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Letter from Stephen Bunker - February 2008

Dear Wendy and all at St Margaret’s,

Thank-you for your Christmas good wishes, and I thought that I'd let you have an update. Since January I’ve acquired a desk and a PC with internet connection. The latter tends to be a little haphazard but overall things have markedly improved work wise in recent weeks.

The big breakthrough – or, more accurately the chance of a breakthrough - came as a result of a meeting with the Deputy Director General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (as the name suggest, modelled on the BBC). Before things collapsed they used to carry schools broadcasts, and although they’re under a great deal of financial and political pressure, he invited me to come up with some programme ideas. To judge from the reaction of the radio executive who had accompanied me to the meeting, this was a surprisingly positive response and, although he was careful enough not to commit himself, it has presented an opening that I’m going to try to exploit.

The next big challenge will be to find some funding. There is no budget for this, neither is there really any infrastructure – everything will have to be put together from scratch. The need is desperate, however, and anything that can actually be delivered into the classroom and that makes a sustainable difference to the lives of Ghanaian children is at a premium. The patrimonial system, which colonialism did not eradicate, is like a cancer in African society.

The African Cup of Nations was a superb tournament and I managed to see a few in games – including the Final - in Accra and Tamale. Ticketing was a bit unpredictable but the games themselves were impeccably organised. Interestingly, with bins provided and sweepers in attendance, there was hardly any litter. This is a sharp contrast with the rest of Accra , a filthy city with rubbish and waste everywhere. The beaches in places are no more than a vast public toilet, and sometimes the stench of the open drains is pretty strong.

The tournament again underlined the high degree of religiosity in this continent. The day after Ghana beat Nigeria in the Quarter Final the sub-headline of the Daily Graphic read ‘And the Fans All Sang: To God be The Glory’. It’s true that I’ve heard the Almighty invoked on many occasions at Kenilworth Rd , but in a different sense from here. To see teams collectively pray before a game was quite normal.

People openly pray, Christians as well as Muslims. Most of the services are far more emotive than I’m used to, and some of it is just a little too intensive. There are two chapels at the back of our compound of the ‘tin tabernacle’ variety. One is just your standard West African thunderous evangelical church. The other is much louder. This one opens all its windows, turns up the volume of its speakers, its bass and sub-woofers to maximum and lets rip for five hours on a Sunday morning, two hours on a Wednesday evening, and another hour or so on a Friday. Poor old Yaw (pronounced ‘Yow’) is a mechanic whose house backs right on to the chapel. He works a 12 hour shift then comes home to that on a weekday evening. ‘We all worship God’ he moaned to me dispiritedly a few Wednesdays ago, ‘but this is too much!’ We were standing next to each other but were having to raise our voices to be heard above the preacher’s sermon!

Ghanaians are also truly rotten drivers.

So that is how things stand at present, at just under the half way stage of my placement. It’s a pivotal time for the project, and I just hope that I can build up enough momentum to pass on to my successor when I return in September.

All the best,

Steve.

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