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Letter from Stephen Bunker - June 2008
This is Ghana 's rainy season. It doesn't rain every day by any means (not as frequently as it would in an ordinary English summer), but when it does rain, it pours. The sky first darkens, and then comes the tell-tale acrid smell of dust being thrown up by drops of water as the storm approaches. In England it's usually possible to get the washing in as it begins to rain - no chance here. The streets then become rubbish strewn as drains and streams that have been casually used for waste disposal spew up accumulated detritus.
It is possible, however, to find the occasional oasis of calm in the smelly, grimy and noisy metropolis that is modern Accra. One such place is the Avenue Club, a garden full of mature trees and shelters in which it is possible to have ice cold drinks and the best kebabs I've had anywhere in Ghana. Prices are pretty reasonable too; a fact which is becoming increasingly precious as inflation (far higher than the official figure of around 14%) eats into our volunteers' allowance.
Work-wise this has been a frustrating time, a time when my lack of budget and the country's lack of infrastructure have fully exposed the challenges of introducing broadcasting into schools. It's not merely lack of money, but cultural protocols and procedures (often hidden to the outsider), that have prevented progress. An experiment by the Ghana Education Service with the much vaunted '$100 dollar' laptop (designed to be used by children in African conditions) has not produced encouraging results. An attempt by UK's Teachers TV to create a Ghanaian equivalent ran into the ground. Power cuts around the country made a mockery of the dream of using TVs in schools. This leaves radio - my recommendation. It's achievable, but it's so, so slow. I've approached the BBC World Service Trust to see if they can offer advice.
It has been really encouraging to see the extent to which Britain is regarded as a benchmark of excellence. It is something which gives me a quiet pride and something we should all bear in mind when we in the UK are exercising our ancient privilege to have a jolly good moan about all the supposed shortcomings (in fact really minor) of our country. Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool FMC are avidly watched - and discussed, the BBC World Service can be heard in taxis. Institutions largely unknown to those in the UK, such as the British Council and the Department for International Development (DflD) do excellent work. It gladdened my taxpayer's heart - as well as my patriotic one - to be told by a Kenyan who does the banking for many of the international aid agencies in Nairobi, that DfID were easily the most efficient spenders.
So, you'll never hear me moan about Blighty again. At least not until I'm home.
All the best,