most Ghanaian schools don't even have a fraction of the facilities people are used to in Europe. Some don't even have basic pieces of furniture. Many students lack the books they would need to follow a lesson and the teaching of many subject is hampered because objects for demonstration are missing.

Apart from economical reasons, there are logistic problems which are caused by a centralistic school management. As future teachers are given some allowance during their teacher training, they are forced to work for a period of at least two years for the government without a choice of where to teach. Under unfortunate conditions a teacher maybe posted to a place he is not suited for, as he may not speak the local language. After having done some basic teaching a teacher can raise through the system, up to the post of headmaster, but would always be told by the government where to teach. Also, many teachers feel, they have lost authority during the last years, especially as physical punishment in schools has come under attack recently.

The main problem concerning the Ghanaian society however is the inability or even unwillingness of people mostly in the rural areas to send their children to school. Up to now, even though the government tries to improve the situation and has actually done so since independence , too many children never get in touch with the school system or drop out before having completed basic education. Thus, the lack of resources is hampering the development of large parts of the population.

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Talks to Teachers

To find out more about what is taught in schools in Tamale on the subject of malaria a number of teachers was spoken to. Most of them indicated that not much teaching about the disease, apart from a few basic hints, is done either in primary or junior secondary schools. Even in senior secondary the topic is covered only in Biology courses. Thus, contact to the Science Master of GHANASCO Senior Secondary in Tamale, Mr. E. A. Yakubu was established. He provided most of the information concerning the teaching about malaria on this page, as well as the opportunity to have a look into the books generally used for Biology teaching on that level.

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Information derived from Mr. E. A. Yakubu

In two meetings with Mr. Yakubu, a biology teacher at the Senior Secondary School of Tamale (GHANASCO) he kindly showed me the science lab of the school and their teaching materials for Biology, including a set of microscopes. He further told me that the malaria life cycle was only covered in a basic way. Asked about whether he teaches his students about the different species of Plasmodium he declined. Also he said, prevention of malaria was not their main topic while covering the subject. Rather more theoretical aspects like the scientific order in the systematic of living things were covered. However, the school put great emphasis on teaching about mosquitoes. He said, he would normally show his student the different developing stages of the mosquito, including the observation of mosquito eggs and larvas under the microscope. But here too, the main aspect seemed to be the morphology of the animal whereas the life and behaviour of the mosquito was covered as second issue. He also mentioned that due to absence of students because of the rains and holidays he found it hard to teach all the subjects in the syllables, so he couldn't teach much about malaria.

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Book Reviews

According to Mr. E. A. Yakubu two books are widely used in Biology teaching of the senior secondary schools in Tamale and probably even in the whole of Ghana. The "Ghana Biology for Secondary Schools", which is not for sale on the market, was published by the national Ministry of Education and contains apart from texts, pictures and drawings in black and white; whereas the "GAST Biology for Senior Secondary Schools", a product of the Ghana Association of Science Teachers sold for an amount equivalent to US$ 16.50, contains texts, coloured pictures and drawings, as well as student activities and questions with a key at the end of the book. According to Mr. E. A. Yakubu the GAST Biology is preferred by students and teachers, mainly because of the colour drawings and the implementation of more modern teaching methods. But according to Mr. Yakubu by far not all students are in possession of an example.

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Ghana Biology for Senior Secondary Schools

The Ghana Biology shows a drawing of the life cycle of the malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax on page 64, which includes the following stages: Sporozoites, merozoites, gametocytes, zygote, cyste and sporozoites in man and mosquito; also a very short text on the systematical order of Plasmodium sp. However, a text about the life cycle is completely missing. Thus, a teacher who doesn't have additional information won't be able to teach the malaria life cycle. Apart from that, the book covers the normal range of biological topics such as the cell, DNA, order of animals (according to the five kingdoms) and other common subjects, as well as the mosquito.

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GAST Biology for Senior Secondary Schools

The generally fresher looking GAST Biology talks about malaria in the first unit for students on the pages 1 and 2: Malaria is used to introduce scientific thinking containing steps as observations and assumptions, hypothesis, experiment, result and conclusion. However, the way the book looks back on the history of science concerning malaria, is not satisfying as the text simplifies too much and contains some questionable statements.

Page 113 contains a four-line text about the systematic order of Plasmodium and the Phylum Apicomplexa and page 114 shows a microscopic picture of a Plasmodium species in the crescent stage in a human blood cell.

On page 186 some notes about malaria, its transmission, symptoms, prevention and treatment are stated in a table of Protozoan diseases and page 187 displays a coloured drawing of the life cycle of the Plasmodium parasite, containing the following text information: Mosquito sexual phase of Plasmodium: gametes sucked up by mosquito; gametes in blood infect mosquito; female and male gamete, fertilization in the stomach; sporozoites formed from zygote; sporozoites pass to salivary glands, salivary gland containing sporozoites; sporozoites in saliva infect human. Human asexual phase of Plasmodium: sporozoites enter blood vessel; sporozoite enters liver cell; cycle in liver; sporozoites divide into merozoites in liver cells; cycle in red cells; merozoites enter red blood cells; merozoite grown (signet ring stage); nucleus divides; cytoplasm divides; new merozoites; red cell bursts releasing merozoites cause of anemia; toxins released cause fever; merozoite enter red cell and forms gametes; gametes. Also, page 185 mentions Ronald Ross and page 188 shows his photograph.

Page 382 and 383 show a roughly 30 lines long text about sickle-cell anemia and a student activity "Investigating inheritance of sickle-cell anemia".

Additionally the book covers most of the biological topics which are normally taught at that level, such as the cell, diversity of living things, structure and life processes of some organisms, ecology, health, plants, mammals and genetics. However, information about the mosquito, apart from two drawings of a mosquito larva and a pupa on page 99, as well as a non anopheline adult mosquito on page 28, is missing.

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Conclusions

Apart from special schooling at the Nurses Training School which covers medical aspects, malaria doesn't seem to be a topic with a special emphasis on it. In some schools malaria is not even covered. Although the two books generally used for Biology teaching cover malaria, they don't provide enough material for the teacher to handle the topic well, or even lack crucial information as a basic text about the life cycle, whereas more general themes of Biology are covered reasonably.

The lack of appropriate education on the subject of malaria may partially be a result of the difficulties everybody has to face who wants to inform himself about the topic, which especially concerns the flow of information from the research labs often situated outside Africa to the people most affected, and the high prices for actual publications on the topic which surmount the monthly salary of the average teacher in Ghana by far. Moreover, a huge body of research is now at least in parts published on the internet, whereas most Ghanaians like many other nationals of African countries do not have access to this new medium, neither private nor in business or school.

Therefore in consideration of the results of the research done and the facts mentioned the writing of teaching materials for teachers on different levels of the school system in Ghana makes sense and was also welcomed by most of the teacher I spoke to. Whether the teaching material would be actually used in the class-room has to be seen later on and probably needs another investigation in Ghana. However, as science teachers in Ghana held meetings once in a while to exchange information and share ideas, the spread of ideas and teaching material for malaria classes brought into the system doesn't seem unlikely.

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Comments, suggestions or corrections, especially from Ghanaians, people from the teaching field or in malaria research to mattgig@freesurf.ch are most welcome.

Matthias Giger, August 1999 (Update: 30.01.2002)