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“Playing gives experience” – a fieldwork photo blog

IMG_2368By Tessa Gruijs            For my Master’s research I went to Ghana. In cooperation with a local NGO I got access to a couple of primary schools. There I interviewed and observed many teachers about their experiences with the work of this NGO and their perspectives on (improving) the quality of education.

Ghana1AMO Programme is a Ghanaian NGO that produces teaching-learning materials. Their aim is to improve the quality of education by using a more child-centred approach when teaching. AMO is an acronym for ‘Ágodi Ma Osuahu’ which means ‘Playing gives experience’ in Twi, a local Ghanaian language.

Ghana2Besides only providing schools with the materials, AMO also train teachers how to use them. Although for the programme, as well as the whole education system in the country, times are hard and due to lack of money they have problems doing follow-ups. Mostly they do the follow-ups by phone instead of really going to the schools to see how the materials are received. This has its influence on the adoption and usage of the materials by the teachers.

Ghana3However, trained teachers are often enthusiastic about the materials. The school in the picture had the privilege to have small pupil-numbers in each class. In this way every child was able to use an “addition machine” (one of the AMO materials) by himself without sharing it with five other children, which often happens with the textbooks because the government is not supplying enough.

Ghana4Storage is another important subject to talk about when the materials are delivered. The materials are made from wood and they need to be stored well so insects or weather conditions have limited change to affect the state of the materials and they can be used for a long time.


I collected data about the experiences with the materials by observing from the back of the classroom, as well as doing participant observation (because I am a primary schoolteacher myself). The teaching actually turned out to be pretty hard in the lower primary. During their first years in school the children are still mostly taught in the local language and therefore did not understand my English. Most of my information I obtained by talking with the teachers informally or in an interview setting.

Ghana6Although most teachers are enthusiastic about the AMO materials, there are still a lot of other problems they have to deal with before they are really able to focus on this new input.

Gradually things are starting to change…

Tessa Gruijs is a Master’s student Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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