A day in the life of our Field Staff in Ghana
It is the end of the academic year for schools across Upper West Ghana today and schools are celebrating, as also, just as they would in the UK. As students and teachers look forward to a break in education duties and it also means a break for the ATE School Feeding until next term.
Yet the break doesn’t come so easily for our field staff as they embark on the day in the early hours with a full timetable! This is so they can reach all of their partner schools by the end of the day, to deliver eggs to all students (will explain later), pay each cook their month’s wage, meet with Headteachers confirming education resources next term as well as the end of term celebratory wrap up that’s usually done.
5am arrives and the first Hub Manager, Prosper, is awake, hoping to catch the egg seller and make arrangements for the collection of around 300 eggs at 7am. 7.15am arrives and we leave for town via motorbike to make the collection, but of course nothing in field work is ever simple and upon arrival we discover the egg seller has left his shop to make the market day and set up his stand. A slight detour driving around the market and we’ve been given the keys to his shop due to the trust he has in our staff, away we go, opening and closing the shop and collecting our eggs.
Next stop is the Inclusion Centre as we allocate the eggs per school, the Hub Managers have already calculated the most recent attendance figures of each school ahead of today. With 3 staff members and 7 schools, both local and the far rural schools, the deliveries must begin early, so the cooks have plenty of time to boil the eggs ready for lunch.
Prosper and I leave and make the first delivery to Karbo Junior High School, leaving smiley cooks as we then head to Girls Model JHS. Greeted by the happy Head teacher and cooks, the second Hub Manager Nicholas arrives, bringing the eggs for this school. Now it’s back to the office…
The next task for the staff, as well as packing their motorbikes for the rural school egg drop, is to collect the pay packets for each school, as each Hub Manager is responsible for 2 or 3 schools each. Before they leave, they must have with them sealed envelopes for each cook with their wage, payslip and payment record. But of course, why should that be so easy? As the clock strikes 9am and we’re hit by a power cut.
Our two Hub Managers Rexford and Nicholas must now find alternative ways to print the pay slips and Rexford heads out finding a printing shop with a generator.
Nicholas heads out to his school in Bagri with eggs and Prosper leaves for Dowine JHS with 170 eggs for the school. 10am is here and Rexford and I prepare to leave for the furthest hubs, Gombele and Biro.
We load up the 4 crates of eggs, sealed pay packets and our journey begins. Taking the main road out of town and the 20 minutes of green, clay huts and sparse buildings. The further away we go, the more children we see tending to the fields and out of school.
The turn arrives and we go down the red dirt and bumpy path…and oops, the first egg cracks. Winding, rocky and bumpy roads pursue and we must go slower on the motorbike before reaching some no goes and its time to get off the motorbike and walk, as Rexford pushes his bike. When the rains hit these areas, many paths become very tricky to use, walking and riding often difficult to pass; even more so with crates full of eggs!
A few tricky paths later and we arrive at the first school, its Biro JHS and we greet the teachers, Head and students and the cooks receive the eggs. At first we meet with the Head and Assistant for a meeting regarding school retention next term and how ATE can assist with the most vulnerable children, aiming to reduce school drop outs and south migration. Rexford and the school management discuss the vulnerability of many students at the school, those who have lost their mum, or dad or both, those forced to work to afford school shoes or even exercise books. The meeting is a positive one as we come to agreement on some ways we will try to help reach the most vulnerable.
We walk across to the school kitchen and greet the cooks, they always giggle when I attempt to greet them in the local language. We then go through the payment record with them and they each receive their pay packets. It’s back onto the bike for an even bumpier ride in between schools as we head to Gombele, weaving through homes and farms to reach the school. I’m pleased to say, no eggs were harmed in the journey to Gombele.
Arriving at the next school, were immediately greeted as were on the bike as students collect the eggs and the Head greets us. The cooks are busy cooking an end of term celebration lunch and we sit with the Head Teacher and the whole teaching staff to meet about the education needs next term. It was a joy, although difficult content, to hear the teachers talk in depth about the needs of the students, knowing their realities, home lives and high vulnerabilities. Rexford, like all of the ATE staff have great relationships with their partner schools and this came alive today!
The school visit ended after the cooks’ payments with a short game of volleyball with the students and then of course lunch. Students race over to get their lunch and loved posing for their pictures, grateful for the eggs and even one student said ‘if we eat like this everyday we will grow to be like Kings’.
Sometime back with ATE, it was decided that at the end of each term, all students supported in the ATE school feeding programme will receive eggs from ATE as an end of term treat and gesture. Its culturally fitting and sadly, may be the only access for some of these children to eggs that day, week or for a while, providing a rich source of protein. I can only think of how founder and Chief Exec did these journeys many years ago as over time more schools have been supported and the team has grown. But it was Sarah herself, an unpaid field staff member and visionary whose bought of these ideas for these communities to life. Its also Sarah I imagine I must blame for my bumpy egg ride and the one that got away; as the cracked egg leaked onto my bright khaki trousers, a small price I’m happy to pay.
A 30 minute drive back and the day is complete; as Prosper and Nicholas too made their rounds delivering the remaining pay packets, eggs and those end of term meetings with Head and school staff. It was honestly a packed day but a joy to be a part of.
Seeing the field staff in action on a day like today was a real privilege. I have this view that if you as a leader don’t feel privileged with your team, then there’s some work to do. It would be impossible for anyone today to see these field staff members in action and now feel proud and inspired by their work.
Happy end of term from me here in Lawra and an eggs-ellent day to all!
By Jessica Cruse, Interim Director of Operations