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  • Writer's pictureThe Old Farmyard Forceleap Farm

School Starts!

The boy’s dreams have finally come true! Their two ambitions on coming to Ghana were firstly, to get their machete licence, (which Toby firmly believes James will issue to him once he has learnt how to wield a machete without cutting off his hand!) The second was to ride on a motorbike. Motorbike...tick! It is a bit of a squish with 4 people on the bike, the driver (In this case Martha) plus Toby, Mikey and Kobe, but they simply love it.

After a week in Langbinsi, we embarked on the first day at school on Monday, which was quite a big deal! The school day here starts at 745am, with the first class at 8am, and they finish around 2pm. After some discussions with the school, it was decided it would be best to start the boys on half days, until they got used to things. The uniforms arrived the night before, and we put them out carefully, ready for the morning. Toby was up early making breakfast, and they both looked very smart in their newly tailored uniforms.

Despite some trepidation, there were no complaints, and they took off soon after 7am, with the other kids from our household, to walk to school. I stayed back, and as I watched them disappear around the corner in their little gang, without a backward glance, I really was pretty proud of them. It is quite a big ask at that age, to just go off like that; talk about stepping out of your comfort zone! Firstly, as the only white children for miles around, they are a novelty, and are having to get used to the varied reaction of local people to them. Usually people just stare at them, but some want to touch them, crowd them or laugh at them, and a few just run away crying. You can’t simply melt into the background, as everyone knows where you are all the time, and that is a difficult thing to deal with when you are an adult, let alone a child.

Added to this is the fact that this is such an alien environment. It is a complete assault on your senses. The heat is stifling, the mosques blaring out their call for prayer, the scent of fires both cooking and burning plastic, animals wandering around all over the place, and the taste of food, so strange that you don’t even recognise the ingredients, let alone the final meal. At school there are no toilets, no electricity and drinking water is carried from the well by the kids. There are few facilities, apart from a black board in each class and a cane in the corner! Each child has 1 exercise book and 1 pencil. Charlton it is not! So, for them to be able to function at all, is testament to the resilience they have developed thanks to the efforts of all the people that have supported them through their childhood to date; their family, friends and teachers, but most of all Rach their Nanny. I would really like to thank you all, as your support and love is unknowingly really helping them now!

The first few days of term here are always a bit slow. The focus being on registering new students and generally getting the place ready for the term. The students who are moving up a class, get to do a shuffle up day, and everyone can move their desks and generally rearrange all the furniture. So, the boys felt a bit like spare parts on that first morning, and when I arrived an hour or so later, I found that, although Mikey was in the middle of his little gang playing the joker as usual, Toby was having a little bit of a wobble. “I don’t like it; I don’t fit in here;” etc. We had a few tears and a hug and had a bit of a chat, and he came around.

We agreed I would stay at school, so he could come and see me if he wanted some reassurance, and so he dried his tears and took part in an impromptu football game, playing in goal and saving rather a tricky looking shot. I guess building resilience is not about never having a wobble; but learning how to dust yourself off and try again, when all you really want to do is run away or hide. Afterwards, I realised that people did not think kindly of Toby for crying in public, as he is the eldest and Mikey seemed OK, so that had confused them. So, to avoid this becoming an issue for Toby going forward, I explained to him the need to not cry and have hugs in public, but that in its place, we should develop our own special secret school hug (a manly pat on the back) that means the same thing to us, as a full blown cuddle, but only we know that! We can then have proper hugs and any tears that may need to be shed, privately at home! Since then, Toby has appeared at my shoulder a couple of times at school saying, “Mummy, school hug?”, I then get a manly pat on the back, while Toby whispers in my ear, “School hugs are OK Mummy, but can we have a proper hug when we get home?” I wink knowingly at him, and that seems to do the trick.

On Tuesday the Head cracked open the school band cupboard and got all the drums out and the whole school did some marching practice, accompanied by the school band. It was brilliant fun to watch, and I was pleased to see Toby with a wide grin on his face striding around the parade ground! Mikey enjoyed doing his silly walk with his friends. The teachers were all grumbling that the little kids in preschool were more dancing to the drums than marching, but the older ones soon showed them how to do it, ship shape style. We peeled off soon after 11am and walked home and they were buzzing. Mikey sidled up and said, “Mummy, what is the headmaster called?” When I said, “Mr Nsobila”, He replied, “But his first name is Peter, right? like Mr Smith at Charlton! All my head teachers are called Peter!” He found that strangely reassuring!

We have now settled into a routine, whereby the boys go off to school on their own and I follow up a couple of hours later.

I sneak in around the midmorning break and sit under a tree and read a book. Ostensibly there to be a reassuring presence, but I am actually there to supply them with a steady stream of small Coins (Pesewas), about 3p at a time, to spend at the tuck shop in their break. It makes them happy, and it seems to be pretty good practice at handling money and maths, as they keep a hawk like eye on their balance, thrilled if they still have 20 pesewas left at the end of the day.

On the third day, I got the call from the carpenter that the desks were ready, and so I picked them up with the pickup and they were carried triumphantly into P2 and P4, much to the delight of the boys. They have also started lessons, so that was great. Toby did science on insects and mammals and some dictation for English Language (so lots of handwriting) which was good. Mikey did some rather easy looking maths yesterday, but in RE he was learning about the omnipresence of God, so that seemed quite advanced! Mikey is in P2 with Kobe (James’ son and new BF) but I think he should probably be in P3, but there is no way we can split them up, so P2 it is!

It is interesting how James’ compound house has become a “safe space” for the boys, especially after school, and you can see them visibly relax when they walk in. The routine of the household is becoming familiar and so reassuring. The comings and goings of all the animals (sheep, goats, chickens, donkeys, 2 dogs and a cat with a wonky tail). The noises from the kitchen of the ladies pounding fufu, water being poured into buckets, the smack of the gate as someone kicks it open and roars in on a motorbike. When we get back from school, after a rejuvenating lunch of eggy bread (a firm favourite) the boys have a bucket shower, with Mikey protesting loudly that it is just too cold, apparently colder than the North Pole! But, with an external temp of 35 degrees, I cannot agree!

They then do some home schooling, reading or homework until the others get back at 2pm. Then they are let loose to play, and of course they tend to veer towards the screens. So, they basically chill out in the heat of the mid-afternoon

, waiting until after 4pm, when the intense heat reluctantly loosens its grip! Then as the dusk begins to gather, and it is marginally cooler, they can play football outside the compound with the neighbour’s kids. Or they play other games, a current favourite is to see how many children can fit into the large cardboard box the new fridge came in! There might be an excursion to a shop on a motorbike (if they are lucky) or a chance to fan the cooking fires (or if you are Toby) eye up the machete by the pile of wood. After supper it is homework and then wind down and time for bed.

So, we are settling into a bit of a routine, but James and I are yet to devise the requirements to get your machete licence!

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1 Comment

Caroline Boswell
Caroline Boswell
Oct 08, 2023

A machete licence sounds extremely useful! Really well done to the boys for settling into a very different school environment. Thank goodness for the universal language of football etc.

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